Music Man
As a guitarist in The Who’s TOMMY, Kevin Kuhn revisits “the soundtrack of my adolescent life.”
by Debra Wallace

“Find a job you enjoy doing, and you will never have to work a day in your life.” Kevin Kuhn, a guitarist, composer, and Broadway musician, as well as a Philadelphia native, took this nugget of advice—often attributed to Mark Twain—to heart.

Kuhn grew up in a musical home; his father, Joe, was a performer, arranger, and record producer, while his mother, Anna Marie, was a prima donna soprano for the Philadelphia Opera Company and the Suburban Opera Company. He’s been following in their footsteps ever since.
After a four-year hiatus, Kuhn returned to Broadway in the position of Guitar 2 in the revival of The Who’s TOMMY (, the exhilarating musical that includes classic-rock anthems such as “I’m Free,” “Pinball Wizard,” and “Sensation.”
When asked how to sum up his rich 40-plus-year musical legacy, Kuhn says, “I feel like the only thing I’ve ever done is sit behind a guitar. How much better does it get than that?”
What was your initial introduction to The Who’s TOMMY?

TOMMY was the soundtrack to my 13-year-old pimply adolescent life. … My mom became so sick of me picking up the record needle to learn how to play “Pinball Wizard” on my guitar that she came back with a stack of records by Tal Farlow and Johnny Smith and said, “Enough with The Who. Listen to these guys. They’re really good and they’re real guitar players.”
How did you come to play the guitar in the current Broadway production of The Who’s TOMMY?
After 23 years of working for Disney, I retired when the pandemic shut everything down on Broadway. I did the first 17 years of The Lion King and then they offered me the chair at Aladdin. I had been on a contract of one sort or another for 40 years. So, I took my pension and said, “Hey, it’s time to go skiing and boating.”

One day, I was playing a little jazz gig with John Miller, an old and dear friend, and I told him, “TOMMY is about the only show I’d come out of retirement for.” I wanted to play this show again because it was such a formative part of my life. TOMMY put me on the map in terms of guitar players and session guys in New York City.
How do you feel about TOMMY in 2024?
TOMMY is not a job for me; it’s a labor of love. I want to be in it. I’m not in it because I need it. I’m here because I have a concern for this music. I’ve known Pete Townshend now for more than 30 years, so I feel like it’s a legacy thing. I want to preserve it.
Talk about hanging out with Pete Townshend.
He’s a brilliant musician, and he’s a great mind. He’s a very interesting person to speak with. For him it’s not just about music. … It’s about life and what the music means. My best friend, Ted Baker, who passed, was the original keyboard player on this gig. Ted and I did a couple of side projects for Pete. We did a reading of a staged version of [the Townshend album] Psychoderelict. And then we did another show with him [at Vassar College] called The Boy Who Heard Music.  
Had you considered a nonmusical path, knowing your parents’ history in music?
Well, my stepfather, Dr. Nino deProphetis, was the chief of surgery at Crozer Chester General Hospital. When I was about 10 years old, he brought me into the operating theater to observe what they called at the time an open reduction, which I believe was a simple appendectomy. I promptly lost my lunch. He said, “Well, it was worth a try.” But you know what? I never, ever considered anything else. [Music] was in my blood. I never really felt like I had much of a choice because it just seemed to come so naturally to me. 
What would you be doing if you weren’t playing guitar in TOMMY?
Skiing. I’ve got to tell you that TOMMY has cut into my ski season big time. I didn’t ski at all this year. I’m a pretty dedicated downhill skier. My wife, Michele, and I have a place in the Poconos up near Lake Wallenpaupack. I favor Elk Mountain, and there are a couple of smaller places nearby. I’m going up there soon to perform in Rhapsody in Blue with the Northeastern Pennsylvania Philharmonic. So, I’ll probably take a month’s leave to stay up at the lake. After all, I was retired.
Photo courtesy of Kevin Kuhn
Published (and copyrighted) in Suburban Life magazine, May 2024