Darius Remembers

by Darius Davenport on March 1, 2013

I grew up in a musical family. My father and mother were musicians who specialized in Early Music from the Medieval, Renaissance and Baroque periods mostly. My father was a pioneer in early music, playing the recorder and developing educational programs that were eventually part of most public school music instruction programs in the U.S.. My mother went to Black Mountain College in North Carolina and studied music with some of the world’s most renowned musical instructors.

We learned to play music in our family at an early age. I started playing recorder at 6 years old and my younger brothers earlier than that. I started playing the Oboe at nine. We often played music together and could sight read many songs on the recorder. My parents divorced when I was 12 and my mother moved my brother and I to California in 1962. My father remarried and my step- mother was an accomplished soprano also specializing in early music. My father had been a jazz trumpet player in the Navy as well so we all grew up with a wide variety of different styles of music in the house.

During my time in California I had become very interested in the drums. A friend had a set and I had started playing occasionally at high school functions. I remember getting a standing ovation at school assembly for playing Take Five with a jazz trio. But, I was unhappy living on the West coast and when I turned 16 I dropped out of High School and moved back to New York to live my father. At that time my father wanted me to enroll in Manhattan’s famed Music and Art High School but fate would have other plans.
A friend of mine was taking guitar lessons in New York City and told me his guitar teacher was in a rock band and they were looking for a drummer. I went to this funky little house off of Bleeker Street in the Village and auditioned. I was invited to join the band and, at 16 years old, moved into the city and started playing drums in what would become Autosalvage. Needless to say my parents were not happy and there was a big fight.

Living in the Village in 1966 was pretty amazing for a kid with a dream. I was nick named “the Kid” in fact because my band mates were in their early twenties. Many bands were in the Village still playing even though many had already moved to the West coast. Dylan, Peter, Paul and Mary, Joan Baez, The Lovin Spoonful, Richie Havens, Paul Butterfield, Mike Bloomfield, The Blues Project, The Fuggs, The Mothers of Invention and later Hendricks, Donovan and Cream plus many more made the scene a rich variety of sights and sounds. The Blues festival at the Café Au Go Go is probably the first major blues happening in the country with blues greats who are mostly gone now. I saw Muddy Waters, Otis Span and too many others to name or remember at the Au Go Go. I saw Cream 3 nights in a row at the Au Go Go (a small club) on their first U.S. tour. We also saw Richard Pryor at the club and we are supposed to have “opened” for him which may be true. I just remember laughing my ass off.

We practiced probably more than we performed but that paid off when we finally landed a contract with RCA. We were booked into Studio B at the recording center at RCA. I do remember one day we were playing so loud that we were disturbing a Kate Smith session going on in Studio A next door. She had an entire orchestra and choir in there and our music was leaking on to her tracks. We stopped playing and went over there and met her and hung out for her session for a while. What a contrast in cultures!

The band was excited about the album which was finally released in March of 68’. We played at the Filmore East with other RCA acts and were set to go on a tour. I don’t remember many specifics of the end but I do remember calling my dad from a phone booth (remember those?) on West 3rd Street, in tears, letting know that the band had “split up”. Rick moved to California and me and the other two remained in the East. I had my son Sasha in the spring of 69’ and the three of us did end up moving to California on a trip to see my mother. I’ve lived here in California mostly for years and have played music on and off over the years. I was inspired by the drumming of Ringo Starr, Mitch Mitchell, Ginger Baker, Al Jackson Jr. and many others whose licks I copied. I learned to play guitar too by copying my fellow musicians. I owe many thanks to Skip Boone, Rick Turner, Tom Danaher, Marc Silber, Artie Traum, Phil Marsh, Peter Berg and others who helped shape my musical interests and talent back in those days. I do owe my greatest gratitude to my father and mother though for giving me the gift of genetics and teaching me to play music in the beginning. I am eternally indebted to them for that.

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