News | 15 July 2021
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Busker’s amp ready to rock on at Wellington Museum

Kenny’s amplifier was officially handed over to the Wellington Museum today, to house the item that made the local identity a household name.

Image of Ben Boardman and Ian Wards at City Archives with Kennys amp in front of former Mayor Mark Blumsky portrait
City Archive’s Ben Boardman hands over the amp to Wellington Museum’s Senior Curator Ian Wards in front of former Mayor Mark Blumsky’s portrait.

The 10-year anniversary of the death of busker John D'Estaing Adams aka Kenny has set the wheels in motion for this commemoration of the Wellington icon.

Born in Texas in 1946, the actor, singer and musician, moved to Wellington in 1992 to fulfil his commitment to missionary work.

But he was better known as an entertainer in Courtenay Place and his resemblance to Country singer Kenny Rogers – and with his stoush with then Mayor, Mark Blumsky, and the removal of his amplifier due to noise complaints.

Councillor Fleur Fitzsimons recently revived an idea for a memorial to Kenny, to recognise the colourful character that he was.

“Because of its size, Wellington’s colourful characters are well recognised and an integral part of the diverse, dynamic and vibrant culture of the city – and their legacy should be acknowledged in some way.

“Many of us of a certain age will have fond memories of singing along with Kenny after a night out on the town, then being outraged and protesting when the Council took away his amp,” laughs Councillor Fitzsimons.

Wellington Museum’s Senior Curator Ian Wards says the amp has had a rich history to match its owner’s.

“It’s a bit battered and worn after many years of being a feature on the streets of the city, then bouncing around various departments at Wellington City Council, before finding its recent home at City Archives.

“Now it’s time to give it a permanent home and celebrate it as the true taonga that it is.

“We’re planning a display for the coming year, and we’d really appreciate help from the public with copies of any images they may have of Kenny to feature in the exhibition.”

A memorial service was held for John ‘Kenny’ Adams on 6 July 2011 with friends, fans, and Council staff attending. He was buried at the Adams family plot in Magnolia Cemetery in Beaumont, Texas.

Contact Wellington Museum at if you have any images to donate to the exhibition.