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Scott Kempner, Guitarist and Songwriter for ‘The Dictators,’ Dead at 69

Scott Kempner, Guitarist and Songwriter for ‘The Dictators,’ Dead at 69

Scott Kempner, a founding member of bands The Dictators and The Del-Lords, died Wednesday of dementia complications. He was 69.

Kempner, nicknamed “Top Ten,” died at a nursing home in Connecticut. He was born in the Bronx, N.Y. In college, Kempner, a guitarist and songwriter, joined forces with Andy Shernoff and Ross “The Boss” Friedman. Together, they formed the rock band The Dictators in 1974, Variety reports.

“The Dictators Go Girl Crazy!,” their debut album, is praised by punk fans all over the place. They call that album the precursor to the punk rock genre. Kempner himself was an early punk pioneer. The Dictators recorded three albums together before they split up. But they did have an occasional reunion. They officially re-formed in 2019 until Kempner’s dementia diagnosis.

Upon The Dictators’ first breakup, Kempner would go on to form The Del-Lords with Manny Caiati and Eric Ambel. The Del-Lords was a rock and roll band. It drew its influence from British bands of the ‘60s — notably, The Beatles — in their grouping of several singers.

Scott Kempner Called The Del-Lords ‘A Comfort Zone’

“The Del-Lords was a comfort zone,” Kempner said in a 2008 interview with Variety. “It was a well-oiled machine. But having four distinct personalities (as singers) was a hard thing to sell. I had faith in it – I saw it as essential.”  

Kempner recorded seven albums with The Del-Lords. That was before moving on to perform with several other groups. They included The Brandos, The Paradise Brothers, and The Helen Wheels Band. Kempner also developed a solo career. He released three albums, including “Tenement Angels,” “Saving Grace” and
Live From Blueberry Hill.”

“Scott Kempner was the quintessential rocker, a free abandoned guitar player, a superb arranger, A prolific songwriter, with a great sense of rhythm,” Dion DiMucci said. He played with Kempner in the band Little Kings. “But most of all he is a dear friend and brother whom I love and will truly miss. Eternal rest my friend.”

“Scott used his Dictators experience as the heart of that band to inform the songwriting he did for the Del-Lords,” said Ambel. “His songs weren’t solo songs adapted by the band to play, they were written specifically for the Del-Lords and informed by our lives together and that’s just a part of what made Scott and his songs so unique.”

Kempner is survived by his wife, Sharon Ludtke, sister Robin Kempner, and her wife Mary-Noa Kempner.