Maurice William "Bill" Kennedy Jr.

September 5, 1940May 24, 2016

Bill Kennedy, nightclub owner, talent agent, magazine publisher, band manager, salesman, impresario, Bill Kennedy was, indeed, a man of many hats. But the common denominator among all those vocations was music. Yes, he had other jobs—among them, working for an employment recruiting service, selling computers (with virtually no computer skills) and owning a fish market—but they were just ways to make money. Music was his bliss, his passion, his first love.

Maurice William “Bill” Kennedy II passed away at age 75 on May 24 at Wesley Long Hospital after a long battle with heart disease. He and wife Cathy lived in Gibsonville.

The Virginia Beach native was the son of Maurice and Margaret Kennedy, both deceased. He dropped out of William and Mary College to enlist in the Marine Corps. Upon his honorable discharge in 1964, he landed a job for a hotel in Raleigh, booking bands and handling concessions. From that moment, the die was cast.

Kennedy soon moved to Greensboro and opened his first nightclub, Jokers 3, on Walker Ave. He later opened another Jokers 3 on Spring Garden St. and finally one on Oakland Ave. He also used that name for his talent agency. He booked and/or managed hundreds of groups, from the fledgling garage bands to the biggest names in the field, including the Allman Brothers, the Tams and the Chairmen of the Board.

The band he took the most interest in, however, was a soul-turned-rock band from Greensboro, Kallabash Corp. (the “Corp.” was later dropped). He formed a record label, Uncle Bill Records, to record and produce their 1970 eponymous album, now considered a classic. Many longtime observers will argue that Kallabash was the finest rock band ever produced by Greensboro, but their claim to fame was getting naked onstage at a huge music festival in Love Valley, NC, after a smoke bomb went off.

His favorite band since the late '80s was Slider, a funk/rock outfit formed from members of Kallabash and Newground. They released their debut CD last year.

During the late ’60s and early ’70s, Kennedy also managed the Castaways on Arnold Ave., which was owned by Bill Griffin. Baby Boomers to this day remember the Castaways as the most frequented and most memorable nightclub of their youth. The relationship between the two Bills lasted until Griffin’s death in 1999.

When Kennedy teamed with local journalist Ogi Overman to found ESP Magazine in 1987, he turned to his old friend Griffin for help. Griffin had just opened another nightclub, and he bought a preliminary issue that featured nothing but ads and stories about his new club, Hooligans. That gave Kennedy enough seed money to pay the first printing bill, and off they went. With either Kennedy or Overman at the helm, the entertainment and sports magazine enjoyed a prosperous 15-year run.

He was known variously as Uncle Bill, BK, Mr. Kennedy, or whatever expletive-laden description Griffin opted to call him that day. The two Bills’ lives were so entwined for four decades, from the nightclub business to the publishing business, that many folks mistook one for the other.

Kennedy received one of the first Keeping the Blues Alive awards from the Piedmont Blues Preservation Society in 1990. He was also awarded four plaques of appreciation from the N.C. Country Music Association. For over two decades, he championed Christmas Toys for Tots benefits, in conjunction with the U.S. Marine Reserves.

He is survived by his wife, Catherine C. Kennedy of the home, whom he married on New Year's Eve, 1994; sister Joyce Kennedy Martz of Southport, NC; son Maurice William Kennedy III of Dallas, Texas, and wife Carey; grandchildren Reece, Julia and Anderson; one niece; and 13 nephews. He was predeceased by brother James Francis Kennedy, and sisters Margaret Mary Akey and Patricia Ann Grande.

A celebration of life will be held Sunday at 3 p.m. in the chapel of Hanes-Lineberry Funeral Home, 515 N. Elm St., Greensboro. In lieu of flowers, the family asks that contributions may be made in Bill’s name to the American Heart/American Stroke Association.

Immediately afterward, a party (that’s the term Bill would have used) will take place at the Blind Tiger, 1819 Spring Garden St. Musicians are asked to bring their instruments, whether they knew Bill or not, as an all-star jam is bound to ensue until the last man’s standing.

That’s the way Uncle Bill would have liked it.

Online condolences can be made at


  • Memorial Service

    Sunday, May 29, 2016

  • Party-following the service

    Sunday, May 29, 2016


Maurice William "Bill" Kennedy Jr.

have a memory or condolence to add?

Colleen Kearns

January 15, 2020

I'm in California and just now saw this. Late condolences to the family of Bill Kennedy. I knew him thru the Other Bill - Griffin - with whom I had a lasting and long term relationship. As much as people on earth will miss you, Bill Kennedy, I can only think of the fun you and Bill Griffin are having in heaven with so many of your mutual friends and all of the wonderful musicains who are gathering in Heaven's glory. This must be where the real party is happening...we are the ones missing out. Thanks for all of the memories and fun times and laughter....and oh, the stories involving the 2 of you that Griffin shrared with me over the years. Enjoy eternirty with all of your special friends.

Joe Stefanovich

January 29, 2019

Uncle Bill kept me out of jail for years.

Where are you Eddie?

Lou Humphreys

October 8, 2018

For some reason, I thought of Bill and, as I do with other old friends, first, checked obituaries. I was very sorry to see that his name was on that list. I have many fond memories of Bill. This tribute, written at hs time of death, to his life, is a very good one. I have so many great memories, most of which should not be put on paper. But, one which everyone should know about, is that when he first started his little paper, he published it out of his house. The house was always full of people, including one single mom with three children, whom Bill had hired to work for him. She was living in a motel with her children. Bill moved in with me and let her and the three children live in his house at no charge. He was a very kind and gentle soul. Other stories, which bring a little chuckle, ( or a big laugh) , should probably be reserved for telling over drinks. My most sincere condolences go to Joyce, Cathy, and the rest of his loving family, blood and otherwise. A loss like this never fades.

Detachment 1151 Marine Corps League

March 12, 2017

Our Deepest Sympathy In This Time Of Loss!

June 11, 2016

My condolences, may you endure this difficult time of much sorrow. Phillipians 4:6,7


June 7, 2016

My sincere condolences for your loss. May the God of all confort be with you during this difficult time of distress.

June 1, 2016

My heartfelt sympathy goes out to your family at this difficult time. Please find peace in knowing that God understands your grief and that He cares.-1 Pet 5:6,7.


June 1, 2016

Gone but certainly never will forget you and all you have done so extremely grateful you have known such a wonderful man a mentor friend and inspiration sending condolences and prayers for the Kennedy family we love you Uncle Bill

Joyce Martz

May 31, 2016

Till we meet again, Bill, rest in the peace and love offered by all the people who have expressed such kind and loving appreciation for all you have done for them. The bond we shared was one of the most meaningful and deeply appreciated things in my life. It was a privilege to be your sister.

Allen Prevette

May 31, 2016

Blessed to have met this special man years ago. Bill, thanks for always making me, and everyone who knew you, feel special.