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Chris Darrow

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Chris Darrow
Birth nameChristopher Lloyd Darrow
Born(1944-07-30)July 30, 1944
Sioux Falls, South Dakota, U.S.
DiedJanuary 15, 2020(2020-01-15) (aged 75)
GenresRock, country rock
Instrument(s)Guitar, bass, fiddle, violin, banjo, resonator guitar, lap steel guitar, mandolin, sitar
Years active1963–2019
Formerly ofThe Dry City Scat Band, Kaleidoscope, Nitty Gritty Dirt Band

Christopher Lloyd Darrow (July 30, 1944 – January 15, 2020) was an American multi-instrumentalist and singer-songwriter.[1] He was considered to be a pioneer of country rock music in the late-1960s and performed and recorded with numerous groups, including Kaleidoscope and the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band.[2]


Early life[edit]

Darrow was born in Sioux Falls, South Dakota, but grew up in the Los Angeles suburb of Claremont, California, listening to Ritchie Valens and the Everly Brothers on the radio. He began playing ukulele, but purchased his first guitar at age 13. His father Paul had played clarinet with traditional jazz band The Mentor Street Maniacs.

Attending Pitzer College, Darrow spent two years assisting folklorist Guy Carawan, who taught American Folk Life Studies. Darrow's interest in folk and bluegrass music sparked the formation of his first band, the Reorganized Dry City Players in 1963, followed by the Mad Mountain Ramblers.[3]

The Dry City Scat Band[edit]

In 1964, Darrow formed the bluegrass band The Dry City Scat Band with David Lindley, Richard Greene, Steve Cahill, and Pete Madlem. In 1964, the Scat Band performed regularly at Disneyland and at the Ash Grove in Hollywood.[4]

Darrow also attended Claremont graduate school, getting his master's degree in art.[5] During this time, Darrow met fellow bluegrass artist Chris Hillman, and Hillman's transition to playing rock music with The Byrds had a profound effect on Darrow.[6]

The Floggs and Kaleidoscope[edit]

Darrow's first rock band was the Floggs, which also included Roger Palos (bass), Bill Stamps (lead guitar), Tommy Salisbury (drums), and Hugh Kohler (keyboards).[3]

Darrow then joined Lindley in the psychedelic band Kaleidoscope, which also included Solomon Feldthouse and Max Buda. The band blended Middle Eastern, country, folk, blues and psychedelia, incorporating the Turkish oud and saz. Darrow, who composed and sang lead vocal on a number of songs, quit Kaleidoscope shortly after completion of Beacon From Mars.[7][8]

In 1976, Kaleidoscope reunited to record the album When Scopes Collide and then, in 1991, Greetings From Kartoonistan... We Ain't Dead Yet.[3]

Nitty Gritty Dirt Band[edit]

In 1967, Darrow joined the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band, replacing Bruce Kunkel,[9] and recorded two albums with the band: Rare Junk and Uncle Charlie & His Dog Teddy.[10][11] As a part of the band, he appeared in the Clint Eastwood musical Paint Your Wagon.[12]

The Corvettes[edit]

In 1969, Darrow and Jeff Hanna formed The Corvettes, releasing two singles produced by Mike Nesmith for Dot Records. Linda Ronstadt recruited the band to be her touring band.[13] When Hanna left the Corvettes to return to the Dirt Band, he was replaced by Bernie Leadon.[4]

Solo career[edit]

In 1972, Darrow released his first album Artist Proof on Fantasy. It was reissued with bonus tracks in 2012 by Drag City Records.[10][14] Personnel included Mickey McGee (drums), Ed Black (pedal steel guitar), Arnie Moore (bass), Loren Newkirk (piano), John Ware (drums), and Claudia Linear and Jennifer Warnes (backing vocals).[15]

His next two albums Chris Darrow and Under My Own Disguise were released by United Artists.[4][16] Chris Darrow was recorded with members of Fairport Convention, the Jeff Beck Group, and Elton John's band.[17] After Darrow took Ben Harper under his wing, Harper recorded a cover of Darrow's song "Whipping Boy" as the lead single for his major label debut album.[18]

In the mid-'90s, Darrow recorded for the German label Taxim. In 2000, he released the two-CD set Coyote: Straight from the Heart which includes a 40-minute instrumental suite and 20 original songs.

Other work[edit]

Darrow played bass on Leonard Cohen's debut Songs of Leonard Cohen. Outtakes of those sessions were later used in Robert Altman's film McCabe and Mrs. Miller.[5]

Darrow provided fiddle and violin on James Taylor's Sweet Baby James.

