Jamming on the First Coast with Walt Kulwicki

Few musicians enjoy the musical pedigree that Walt Kulwicki does, and it’s a pedigree he’s willing to share all along the First Coast.

Walt Kulwicki was born in Baltimore, Maryland. Because his father worked in the paper box industry, however, the family was slightly nomadic. He’s called Massachusetts, New York City, New Jersey (twice), and Illinois home.

Walt took his first guitar lesson when he was eight years old and he’s had a guitar in his hands ever since. In the late 1960’s, while living in New Jersey, he jammed with a band that played in the house across the street from his. “I would go over and play along with ‘Gloria,’” says Walt, “That was the only song I could play with them.”

Shortly thereafter his family moved to the Quad Cities in Illinois. “It didn’t take me long to meet up with a drummer to just kind of jam,” he says, “Nothing real serious.” But four years later, Walt found himself in New Jersey again and it was during this time in New Jersey that his musical prowess began to take center stage in his life. He had the pleasure of opening for acts such as Southside Johnny & The Asbury Jukes, Three Dog Night, The Monkees, Cinderella, and John Cougar Mellencamp. A pretty impressive resume.

Walt’s two great passions are music and cars and, as much as he has become a musical staple in the Ancient City, it was the car business which first brought him to Florida in 1989. Walt says, “I didn’t tell anyone I was a musician but word just kind of got out.”

Walt remembers playing at The Crab Pot in Jacksonville Beach where, within six months of arriving on the First Coast, he would be jamming with southern rock heavyweights like Artimus Pyle and Allen Collins of Lynyrd Skynyrd, Banner Thomas of Molly Hatchet, and Barry Dunaway of .38 Special. “You play southern rock way too good to be a yankee” was the comment he most often heard.

In the summer of 1992, along with longtime musical partner Chris McVey, Walt started the group with which he is now most commonly identified: Those Guys. Originally a duo, the resulting band has seen a number of personnel changes over the years, including Artimus Pyle on drums for a time. Their current line-up, though (which includes drummer Oleg Shkolyar and bassist Banner Thomas), is the group which now keeps St. Augustine audiences entertained with a song list that stretches from Steely Dan to The Beatles to Neil Young.

Along with performing with the band Those Guys, he also performs with Chris McVey as a duo called The Original Those Guys and even has time to hold down some solo gigs. That would likely be enough for most musicians, but not Walt Kulwicki. He’s also on the staff of Eclipse Studio in St. Augustine, where he’s a session guitarist. He estimates he’s performed on some 60 albums to date.

Clearly, Walt plays all over and is an easy act to find. As a solo act, with the duo or with the band, he performs at Shaughnessy’s, Tradewinds, Golden Lion Cafe in Flagler Beach, Hurricane Pattie’s, Ann O’Malley’s and JT’s Seafood Shack in Palm Coast.

When asked for some little known fact about him, Walt says he was once offered a spot to play John “Bowzer” Bauman’s little brother on the variety show Sha Na Na. He doesn’t know where he’d be had he taken that gig, of course, but he seems pretty content with how his life and career has progressed without ever finding that out. The grass he’s standing on is plenty green.

You can find out everything you’d ever want to know about Walt Kulwicki at www.thoseguys.com. Photography by Steve Parr.

Steve Parr is a native New Yorker who moved to San Diego, CA after joining the US Navy in 1981. After retiring from the Navy in 2001, he worked for Taylor Guitars in San Diego before moving to Portland, OR in 2012. A photographer since his freshman year of high school, his work has been featured in Acoustic Guitar Magazine, Wood & Steel Magazine, the San Diego Union-Tribune and, now, St. Augustine Social. Steve's called St. Augustine home since the summer of 2013.