Karen Dalton

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Karen Dalton
Background information
Birth nameKaren J. Cariker
Born(1937-07-19)July 19, 1937
Bonham, Texas, United States
DiedMarch 19, 1993(1993-03-19) (aged 55)
Hurley, New York, United States
GenresCountry blues, jazz
Occupation(s)Vocalist, guitarist, banjoist
InstrumentsVocals, guitar, banjo
Years active1960s–1990s

Karen J. Dalton (born Jean Karen Cariker; July 19, 1937 – March 19, 1993) was an American folk blues singer, guitarist, and banjo player. She was associated with the early 1960s Greenwich Village folk music scene, particularly with Fred Neil, the Holy Modal Rounders, and Bob Dylan.[1]


Dalton was born Jean Karen Cariker in Bonham, Texas,[2] but was raised in Enid, Oklahoma. She also lived in Stillwater, Oklahoma and Lawrence, Kansas, before relocating to Greenwich Village in the early 1960s.[3] Her bluesy, world-weary voice is often compared to jazz singer Billie Holiday, though Dalton said Bessie Smith was a greater influence. She sang blues, folk, country, pop, Motown—making over each song in her own style. She played the twelve string guitar and a long neck banjo.

Dalton's first album, It's So Hard to Tell Who's Going to Love You the Best (Capitol, 1969), was re-released by Koch Records on CD in 1996. Dalton's second album, In My Own Time (1971), was recorded at Bearsville Studios and originally released by Woodstock Festival promoter Michael Lang's label, Just Sunshine Records. The album was produced and arranged by Harvey Brooks, who played bass on it. Piano player Richard Bell guested on In My Own Time. Its liner notes were written by Fred Neil and its cover photos were taken by Elliott Landy.

Both Dalton's albums were re-released in November 2006: It's So Hard to Tell Who's Going to Love You the Best, on the French Megaphone-Music label, included a bonus DVD featuring rare performance footage of Dalton. In My Own Time was re-released on CD and LP on November 7, 2006 by Light in the Attic Records.

Known as "the folk singer's answer to Billie Holiday" and "Sweet Mother K.D.", Dalton is said to be the subject of the song "Katie's Been Gone" (composed by Richard Manuel and Robbie Robertson) on the album The Basement Tapes by The Band and Bob Dylan, who wrote of Dalton that "My favorite singer...was Karen Dalton. Karen had a voice like Billie Holiday and played guitar like Jimmy Reed... I sang with her a couple of times."[4]

Dalton was closely associated with singer/songwriter Tim Hardin, whose songs she covered. She was among the first to sing his "Reason to Believe". She was married to guitarist Richard Tucker, with whom she sometimes played as a duo, and in a trio with Hardin.

She died from an AIDS-related illness in March 1993, aged 55, in her mobile home, which is located in a clearing off Eagle's Nest Road, outside the town of Hurley, near Woodstock, New York.[5] According to her friend Peter Walker, she had been living with the disease for over 8 years.[6]


Studio albums[edit]

Live album[edit]

Other releases[edit]

  • Green Rocky Road (2008) Recorded at home circa 1962-63, released by Delmore Recording Society; contains unreleased recordings.
  • 1966 (2012). Released by Delmore Recording Society; contains previously unreleased recordings.
  • Remembering Mountains: Unheard Songs by Karen Dalton (2015), released by Tompkins Square.[7]


  1. ^ "Ordinary Songs Become Memorable Events". NPR.org. Retrieved 2017-03-18.
  2. ^ Laura Barton (23 March 2007). "The Best Singer You've Never Heard of". The Guardian. Retrieved 2008-07-12.
  3. ^ "For Karen Dalton, a long way home". Associated Press. 12 July 2015.
  4. ^ Dylan, Bob (2004). Chronicles: Volume One. Simon and Schuster. ISBN 0-7432-2815-4. (Page 12.)
  5. ^ Clayton, Richard (2012-01-27). "Play, lady, play". Financial Times. ISSN 0307-1766. Retrieved 2016-02-11.
  6. ^ "In Her Own Time". www.austinchronicle.com. Retrieved 2016-02-11.
  7. ^ "Remembering Mountains : Unheard Songs By Karen Dalton – Out Now «". Tompkinssquare.com. Retrieved 2015-11-04.

External links[edit]