Ben Harper, Akron/Family & Howlin' Rain in Darrow Tribute
Ben Harper, Akron/Family and Howlin' Rain will be among the artists who pay tribute to singer/songwriter Chris Darrow in "Take Good Care of Yourself: The Songs of Chris Darrow" on Sunday, March 1, 7 p.m., at McCabe's Guitar Shop, 3101 Pico Blvd., Santa Monica, (310) 828-4497. Joining these artists will be very special guests Charlie Wadhams, Michael Andrews, Jonathan Wilson and Elisa Randazzo. The show is presented by the Everloving record label, concert promoters Folk Yeah and KCRW 89.9. Tickets for the event are $20 in advance at www.mccabes.com or at the door.
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 trail-blazing, 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 released by Everloving Records, the home of Inara George & Van Dyke Parks, Cornelius and Herman Dune. 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.
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. (Is this saga Southern California enough for you?) 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, Calif. and who will appear in the McCabe's tribute show, covered the song "Whipping Boy" from Chris Darrow. The Dust Brothers later remixed it. 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."
Enter Everloving Records, the esoteric label from L.A.'s Loz Feliz, known for its relationship with the Claremont musical community that begat both Darrow and Ben Harper. The LA Weekly's Randall Roberts described Everloving as "globetrotting this year, putting out thrilling music by Germans, French, Japanese and Angelenos. The label since 2003 has delivered hot music action from wherever it arrives. They cherry-pick choice little records from across the globe and deliver them stateside."