|"HOT BLUEGRASS WITH OLD-TIMEY MUSIC THROWN IN"
“That is where David Lindley walked into my life – at The Cats Pyjamas”, Darrow recalled. “I was doing a guest set with a guy called Charles Zetterberg (7) - and as I was packing away my mandolin and fiddle, this guy came up and asked me if I was into melting my Dry City Re-organized Players into his band. Well, despite the fact that he’d got the name of my band round the wrong way, which kind of incensed me funnily enough, I could see what he was getting at….. in effect, a local bluegrass supergroup. The guy was David Lindley, and his group was the Mad Mountain Ramblers”.
The existing Ramblers comprised Lindley, Steve Cahill, Dick Hargreaves and Philip Cleveland. Out went Hargreaves, and with the promise of gigs which would actually bring in cash and “do them some good”, in came messrs Darrow and Warford. Retaining the name THE MAD MOUNTAIN RAMBLERS, they lined up as follows: DAVID LINDLEY on fiddle and banjo, CHRIS DARROW on lead vocals/mandolin/second fiddle, STEVE CAHILL on lead vocals and guitar, BOB WARFORD on dobro/second banjo, and PHIL CLEVELAND on bass – they drove them wild at the Cats Pyjamas in Arcadia, the Ice House in Glendale, and Disneyland at weekends. Against stiff competition for the thin supply of gigs, they lasted about a year.
“Our favourite group at the time was The Country Gentlemen” says Darrow. “They were one of the few bluegrass groups with a style of their own rather than one based on a pastiche of Bill Monroe, or Flatt & Scruggs. We were getting into some pretty avant garde stuff ourselves, so we thought….. hot bluegrass with old timey music thrown in.
“Needless to say, we coiuldn’t hold it together; we felt we’d exhausted that particular personnel configuration, and the group split. We all went our own way…… I was still going to junior college, but I spent a lot of time surfing:.
“The frustrations of inactivity soon led David and me to form another group, based in the same musical area, to be called THE DRY CITY SCAT BAND, which was intended to be a quartet (8)”.
At the first rehearsal, Lindley appeared with RICHARD GREENE, so he was rolled in too – and they were five: CHRIS DARROW, DAVID LINDLEY, RICHARD GREENE, STEVE CAHILL, and the aforementioned PETE MADLEM.
“David was a consistent winner of the ‘professional banjo’ category of the annual Topanga Canyon Banjo/Fiddle Contest….. He won it 6 years running, and I also won my division of banjo/fiddle a couple of times. We always used to go up there, and it was at Topanga that year that I met Richard Greene again. I barely remembered him from school, apart from the fact that he used to get real good grades – but he said he was playing fiddle in a duo doing old-timey (9) stuff, as well as selling real estate in L.A. A few days later, he walked in with David – fiddle case in hand – and we were a quintet
“In common with the later Kaleidoscope, the DCSB was a very rewarding but also very frustrating band….. and my increasing discomfort culminated in my leaving. I think the tide turned for me when Richard started hanging out with a fiddler called Scott Stoneman; he met Scott and it was as if the devil had possessed him. And whereas previously he’d only been interested in a lackadaisical way, he suddenly began to think of nothing but musical recognition and success.
“Richard is probably the best living all round violinist in the world today – I’d have to say that – but in the Scat Band, I felt he was overstepping his role. All of us were pretty tense, and we had one or two conflicts as a result of our all being very anxious to play and do those things we individually felt were most worthwhile. Richard had a very strong will and personality, which eventually caused me to split.
“I have really happy memories of that band too, but if things don’t ride along smoothly, it’s always better to puyll out – even if it’s painful at the time – so I left the Scat Band, and the group fell apart a very short time later….. which invites the observation that I might possibly have been the catalyst which held the group together”.
The Elektra recordings (10), 2 tracks on ‘String Band Project’ (EKL 292), were cut two weeks after Darrow’s leaving, as were 4 or 5 tracks recorded by local bluegrass authority John Delgatto. [ed – six tracks were recorded by John Delgatto, a classmate of David & Steve’s at LaSalle School. They were released as an EP. }
Darrow continued: “Richard subsequently went off to play with the best Bill Monroe band I ever saw – with Pete Rowan and Bill Keith….. that was a superb band, and he began to make a mark, playing on things like a Red Allen album (on County 704, produced by David Grisman). Cahill went off and recorded some stuff for the Ash Grove label, Madlem continued his adventures (more of which later), and I lost touch with Lindley.”
(7) Charles Zetterberg, now a lawyer, was also in the Grand Old 26 String Band.
(8) This obsession with references to Dry City seems from the fact that until as late as 1971, because of the many colleges and schools, there were no bars or stores in Claremont, selling alcohol.
(9) The duo was, I believe, called The Orange Coast Ramblers. See Zigzag 38 for the full Richard Greene history.
(10) The two Dry City Scat Band tracks were ‘Bald headed end of a broom’ and only old Tobler knows the other: ‘Jealous’.