By Ed Karvoski Jr., Culture Editor
Chelmsford – Bill Kenney of Chelmsford has worked in various capacities while producing successful entertainment events throughout four decades. This year, he achieved a personal health success.
On April 14, Kenney tested positive for COVID-19 and began a 14-day quarantine. Now recovered, he’s been back to work since May 27 as president and CEO of Bill Kenney Productions, Inc.
“I’m very blessed that I was one of the fortunate ones,” he shared. “I took only aspirin all the way.”
Kenney began experiencing symptoms in March while on a business trip to Seattle. Before getting tested, he attributed shortness of breath to allergies, and fatigue to an early-morning flight.
“It felt like a wall hit me,” he recalled. “When I got tested, the doctor believed that I was halfway through it.”
Throughout the 14-day quarantine, Kenney posted daily Facebook updates. Following doctor’s orders, he took his temperature regularly but never had a fever. Periodic fatigue, achiness and headaches continued while a loss of appetite developed.
Although Kenney had frequently cautioned crowds to stay hydrated at outdoor summertime concerts that he helped produce such as Boston Calling Music Festival and Mix 104.1’s MixFest, he couldn’t always heed his own advice.
“I didn’t want to drink anything and had zero appetite,” he said. “No matter how hard I tried, my body rejected it.”
On his sixth quarantined day, his appetite was temporarily revived with help from another Chelmsford resident: Sal Lupoli, owner of Sal’s Pizza.
“I did pretty good eating the pizza,” Kenney relayed. “It was definitely the highlight of my day!”
Kenney’s ninth-day update noted that he ventured a treadmill workout. Subsequent updates chronicled his workouts’ increased length of time, miles per hour, incline percentages and total miles.
“Everything I’ve ever done – including having my own company – I’ve always pushed myself,” he said. “I set goals and gradually build them up.”
His workouts were accompanied by music of The Del Fuegos, the 1980s Boston-based rock band. Kenney remembers listening to their album titled “Boston, Mass.” on a Sony Walkman in the 1980s while managing a tour for John Entwistle, original bass guitarist for The Who.
“It was challenging because we weren’t The Who; we were just a little tour, bouncing around the country,” Kenney explained. “I would listen to The Del Fuegos and it got me to a different place.”
More recently, Kenney crossed paths with The Del Fuegos’ original drummer Woody Giessmann, founder of Right Turn, a Watertown-based substance abuse disorder program that combines evidence-based treatment with creative expression. Kenney produced The Del Fuegos’ two fundraising reunions for Right Turn in 2011 at Boston’s Paradise Rock Club. The sold-out shows were followed by a 12-city tour in 2012 managed by Kenney.
“I was like the fifth Del Fuego,” he quipped.
In 1987, he incorporated as Bill Kenney Productions and worked as production manager for Live Nation’s New England concerts up to 2010.
His longest-running production association is with Comics Come Home, held each fall. Co-founded by comedian Denis Leary and Boston Bruins star Cam Neely (who now serves as the team’s president), the event fundraises for the Cam Neely Foundation for Cancer Care. According to the foundation’s website, “Comics Come Home has raised over $13 million since its inception.”
Kenney worked as crew chief for its 1995 inaugural at the Orpheum Theatre. He’s now its co-producer and production manager. To accommodate larger audiences, the production relocated in 2005 to Boston University’s Agganis Arena and since 2014 at the TD Garden. 2019 marked the event’s 25th anniversary.
“It’s not just a comic and a mic; the show is big and dynamic,” Kenney explained. “There’s nobody who can’t laugh at this event and it raises so much money for cancer research.”
While quarantined, Kenney’s updates noted how much he missed spending time with his son Tyler, aka TK, a 2020 graduate of Nichols College with plans to pursue his master’s degree at Nichols next academic year. Tyler’s virtual graduation took place May 3 while the college planned a physical ceremony for a later date.
“TK turned a negative into a positive by helping motivate fellow students and school administrators to have the seniors walk the stage to graduate at a later date,” Kenney recounted with a laugh. “The apple doesn’t fall far from the tree!”