Eastport resident K.C. Lovedrops, a staple of the South Shore...

Eastport resident K.C. Lovedrops, a staple of the South Shore music scene, performs at the Grey Horse Tavern in Bayport. (March 4, 2011) Credit: Drew Moss

In K.C. Lovedrops' world of hi-jinks and high harmonies, even the guys with nicknames get new nicknames – including himself.

“I don’t even know his real name,” said Chris “Extra Crispy” Cauley, a multi-instrumentalist who’s been an anchor of the Patchogue music scene for more than a decade. “And I’ve been playing with him for years.”

That element of mystique, mischief and mystery lies at the heart of K.C. Lovedrops’ musical aura. It’s not just the musicians that remain a rotating mystery – it’s the music as well.

“That’s the beauty of this gig,” Cauley said. “It’s a real listening experience because everything is coming off the top. We’re all on our toes.”

Eastport resident Lovedrops (born Kevin Cowan) has had a long and winding career in a variety of configurations and genres. It’s led him to this medley of sounds and players, all of whom jump at the chance to play Lovedrops’ loose, inspired gigs that dot Suffolk County’s South Shore.

“I’ve been around too long,” said Lovedrops. “I’ve spent 95 percent of my life as a South Shore sand flea. Ten years with a soul band, two years with a country band, 11 years with a blues band.”

Lovedrops mixes his cast of characters depending on the gig and who is available. Friday night at the Grey Horse Tavern in Bayport, Lovedrops broke out the heavy artillery.

His septet featured regional bluegrass powerhouse Greg “Armando” Butler on mandolin, Cauley on drums and percussion, Swingin’ Uncle B. Johnson on percussion and harmonica, Reverend “Jimmy the Greek” Nanos on bass, Carl “The Hooka” Obrig on horns, bells and whistles, Kevin “Mr. Fabulous” Twigg on glockenspiel and other noisemakers, and Lovedrops himself on guitar.

“The special thing about these players is they all have tremendous ears,” said Lovedrops. “They’re willing to follow me down any road I wander. I’m pretty much a roots player and I always try to play great but forgotten tunes that you can't hear down the road. Dylan, Hank Williams, Louis Armstrong, old AM radio ditties, standards, mostly Americana.”

Lovedrops is completely fused to his Van Morrison-esque persona; he’s part maestro, part medicine man, part court jester – but he’s always full of grace and good fun.

It’s the fun that attracts Butler, who has been working closely with Long Island bluegrass legend Buddy Merriam as well as his own project, Freegrass Union. Butler said he loves the gig because he’s deliberately looking for musical curveballs.

“K.C. never tells me what we’re playing,” Butler laughed. “And I don’t ask.”

The spontaneity derived from that approach is a big part of what makes Lovedrops the real deal. He’s a true troubadour with a sincere mission to bring the heart, soul and boogie of hybrid roots, folk, blues and jazz to every nook and cranny of the local joints he graces.

“I have to, it’s Friday night,” Lovedrops exclaimed as he loaded his gear into the cozy confines of the Grey Horse after he’d already wrapped up his weekly happy hour gig at Fadeley’s in Patchogue only an hour before. “What the hell else am I gonna do? I’m privileged. I get back way more than I put out.”

Photo: Eastport resident K.C. Lovedrops, a staple of the South Shore music scene, performs at the Grey Horse Tavern in Bayport. (March 4, 2011)

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