We are saddened by the passing of our friend, Chris Darrow.
Chris Darrow, a bigger-than-life, Claremont legend, passed suddenly this week. A brilliant musician, he played anything with strings and played beautifully. He was a monster with a slide-guitar. He was a songwriter and singer. His rendition of “Martians at the Window” has been on my playlists for 30 years
And he was a record producer. I had the good fortune to work alongside Chris on several album projects and he was simply the best music producer I’ve worked with in my 40 plus year studio career.
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.” Chris 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 the tune to a control room Chris had packed with the “right” audience to get Pinetop into a groove. It worked. Pinetop saw the crowd, 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 a young Ben Harper coming into the studio and quietly watching Chris at work, crafting an arrangement with the assembled musicians, 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.
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 remembered in Claremont for his weekly “cartoon” published in the Claremont Courier for many years. Paul was also a teacher at the Claremont Colleges.
He had a profound effect on many lives. The music world will remember him as the great talent that he was. There are many “Chris Darrow” stories out there. 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 Claremont home for many decades following WWII are leaving us.
Rest in Peace, Chris.
Owner – Mixers Sound
Publisher – Claremont.Today