I met Dan DeLano in the early '90s, at the Delaware Inn, a Kenmore tavern he owned that was directly across the street from Absolute Storage, a facility that rented practice space to bands. The Tails, the band I moved to Buffalo to join in 1990, was a Kenmore-born outfit, and DeLano was a friend dating back to their shared Kenmore West High School days. A few nights a week, we would head across the street for a beer or two after our rehearsals, and chat with DeLano about the records we grew up loving.
Some 25 years later, DeLano is the mayor of Williamsville, the Tails are no more, and the Delaware Inn is now a funeral home parking lot. Yet whenever I run into DeLano, we still talk about the records we love with the same enthusiasm we had back in 1993.
It's no surprise that DeLano remains an active musician on our music scene. His latest project, one of several he's involved with on an ongoing basis, is the organ-based soul-jazz quartet the Darts which next plays April 20 in Thin Man Brewery. DeLano recently chatted about his dual roles as mayor and musician.
Question: Your duties as the new mayor of Williamsville don’t seem to have interfered with your musical responsibilities. How are you balancing things these days?
Answer: Strict scheduling. I have to look months ahead just to schedule a rehearsal, but everyone that I'm working with in my many under-takings has been very accommodating. I will say that since I've been in my new position as mayor, my phone has been ringing a little more. It's all good, though.
Musically, I have the Darts, the Steam Donkeys, the Garage Doors, the Grateful Dans, the Country and Western Band, Bruce Wojick and the Struggle, Scarred for Life, Maria Aurigema, and a couple other regular fill-in spots. My fiancée (singer and educator) Donna Kerr and I are also in talks about joining up with a reformation of the Outlyers, which will be a blast.
Q: The Darts specialize in organ soul, which immediately makes me think of Brother Jack McDuff , Jimmy Smith and the great organ trios. What’s your history with this form of jazz-blues?
A: I was exposed to an unbelievable array of styles of music right from birth, through a very cool parental album collection. A lot of Booker T. and the M.G.'s and Jimmy Smith. My dad played keyboards professionally for years, so I grew up with a Hammond organ in the house - a B-3, which I still own. We didn't have the money to get into all the synth equipment until later, so I developed an ability to manipulate the Hammond in some unique ways. I was influenced by practically every organ player I heard. My dad, Billy Preston, Jimmy Greenspoon, Goldy McJohn, Ken Griffin, Rick Wakeman, Jimmy McGriff, Jon Lord, Keith Emerson. Then, at about 14, I discovered the stylings of (Pink Floyd's) Richard Wright and how the organ can just be this sonic glue that can hold the whole sound of the band together like no other instrument can.
I worked on my craft for years and then I saw Booker T. Jones play in Neil Young's band in Toronto, in August '93, on that Neil/Blues Traveler/Soundgarden/Pearl Jam tour. It changed my playing life. Booker T and the MG's are such a major part of the fabric of American music and only a small percentage of people even know that.
Q: You're working with some killer players in the Darts. Tell me a little about each of them?
A: All these guys are my dear friends. I have a deep respect for them as human beings and as musicians. It helps when you have that. Todd Ciehomski on guitar is one of the hidden gems in this town. Anyone who knows bassist Mike Reid knows that it is really hard to describe what a master of the instrument he is. He never gets flashy, but as soon as you start listening to what he's doing, it's like, whoa. He can play anything. Why this guy isn't in the Buffalo Music Hall of Fame is beyond me. Jeff Schaller on drums - do you need to say anything more than that? I played with him in my brief stint with Stoneflower and got to know what a no-BS, professional player he is.
The night we first all got together and exchanged copies of songs to work on for the Darts was at the Tudor Lounge, in a deluge of rain, as the annual Naked Bike Ride cruised by. We took it as a sign.
Q: What do you think Thin Man Brewery is bringing to the revitalized Elmwood strip, in terms of live music?
A: We first played at Thin Man back in February. I love that place. They are doing it right. Very cool vibe. The management and ownership understands the importance of live music for an area like that. It is great to see live bands making a comeback on Elmwood. Although it never totally went away, it hasn't been as prominent as it used to be, a few decades ago. I can hardly wait for this summer down in that area, when those big garage doors at Thin Man are open. It's going to be great.