We are saddened by the passing of our friend, Chris Darrow.
Chris Darrow, a bigger-than-life, Claremont music legend, passed suddenly this week. A brilliant musician, he played anything with strings, beautifully. His musical style was global, original, and influential. He was a monster with a slide-guitar. He was a songwriter and singer. He was a music publisher. And he was a producer.
I had the good fortune to work alongside Chris on several album projects. He was a natural as a producer, intuitive, song-focused; he let the players play. In my 40+ years in the studio, he was simply the best music producer I've seen.
I remember his dictum as a record producer with the groups he was about to record. We play the new material three times. Once to learn it, once to rehearse it, once to record it. Performance, not perfection was the goal, although it was usually “perfect.” It takes great players to pull this off and Chris always had great players. He was a musicians musician.
I remember the Pinetop Perkins sessions with Chris at the old Indian Hill Recording studios in Claremont. Chris had assembled a stellar group of musicians (as usual), and old Pinetop sat at the studio’s “Big White” Yamaha grand and belted out his tune to a control room Chris had packed with the “right” audience - musicians, musician's girlfriends, their girlfriends, girls, etc. He wanted to get Pinetop in the groove. It worked. Pinetop loves an audience and old 'Top muscled the big grand around so that he could face the control room audience directly. And he gave the performance of a lifetime.
I remember one summer, a young Ben Harper spending time at the studio and quietly watching Chris at work, crafting arrangements with the assembled musicians, performing, mixing, doing his magic. We all learned from Chris. Up-and-comers and pros’ alike.
Chris was also a gifted photographer of people. He’d disappear in a crowd of people with his Nikon, and unobserved, get candid, remarkable photos. His timing was impeccable.
Chris came from an artistic family. His brother Eric is a widely known and exhibited ceramicist, well known in Claremont for his Christmastime pottery sales. Chris’s father, Paul, who passed away in November, was also a renowned artist, a painter, and cartoonist remembered in Claremont for his weekly “cartoon” published in the Claremont Courier for many years. Paul was also a teacher at the Claremont Colleges.
Chris had a profound influence on many musical lives. The music world will remember him as the great talent that he was. There are many Darrow recordings out there. Some of the best are hard to find. Perhaps that will change. And there are many Darrow stories as well. I hope to hear them all.
And in Claremont, Chris’s passing marks another loss to the fading bohemian soul of this city. The great Claremont watercolorists, ceramicists, musicians, sculptors, and muralists that called the art colony that was Claremont home for the decades following WWII are leaving us.
Rest in Peace, Chris. Gone but not forgotten.
Owner – Mixers Sound
Publisher – Claremont.Today