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Reservoir Music Notes - Delaney and Bonnie Profile, Live Music Picks
June 6, 2012

Greetings! Well, we have such a happening week of live music, and, I wasn’t feeling particularly inspired or compelled to speak out regarding any events musical today, so I was thinking of going right to the live music picks and just sayin’,”See ya next week”! However…I was inspired by an event happening this week to launch another segment of my infinite part series, “Not so famous people who nevertheless consistently shared stages, studios, and good times with rock n roll royalty…and gods”! This will be the second installment. Two weeks ago I profiled Billy Preston, the only person to ever share a label credit with The Beatles! (“Help” just came on the radio! Coincidence? I think not!)

The idea for the series came to me three weeks ago when I had the sad task of reporting the news of Donald “Duck” Dunn’s passing. Since, by chance, the first installment was two weeks ago, I will try to make it a bi-weekly event. No promises, but I will try! That way, if you’re not a regular reader of this column, (and why wouldn’t you be?), and you find this series interesting, then you can just check in every two weeks and see who I’m profiling that week (and don’t worry, it won’t be Cat Stevens!)

Before we get to who the subject of this week’s profile is, I just want to quickly mention that Bob Dylan was given the Presidential Medal of Freedom last week, which I reported to you a few weeks ago, and the great Doc Watson passed this week, 89 years young! Go toward the light, Doc!

Okay, now it can be told! This week’s profile is of Delaney and Bonnie and Friends, one of the most influential bands of all time! Never heard of ‘em you say? Well, you’re about to learn something!

Delaney and Bonnie Bramlett were a husband and wife songwriting duo who put together an ass kickin’ rock and soul band that wound up being bigger stars than their bosses, and, in the process, attracted some of the biggest names in the music world! But I’m getting ahead of myself. Let’s start at the beginning.

Delaney Bramlett moved from Mississippi to Los Angeles at the age of 20, in 1959, and quickly became accepted into the world of session musicians in LA. He then parlayed that into The Shindogs, who were the house band on ABC-TV series, “Shindig”, and also included Leon Russell as a member!

Bonnie O’Farrell was almost a child prodigy, performing with Albert King at the tender age of 14, and becoming the first white Ikette at 15! In 1967, she moved to Los Angeles and met and married Delaney.

Delaney and Leon Russell put together a backing band and they were signed to Stax Records, where they worked with Duck Dunn, Isaac Hayes, Steve Cropper, and the rest of the Stax crew. Their initial release didn’t sell well, probably due to poor promotion, and they moved to Elektra Records, where their second release created a buzz! After hearing it, George Harrison wanted to sign the band to Apple, but they were locked into Elektra. That didn’t stop George from recommending them to Eric Clapton, who took them on the road as opening act for Blind Faith in 1969! Clapton would often sit in with them on that tour, and has famously said that playing with Blind Faith afterwards was pretty discouraging, because, he thought, Delaney and Bonnie “were miles better than us”!

When Blind Faith broke up at the end of their only tour, Clapton continued to tour and record with Delaney and Bonnie and Friends, eventually brokering a better record deal for them with his label, Atco. Their first release on Atco was a live record featuring Clapton, George Harrison, Dave Mason, and others, and needless to say, it went gold! Clapton then snagged the entire band for his debut solo album, which Delaney produced!

In 1970, they went on the infamous Festival Express Tour with The Grateful Dead, Janis Joplin, The Band, Buddy Guy, Fling Burrito Brothers, and a bunch more! The next year they did a live show in New York that was broadcast on the radio, backed by Duane and Gregg Allman, and King Curtis!

After Delaney and Bonnie and Friends broke up, Leon Russell recruited most of the band for Joe Cocker’s Mad Dogs and Englishmen recording sessions and tour. The one guy Leon didn’t hire, Bobby Whitlock, was hangin’ out with Eric Clapton at his home in England, jamming and writing songs. When they decided to form a band, they recalled bassist Carl Radle and drummer Jim Gordon from the Cocker tour to form a little unit you may have heard of called Derek and The Dominoes, who also formed the core band for George Harrison’s masterpiece, “All Things Must Pass”, along with Dave Mason, Bobby Keys, and Jim Price, former Friends all!

Clapton has said that Delaney taught him how to sing, and he’s also credited with teaching George Harrison how to play slide guitar!

Delaney and Bonnie were divorced in 1973, and she became a backing vocalist for Stephen Stills, Elvin Bishop, and The Allman Brothers Band, later turning to acting, where she had a recurring role in the TV show, “Roseanne”!

Delaney died in 2008, but not before selling a guitar that George Harrison had given him for $567,500 in 2004, which presumably allowed him to live out his final years in style!

Oh yeah, their daughter, Bekka, was a member of Fleetwood Mac in the early 1990’s and later, backing vocalist with Vince Gill and Faith Hill, as well as having a vibrant solo career! The fruit doesn’t fall far from the tree, as they say!

The Tribute to Delaney and Bonnie and their Famous Friends takes place at The Highline Ballroom in Manhattan on June 8th!

Other live musical events for the week:

Have a great week!

Fred Perry is the owner of Reservoir Music Center on Route 28 in Kingston, and founding member of Alt-Country supergroup, The Brooklyn Cowboys, is from a 3rd generation musical family and lives in the Hudson Valley, where he does what he can to promote live music.

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