ENGLEWOOD — Former rock musician Kenny Smith was living a quiet life as an air conditioning technician when he received a very unlikely friend request on Facebook. Erik Smith, the son he hadn’t heard from in 27 years, who, coincidentally, is an electrician, was trying to get in touch with him.
To quote the band AC/DC, Kenny was “Thunderstruck.”
Kenny, bassist for the Kid Band for six years, was acquainted with Erik’s mother, named Betty Smith, no relation, more than 30 years ago in Washington D.C., in his playing days.
Kenny recalled what could have been when he competed in the battle of bands against the Ramones. The grand prize was a recording contract. The winner would be determined by crowd reaction. It wasn’t meant to be.
“They were the next-to-last band and we were the last band,” Kenny said. “They had so much flash powder. The promoters opened the doors to let the excess smoke out. We played in front of only 12 people.”
With such a small audience, the Ramones won the contract and the rest is rock-n-roll history.
These days, when radio stations play the Ramones, Kenny changes the channel.
“I know I should let it go, but we knew we were better than them,” he said.
But he would suffer an even greater loss.
“Betty took off with 7-year-old Eric and for years he didn’t know what had happened to him,” said Cathey Smith, Kenny’s wife.
Kenny moved to Englewood after his music career ended and wound up working for Florida Hydronic Solutions. Erik moved to Palm Bay in Brevard County, Fla., after living in West Virginia with his mother, Cathey said.
“God brought us back together,” Kenny says. “We got to talk to each other for 15 minutes over the phone before it died.”
Kenny said Erik tracked him down despite his mother revealing little to no information about his father while rebuffing Kenny’s attempts to contact her. Erik gave him one more surprise, a 3-year-old granddaughter.
“I have three stepchildren, but no other blood relatives,” Kenny said. “He’s my only blood son. The only picture I got is one on Facebook.”
The only problem now is a physical reunion.
Palm Bay is more than three hours away, Kenny said. Erik lacks the money to reach his father and Kenny lacks a sufficient vehicle to make the trip, but the father and son are working out a way to reunite. Kenny promises to have someone from the Sun there, when that happens.