In 1973, Darrow and Bob Mosley of Moby Grape recorded three demos as the Darrow/Mosley Band. These were later released on Desert Rain on the Shagrat label. They were joined by Frank Reckard (lead guitar), Loren Newkirk (keyboards) and Johnny Craviotto (drums).[19]


Darrow took photographs since age 9, and shot album cover photographs for Starr Parodi, David Lindley and Henry Kaiser, Mojave, The Cache Valley Drifters, Swampdogs, and Los Chumps.[20]


Darrow died, aged 75, on January 15, 2020, of complications from a stroke.[21]


Solo albums[edit]

  • 1972: Artist Proof (Fantasy) reissued in 2012 by Drag City[22]
  • 1973: Chris Darrow (United Artists) reissued in 2009 by Everloving Records
  • 1974: Under My Own Disguise (United Artists) reissued in 2009 by Everloving
  • 1979: Fretless (Pacific Arts)
  • 1980: A Southern California Drive (Wild Bunch)
  • 1981: Eye of the Storm (Takoma) with Max Buda
  • 1997: Coyote Straight from the Heart (Taxim)
  • 1998: Harem Girl (Taxim)
  • 2002: Slide on In (Taxim)
  • 2006: Wages of Sin (Taxim)

As a member of Kaleidoscope[edit]

As a member of The Nitty Gritty Dirt Band[edit]

As a member of the Darrow-Mosley Band[edit]

  • 1973: Desert Rain (Shagrat) released 2010

As composer[edit]

As producer[edit]

Also appeared on[edit]


  1. ^ "Nitty Gritty Dirt Band Alum Chris Darrow Dies". Tasteofcountry.com. Retrieved August 22, 2021.
  2. ^ Roland, Terry (June 5, 2013). "Unsung Heroes of Americana Music: Chris Darrow and Artist Proof". No Depression. Archived from the original on August 9, 2017. Retrieved August 3, 2017.
  3. ^ a b c Breznikar, Klemen (June 19, 2011). "Kaleidoscope Interview with Chris Darrow". It's Psychedelic Baby! Magazine. Archived from the original on September 16, 2016. Retrieved August 5, 2017.
  4. ^ a b c Lindblad, Peter (April 12, 2010). "Backstage Pass: Chris Darrow – A brilliant disguise". Goldmine. Retrieved August 3, 2017.
  5. ^ a b Hale, Christine (March 13, 2009). "Chris Darrow: You Saved My Life". L.A. Record. Retrieved August 3, 2017.
  6. ^ Unterberger, Richie (2002). Turn! Turn! Turn!: The '60s Folk-rock Revolution (1 ed.). ISBN 9780879307035. Retrieved August 3, 2017.
  7. ^ Murray, Noel (March 17, 2009). "Chris Darrow". A.V. Club. Retrieved August 3, 2017.
  8. ^ "Chris Darrow: Monterey Pop Summer of Love". Impose. January 30, 2013. Retrieved August 3, 2017.
  9. ^ Beaudoin, Jedd (November 10, 2016). "Nitty Gritty Dirt Band History With Jeff Hanna". PopMatters. Retrieved August 3, 2017.
  10. ^ a b Neff, Joseph (February 26, 2013). "Graded on a Curve: Chris Darrow, Artist Proof". Vinyl District. Retrieved August 3, 2017.
  11. ^ Kubernik, Harvey; Scott Calamar (2009). Canyon of Dreams: The Magic and the Music of Laurel Canyon (1 ed.). ISBN 9781402765896. Retrieved August 3, 2017.
  12. ^ Neibaur, James L. (March 12, 2015). The Clint Eastwood Westerns (1 ed.). ISBN 9781442245044. Retrieved August 3, 2017.
  13. ^ Vaughan, Andrew (February 1, 2015). The Eagles FAQ: All That's Left to Know About Classic Rock's Superstars (1 ed.). ISBN 9781617136238. Retrieved August 3, 2017.
  14. ^ Raymer, Miles (February 5, 2013). "Chris Darrow – Artist Proof". Pitchfork. Retrieved August 1, 2017.
  15. ^ Hochman, Steve (February 7, 2013). ""Proof" positive: Chris Darrow's long-lost kaleidoscopic country-rock treasure reissued". Without a Net. Retrieved August 1, 2017.
  16. ^ Glasebrook, D.A. (February 10, 2011). "Chris Darrow – 'Chris Darrow'". Rising Storm. Retrieved August 3, 2017.
  17. ^ Simmons, Michael (February 25, 2009). "Chris Darrow's Kaleidoscopic Vision". L.A. Weekly. Retrieved August 3, 2017.
  18. ^ "Chris Darrow: A Gift Unheralded". JamBase. April 14, 2009. Retrieved August 5, 2017.
  19. ^ Fricke, David (October 13, 2010). "The Continuing Saga of Moby Grape". Rolling Stone. Retrieved August 5, 2017.
  20. ^ E.R. Beardsley. "Chris Darrow: Welcome to California". Intangible. Retrieved August 3, 2017.
  21. ^ "Noted Claremont artist Chris Darrow dies at 75", January 16, 2020. Retrieved January 17, 2020
  22. ^ "You Need to Know Chris Darrow". Drag City. December 4, 2012. Retrieved August 1, 2017.
  23. ^ "Kaleidoscope – When Scopes Collide". Rising Storm. August 30, 2011. Retrieved August 5, 2017.
  24. ^ "Greetings from Kartoonistan". Pulsating Dream. Archived from the original on June 12, 2016. Retrieved August 5, 2017.

External links[edit]