As For What The K.K. Stands For

K.K Is known As The "Sex Symbol" Of The Group


K.K's Gear

"I'll never forget where I came from and what I might be doing if it wasn't for rock 'n' roll. I count my lucky stars every night. If you
forget where you've come from, you can never really appreciate where you're going."
- K.K. Downing, Rockline magazine, 1984

K.K. had the hardest upbringing of the band members. A high school dropout at 15, living in a working-class Midlands family did not offer much hope for the future. Then he was kicked out of the house once music became his only ambition. Even after multi-platinum success, his parents still do not approve of K.K.'s career choice and it is rumored he hasn't spoken to his them since:

"I didn't 'always want to be' much of anything at all! School didn't interest me, sports didn't interest me - not even music, until I was well into my teens... We were poor. My dad, Kenneth Sr., was a laborer. He had to support my mum, Margaret, my sisters Margaret and Linda, me and my brother Adrian... My parents never thought I'd amount to anything; kicked me out when I was 16. I used to lock myself in my room and play music."
- K.K. Downing, Rockline magazine, 1984

"I suppose music was my drug in a way. I went through everything any young junkie goes through: getting kicked out of the house, not wanting to work, not having any money."
- K.K. Downing, BANG YOUR HEAD, 2002

"I have no plans to retire at the moment, though my mum's still saying, 'Come on, son, settle down and get a proper job.' But we've still got some metal in us. Until the furnace runs down, we'll keep going."
- K.K. Downing, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, January 29, 2002

As for what the "K.K." stands for:

For a while, the second "K" in Downing's name was thought to stand for "Kevin", when K.K. made a joke about it during a radio interview:

"The second K stands for Kevin. Kenneth Kevin, or 'Killer'... Anything you want me to be, girls!"
- K.K. Downing, Finger's Metal Shop, May 29, 1993

"K.K.'s name is KENNETH DOWNING - he does not have a middle name - the 'K.K.' is purely his stage name!!...The comment about Kenneth Kevin was a joke."
- Jayne Andrews, Management Co-ordinator for Judas Priest, May 19, 2003

"Kenneth Downing Jr. is my real name. A girl in Denmark couldn't pronounce it and called me 'K.K.'. It stuck."
- K.K. Downing, Rockline magazine, 1984

"I talked to Al Atkins today, and he confirmed that K.K. is his name on stage - he has no other name [such as Kenneth Keith] - it's just Kenneth Downing".
- Michael Liljhammer, Webmaster, Official Al Atkins website, Email, May 20, 2003

K.K. is known as the "sex symbol" of the group:

"I never thought about it - but it doesn't bother me... The girls always seemed to like the guys who played in bands. I've never been able to figure out why that is, but I've given up trying. I've totally succumbed to the notion that men who play guitars are totally irresistible to the most beautiful women in the world. It seemed irrelevant how well you played; as long as you could get a gig and stand on stage, the girls would just be drawn to you like a magnet... I'm turned on by women's lips - there's something about them... [but I'm turned off by] chain smokers."
- K.K. Downing, Rockline magazine, 1984


K.K. owns a £2million estate called Astbury Hall in Shropshire, England, located in the Midlands, near Birmingham.

“Everything I do and every penny I have goes towards the estate — it is my passion, my pension and my life.”
- K.K. Downing, The Sun, February 8, 2003

"I live on the road really. I have a house close to Birmingham, but I'm never there. It's pretty empty. I'm usually away about eight
months of the year, touring - then, we go into the studio."
- K.K. Downing, Rockline magazine, 1984


Downing also owns a place in Spain:

"I've been living in Spain since about 1985. Since 1990 I've been living mostly in the UK, but I do spend some time down there and it's real nice. Our manager had a house in Spain and he suggested we come out to Spain to write some songs, so me, Rob and Glenn rented a house on the beach down there. This was when we were putting together material for the Turbo album. We were renting a place and it was extortionate, and we really had fun there, so I ended up getting a place there. At the height, it's a big resort with a lot of tourists so you have all these girls coming over from Scandinavia. It's nice!"
- K.K. Downing, Hard Radio Shockwaves, 2002

K.K.'S First Guitar:

"Nothing really interested me in school, including music. I didn't know what I wanted to do, and then suddenly I started listening to John Mayall, Eric Clapton, Jimi Hendrix and Cream, and this thing started to happen - the hair started to grow. It happened almost over night: I bought a couple of records and I was that affected. I needed to play something... I got my first guitar at 16... We didn't have money for lessons, so I got a chord book, plus Jimi Hendrix and Cream LPs, and knocked around with some friends until we pretty much taught ourselves."
- K.K. Downing, Rockline magazine, 1984

"Actually, my first guitar looks exactly the same as the one Eddie Van Halen plays now - guts hanging out. I put it together myself. The body was shaped like a Watkins Rapier, which was a cheap guitar. It should have had three pickups, but it had all the guts hanging out and just one pickup on it."
- K.K. Downing, Guitar Player Magazine, July 1983

'70s - '80s Gear:

"Michael Schenker went to buy this guitar for himself the day after I had bought it from a little shop in Birmingham."
- K.K. Downing, Guitar Player Magazine, July 1983

Schaffer-Vega and Nady wireless systems

Late '80s - '90s Gear:

Cry Baby wah-wah

Current Gear:

While waiting for his new ESP custom V to be made, ESP sent him a custom K.K. model (well, the Kerry King K.K. anyway...), which has been used on the early parts of the Demolition world tour.

ESP Custom V guitar and a Kerry King model

"I've had an ESP specially built and I've got the Cry Baby wah-wah too."
- Glenn Tipton, Total Guitar, 1998

Custom V with "Priest Cross" headstock (B.C. Rich?)

Cross Headstock

Crybaby wah-wah, DigiTech Whammy Pedal, Rocktron Midi Mate controller

Small light-gauge pick

Hamer introduced its Vector line in 1982. These were full-size V-shaped guitars, similar to a '58 Flying V with dual DiMarzio humbucker pickups and usually a fixed bridge or a Floyd Rose tremolo. But in 1984, a custom variation was produced for K.K. and used on the Defenders Of The Faith tour. While the Vector KK had a single Hamer Slammer pickup and a Kahler tremolo in the consumer models, K.K.'s personal instruments had a bit more customization, including "KK Downing" in large letters where the Hamer logo usually resided (with "By Hamer" in smaller letters underneath) and while he played a standard red finish model, he also played one that had a custom natural flame top finish.

For the Turbo/Fuel For Life tour in 1986, Hamer introduced a new non-production model called the KK "Mini V", which was essentially a shortened version of the Hamer Scepter V (originally known as the "Wedge V" and made for Robbin Crosby of Ratt). K.K. had a plain white guitar with a rosewood fingerboard and boomerang inlays and a plain red guitar with block inlays, but soon he added metal studs to the body bevels of the red guitar to compliment his stage outfit. He again used these red studded Mini Vs for the 1990/91 Painkiller/Operation Rock N Roll tour and introduced a blue version with studs and dot fretboard inlays on the 1998 Jugulator tour. He has played these guitars on the Turbo through Jugulator tours and has recently retired them for safe keeping and now only uses them for recording. K.K. says he is very proud of these custom guitars and has fond memories of the legendary recordings he has captured with them.

As K.K. looks to the future, he sees music as still being the closest thing to his heart:

"I want to stay active in music - write, produce, maybe even manage someday."
- K.K. Downing, Rockline magazine, 1984