RIP "Kitten" Johnson of CYKA & Pharmacy

Longtime local's unexpected passing

Singer Kathleen "Kitten" Johnson with Pharmacy
  • Singer Kathleen "Kitten" Johnson with Pharmacy

Singer Kathleen “Kitten” Johnson passed away this morning, just a few days past her birthday. She was reportedly suffering shortness of breath in the early A.M. and, a short time later, her brother found her unresponsive.

Johnson spent several years fronting Pharmacy, which featured guitarist Jonny Vee (from local punkers Social Spit).

“We were originally called Kitten’s Pharmacy, back in the ’90s,” Johnson once told the Reader. “We opened for bands like Bow Wow Wow at Brick by Brick and Third Eye Blind at 'Canes, but by 1998 the band wasn’t getting along and we all went our separate ways.” The group reunited a few years later, but the constantly shifting lineup resulted in shortening their name.

Pharmacy’s Drugs Not Included, recorded in Johnson’s garage, was released in August 2011, followed by Wrack 'N' Roll (2012) and Wrack 'N' Roll Part 2 (2013). However, the band announced that their final show would take place October 31, 2015, at the Go Lounge in La Mesa.

With her "day job" as a real estate agent for a number of years, the childhood hockey goalie's most recent band, CYKA, featured her former Pharmacy bandmate Jayden Fullerton, alongside Nox Anger (the Seks, FuckLordz) and Josh Hall (also of the Seks). Their concert debut took place June 4, 2016, at Art Around Adams, and several new songs were released last year, including "It's So Easy" recorded live at the Merrow in Hillcrest.

Her life wasn't without troubles. In addition to the usual and expected band dramas (“Someone else in the band went out of their way to cause problems between us, and for years [one member] and I weren’t communicating”), she revealed in one interview that "In 2008, I basically lost everything I owned. On top of that, I was once bit by a rabid dog and had to get the shots in my stomach.” In addition, “I was once attacked and clocked in the head with a ten inch metal rod and ended up with stitches and staples in my head.”

And of course, like any gigging performer, there were always concert mishaps to deal with, such as one she described from Autumn 2010. "We booked the Chico Club with [local band], and all was good until the drummer in [same local band] starting cussing the new owner Jerry out for coming too close to his drum set. What an asshole! Then he grabbed the monitors while we were still playing."

Online tributes have included accolades from devoted friends like Dina Mitchell: "You were the fiercest queen I ever had the pleasure of knowing. My life was so blessed to have you in it. You immediately made me feel loved and welcome when I started bartending at the Ugly Dog and I feel so lucky to have had you in my life. I’m glad that I got to celebrate your birthday with you this week before you gained your wings."

Hocus singer-guitarist Lando Martinez recalls "I first met Kit when we were looking for a home and she was working in realty. When she found out we lived in England, she would tell me about hanging out with Oasis and Blur when they first came to America. Then we did many shows with Pharmacy and CYKA. She loved music and just loved performing. I would love to see her posts about her Vegas trips and always hanging out at the Ugly Dog Pub and Grill."

Longtime bandmate Scott Samuels says "I met Kitten when I answered a Reader ad in 1993, she was trying to put together her first band. We did many great things together with that band, and played shows with Third Eye Blind, Bow Wow Wow, Tommy Keene, and others. Also put out a great CD that I still listen to occasionally. She was a personality larger than life, and though we had our differences over the years, we always made up. I recently went to see her newest band, CYKA, perform at the Kava Lounge, and told her I was so proud of her and what she accomplished. I know she will be singing on in the afterlife."

A memorial get-together for friends, fans, and supporters will be held at the Ugly Dog Pub in La Mesa May 26.

When the Reader asked Kitten what song by another band best describes her world, she replied “‘In My Life,’ by the Beatles. Their songs are always with me.”

There are places I'll remember

All my life though some have changed

Some forever not for better

Some have gone and some remain

All these places had their moments

With lovers and friends I still can recall

Some are dead and some are living

In my life I've loved them all

But of all these friends and lovers

There is no one compares with you

And these memories lose their meaning

When I think of love as something new

Though I know I'll never lose affection

For people and things that went before

I know I'll often stop and think about them

In my life I loved you more

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In addition to San Diego losing Kitten and former Las Vegas showman Ukulele Ray Masters this week, it appears drummer Danny "Fatback" Martinez of Len Rainey & the Midnight Players and Mystique Element Of Soul has passed away as well. A fundraiser to help his family cover bills and pay for memorial service expenses will be held May 6 at the Downtown Cafe in El Cajon.

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