Danny Kalb for Troy Record: 1 12
By Don Wilcock
(Used with Permission of the author)
In 1965, the music underground knew three capitals. The Stones ruled London. Paul Butterfield ran Chicago, and The Blues Project owned The Big Apple. Guitarist Danny Kalb remembers the night The Blues Project introduced their 11-minnute symphonic blues version of Muddy Waters Two Trains Running to New York at the Café Au Go Go. Muddy himself was sitting in the audience.
The club was dark, and I started off with, My mother told my father just before I was born, and it built up and built up. Two Trains Running is like a Beethoven symphony. Its got crashes and quiet parts, and finally it builds up to the final thing. It goes into falsetto, and at that point my arm shot up like arena rock years later, just spontaneously at the final falsetto, and it came down as a crash of drums and all was quiet for a second. Then, the audience exploded into applause. It was the first time the song had been heard in New York.
When Kalb mustered up the courage to ask Muddy Waters what he thought of their extended version of a song Muddy did in two minutes, the blues master said simply, You really got me. Kalbs life was complete at that moment. If Id dropped dead at that point on the spot because of what we thought of Muddy Waters, then my life would have been well spent.
I was in the audience for one of those shows that weekend, and I can tell you I felt the same way just listening to it. And to be quite blunt about it, for all practical purposes, Kalb and his band did die, not on the spot, but their star just never rose to anything approaching the kind of impact they had every right to expect. Talking to him 40 years later to me is akin to being granted an audience with Jimi Hendrix or Janis Joplin. Kalb, of course, doesnt look at things that way.
Theres always a trade-off, says a man who today plays acoustic guitar in The Village and will make a rare local visit to Lenas Saturday night. Look at what happened to Butterfield. Those guys died of heroin. Were all still alive. Theres a price to be paid for stardom usually in the sick record business.
For all practical purposes, The Blues Project never made it beyond New York cult status. Their best album was Live at Café Au Go Go cut in 65. They have periodically done reunion concerts in The City and albums pieced together from various shows, but for all practical purposes, they remained a footnote to the 60s underground culture. Kalb blames manager Sid Bernstein for not understanding how to sell a band that wasnt hit-based like The Rascals. He didnt know how to move in this new milieu of non-hit based FM bands, and the counterculture was beginning to lose its cohesiveness and viability. It was turning into terrorism and weirdness.
Danny Kalbs biography is built backwards. He went from being a ubiquitous self-proclaimed rock star to a private person who gives guitar lessons and admits the closest hes come to the computer age is to own two Dixie cups with strings attached.
Born September 9, 1942 in Mt. Vernon
1957 forms a rock and roll band with the unfortunate name Gay Notes made up of two Jewish intellectuals and two Italian hoods.
1961 performs with Dylan on a WBAI-FM concert broadcast
1963 performs in Ragtime Jug Stompers with guitar teacher and mentor Dave Van Ronk (He taught me to be emotionally honest in my music.)
1964 Records as Folk Stringers produced by blues ethnomusicologist Sam Charters
1964 plays second guitar on Phil Ochs first album All The News Thats Fit to Sing
1964 appears on Judy Collins The Fifth Album
1965 to 1971 The Blues Project with Al Kooper and Steve Katz (who went on to form Blood, Sweat & Tears), the late Andy Kulberg and vocalist Tommy Flanders
1996 Blues Project reunion recording with Al Kooper live at the Bottom Line Soul of A Man: Al Kooper Live (MusicMasters)
Solo projects include: Livin with The Blues (Legend 1995), All Together Now (self-released 2002), Live in Brooklyn (self-released 2006), Crosscurrents with Stefan Grossman (recently re-released from 1968)
Who: Danny Kalb
What: acoustic guitar showcase with John Profeta on bass
When: Saturday, 8 p.m.
Where: Caffe Lena, 47 Phila St., Saratoga, 518- 583-0022
Why: He moved the earth with The Blues Project
Donald E. Wilcock Bio:
The New York Times called " Damn Right I've Got The Blues," Wilcock's authorized Buddy Guy biography, "a frank assessment of the life, many disappointments and rare hurrahs of Buddy Guy." Wilcock is the founder and president of The Northeast Blues Society that for more than nine years has mentored more than 40 New York Capital Region blues bands and presented international blues talent in festival, theater, and club settings.
Managing Editor of the King Biscuit Time since 1995, Wilcock is a prolific writer. He has interviewed more than 5,000 artists; done liner notes for Sony, Delmark, Evidence, American, Big Mo and M.C. Records. His articles have appeared in Rolling Stone, Billboard, Living Blues, and Blues Access. His review of the Rolling Stones' 40 Licks compilation is the cover story in the December, 2002 issue of Audiophile Voice. He holds a bachelor's degree in English from Tufts University and is the former Publications Director for General Electric.
(From the King Buiscuit Times website: http://www.kingbiscuittime.com/magazine.html )