Chris Darrow Tribute w/ BenHarper, Akron/Family, Howlin Rain
Chris Darrow may not be a household name — yet. But throughout the history of Southern California country-rock, folk, surf, psychedelic and world music, he has cast a welcome presence. His trailblazing, country-rock-leaning pair of solo albums, Chris Darrow (1973) and Under My Own Disguise (1974, never before available in the U.S.), soon will be re-released by Everloving Records (check out JamBase’s review for this early front runner for reissue of the year) The Darrow collection, titled Chris Darrow/Under My Own Disguise, will be available as a deluxe two-CD, two-LP (180 gram vinyl) with a 48-page 12″ x 12″ photo book. Street date is March 10, 2009. The music will also be available through digital retailers without all the fancy stuff, too.
The Chris Darrow story begins with Kaleidoscope, a late ‘60s L.A.-based band cited by Led Zeppelin’s Jimmy Page as his “favorite band of all time.” Elektra Records founder Jac Holzman wrote in his book Follow the Music that the first Kaleidoscope album, Side Trips, is his favorite album of all time. Why this cult mania? Kaleidoscope was the first to blend country, rock, folk, blues, psychedelic and world music and have been called the first “world beat” band. They were also precursors to the Flying Burrito Brothers. Singer/songwriter/guitarist David Lindley was also a member.
But the Chris Darrow story did not end with his departure from Kaleidoscope. He joined the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band, and then broke off with the Dirt Band’s Jeff Hanna to form The Corvettes, who released two Mike Nesmith-produced singles on Dot. The Corvettes soon became Linda Ronstadt’s backing band, with Chris doing double duty as Ronstadt’s road manager. When Jeff Hanna left The Corvettes to rejoin the Dirt Band, Bernie Leadon took his place. The group officially dissolved when Leadon was recruited into the Flying Burrito Brothers and John Ware and John London joined Nesmith’s First National Band. Darrow later recorded and toured with Hoyt Axton, John Stewart, James Taylor, Sonny & Cher, Gene Vincent, John Fahey and Helen Reddy. As the Chris Darrow reputation continued to develop, he crafted a pair of legendary solo albums for the United Artists label: Chris Darrow and Under My Own Disguise.
The story goes on and on — Darrow went on to record with Nesmith, Kaleidoscope briefly reunited, he recorded with Chris D’s Divine Horsemen, formed an unlikely working relationship with colorful producer Kim Fowley and an even less likely collaboration with the Surf Punks’ Dennis Dragon. As Darrow continued his 40-year (so far) career in the music business, a new generation of artists discovered him.
Ben Harper, who grew up in Darrow’s long-time roost of Claremont, CA, covered Darrow’s song “Whipping Boy,” which The Dust Brothers later remixed. Mudhoney‘s Steve Turner has come to idolize Darrow, writing: “It’s these solo albums that keep finding their way onto the turntable around my house They have slowly, through the years, wound up in the hands of the right people. People like you and me. And that’s no accident.”