Scott Kempner, Founding Member of The Dictators and The Del-Lords, Dies at 69

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Written By Pinang Driod

Scott “Top Ten” Kempner, a founding member of the influential bands The Dictators and The Del-Lords, has passed away at the age of 69. The veteran musician had been battling early onset dementia, and had been living at a Connecticut nursing home at the time of his passing.

As the original and longstanding rhythm guitarist of The Dictators, Kempner was a punk-rock pioneer. The New York City band formed in 1972 and released their proto-punk debut album The Dictators Go Girl Crazy! in 1975, a year before the Ramones fully ushered in punk rock with their self-titled debut.

Kempner remained with The Dictators through nearly all their incarnations, playing with them up until 2021, when his health struggles forced him to leave the band. He appeared on all four of their albums, which also included Manifest Destiny (1977), Bloodbrothers (1978), and D.F.F.D. (2001).


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In 1982, after The Dictators’ initial breakup, Kempner formed The Del-Lords, who were one of the originators of urban roots rock and Americana music, combining ’60s garage rock with country and blues. Overall, the band released five studio albums.

Additionally, Kempner played in the bands The Brandos and Little Kings, the latter of which was fronted by doo-wop legend Dion DiMucci.

A number of Kempner’s bandmates and colleagues have paid tribute to him in the wake of his passing.

Fellow Dictators founder Andy Shernoff stated, “Scott was one of the greats, the best buddy a boy could ever want. We bonded over rock ‘n’ roll and we laughed about everything. We had a million inside jokes that nobody understood. I watched him grow from a guy running his SG guitar through his home stereo in his bedroom to playing Marshall amps cranked on stages around the world. His songs and music will speak for themselves. His glorious memory will remain with me forever and I will cherish it.”

Del-Lords bandmate Eric Ambel remarked, “Scott used his Dictators experience as the heart of that band to inform the songwriting he did for the Del-Lords. 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.”


And the aforementioned Dion wrote, “Scott Kempner was the quintessential rocker, a free abandoned guitar player, a superb arranger, a prolific songwriter, with the great sense of rhythm. I had the adventure of a lifetime playing with him in our 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.”

Our condolences go out to Scott Kempner’s family, friends, and bandmates during this difficult time. See him performing with The Dictators and The Del-Lords in the clips below.


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