Corky on Chris Darrow
by Corky Carroll
On Jan 15 the world lost one of its most influential and beloved musicians, the legendary Chris Darrow. Chis was a heavyweight to music insiders, yet not all that well known to the general public unless you are a real student of musical history, especially folk and what could be called “West Coast Rock.” He was a member of the Kaleidoscope, who Jimmy Page (Led Zeppelin) calls his favorite band ever, the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band, the Floggs and the Corvettes, among a zillion others. With the Corvettes he became the band leader and musical director for Linda Ronstadt. He also played with and was instrumental in the development of many well-known artists such as James Taylor, Leonard Cohen, Hoyt Axton and countless others. He is credited with putting Glen Frye and Don Henley together with Randy Meissner and has connections to Zappa, Jim Morrison, the Allman Brothers and way too many more to list here.
O.K., that’s a little background on the dude. Along with all that Chris was my musical sensei and partner for the past 40 years. I first met him briefly when I was working the sound for a Linda Ronstadt concert in San Clemente in the mid 1970’s that was put on by Jim Jenkins from the Four Muses Concert Hall. Then a few years later when I was working at SURFER magazine my pal Rick Griffin, the legendary artist, brought Chris into my office and told me that he felt that the two of us should know each other. Chris had just moved to San Clemente and surfed a little bit. Rick knew that I was into playing music so he figured the two of us could use each other. We became instant pals, many times characterizing ourselves as “Ozzie and Thorney,” from the Ozzie and Harriet T.V. show. I was the surf guru for him and he became my music guru, expanding my scope well beyond what it would have become if not for his guidance. He put together the band for Corky Carroll and the Coolwater Casuals (“Surfer for President”) and introduced me to Mike Nesmith (Monkees) who signed me to his Pacific Arts record label. Mike produced our single, “Tan Punks on Boards,” which Chris and I co-wrote. When we played the Troubadour in Hollywood Dennis Wilson, of the Beach Boys, said that “Mondo Condo,” a song that Chris and I wrote, was one of the coolest he had ever heard and offered to produce an album for us on Brother Records. Unfortunately he died a few days later.
As a surfer Chris caught on real fast, being a super good athlete who had played baseball earlier in life. Our favorite thing was hanging out at San Onofre in the afternoons. We would surf, chit chat with Dorian Paskowitz, BBQ steaks and drink tequila and grapefruit juice that came from the tree in Chris’s front yard. He integrated into the surf scene fluidly. When SURFER magazine resurrected the SURFER POLL and held the awards banquettes Chis put together the house band for those events, the “Hula Buckaroos.”
Chris eventually moved back to his hometown of Claremont. We did a number of gigs as a duet over the years and he played on most of my albums, including the latest one, “Blue Mango,” released on Darla Records. He was a member of our recording band, the Piranha, which also includes Orange County rockers Richard Stekol, Matt Maguera, Matt Marshall, Doug Miller and Brad Fiedel. I am pretty sure this was the last of the many albums he played on over the years.
The last time I saw Chris was in November when my wife Raquel and I went to see him and we had dinner at his favorite Italian restaurant in Claremont. I am still in shock with the news that he had a stroke and passed away. When I just wrote that last sentence I misspelled “stroke,” I put “stoke.” Occurs to me that really would sum up Chris Darrow. TOTAL STOKE, all the time. About now I am sure he is rockin’ the angels in the Heaven Allstars. R.I.P. mi amigo.
For further information on Chris Darrow check out this great piece in MUSIC CONNECTION, https://www.musicconnection.com/chris-darrow-an-appreciation/?fbclid=IwAR3Ech2fJdvCzHf3_lUsrIRp91hv9LvRWdpC0pgDMSu-2FrsYJtaoN5qgFg.
2/1/2020 11:45:34 am
Thank you for a beautiful share about your friendship with Chris 🙏🏼❤️So sorry to hear he passed on ( But he’s Still making beautiful music!) I had the pleasure of meeting Chris backstage at the Forum back in the mid 70’s through my best friends uncle that was a RnR PR man there. About a year later when I was a room service waiter at La Costa in Carlsbad I met Chris again because I would always bring Linda her late AM brunch or lunch to her bungalow. He remembered me and was super 😎 cool.
2/1/2020 02:56:08 pm
My family grew up with the Darrow’s in Claremont, my father and Paul Darrow were best friends since childhood in Pasadena, my dad dated Nadine before she married Paul. Chris was my brother’s mentor and taught him how to play the mandolin, I was younger but I awe of Chris’s fame and the Kaleidoscope! Wow! What a band! Chris’s musical taste was passed onto my brother then to me. I have Chris Darrow to thank for my a lot of my taste in music and my interest in different musical genres. RIP Chris.❤️
2/2/2020 09:19:13 pm
Corky would you be amenable to having your beautiful tribute added to Chris’ page on the TCM website? We are planning a tribute to Chris on March 7, 2020 from 6-9 pm at the historic Garner House - 840 N Indian Hill Blvd claremont 91711 info 909-621-0848 - there will be an exhibition and musical tribute - please contact firstname.lastname@example.org to be added to an information list or to get more information- thank you!
6/19/2020 06:52:51 am
Great article ! I love and miss Chris and yes he is a legend and a cool dude and a healer in many ways
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