Buried Treasure: Dino Valente


[Today: A would-be Quicksilver founder goes solo…]

San Francisco in the 1960’s was a place of lightning change, youthful energy, and social revolution. The psychedelic lamps that burned so brightly here drew young people like an unending flock of naive, day-glo moths. Among their number was Dino Valente, who had been earning a rough living on the Greenwich Village folk circuit. Valente had a non-charting single under his belt, but he had charisma to spare, and was known as something of a fast-talker. For instance, the man born Chester Powers claimed to have grown up working in the circus with his family. Those claims remain suspect, but there is no question that Valente fit right into the circus-like atmosphere of the burgeoning psychedelic movement.

In 1964, on the eve of his first rehearsals with the musicians that would become Quicksilver Messenger Service, Valente was busted with marijuana and eventually ended up doing a 9-month stint in Folsom Prison. By the time he finally freed himself of legal entanglements, QMS had released a full-length album and developed a sound that didn’t suit his balladeering style.

So instead of re-joining Quicksilver, Valente went into the studio by himself and recorded a solo debut album. Featuring just the man and his guitar, Dino Valente is awash in reverb and cryptic hippy lyrics. Valente wasn’t the world’s most gifted singer (many have commented on his nasal whine) so producer Bob Johnston’s decision to wrap the vocals in studio effects was a brilliant move. This record sounds like a hazy LSD daydream – all disconnected phrases, strummed guitars, and swirling moods. The over-the-top echo and plaintive vocals of ‘Everything Is Gonna Be OK’ works as a blueprint for My Morning Jacket’s music, while the fever dream of ‘Me And My Uncle’ sounds nothing like the Grateful Dead’s more popular version of the song.

Legendary San Francisco disc jockey Tom Donohue, a friend of Valente’s, famously said of this album, ” If every chick Dino’s ever known buys the record, it will be number one.” Unfortunately, the groupies didn’t come through, and it sank without a trace. And although Valente finally did rejoin Quicksilver in 1970 for a couple of albums, he would not record any more solo material before his death in 1994.

Listen: Me And My Uncle

Listen: Everything Is Gonna Be OK

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8 Responses to “Buried Treasure: Dino Valente”

  1. Brendan Says:

    Nice connection there! This is my kinda week at dk presents! great albums and write ups.

  2. BH Jules Says:

    I saw Quicksilver perform at Stanford Frost Amphitheater on a Saturday when Santana was a warm up band. Dino Valente had an amazing voice. Me and my uncle has been a favorite for all these years.

  3. bradley Says:

    This has been one of my favorite albums since the first time I heard back in the late 60’s. Every song is great… but “Test”… hmmm, I always wondered how that got on there. I still have the original album. The CD reissue has a couple extra cuts on it, worthwhile.

    “Just For Love” and “What About Me” are also among my favorites… out of the 10,000 recordings I own.

    Here are some links:

    And for those of you who were QMS fans back then, I wonder how many of you know that Gary Duncan is still at it, and still making beautiful music:

  4. Elaine Says:

    Dino’s acoustic album may not have been a commercial success upon release, but I have met people in my travels who all say the same thing about it. It’s what they listen to when they need to get their head together. Today it is a classic of that era and it gets better with time. And it’s true – he grew up in the carney. Check out http://www.dinovalenti.com for the bio written by his sister.

  5. dkpresents Says:

    Cool – thanks for the info Elaine!

  6. Rita Fannin Spencer Says:

    Many people have voiced complaints about Dino Valente, Valenti, and him being the demise of the REAL and GREAT Quicksilver Messenger Service, and that they were so much better off before Dino “Took over the band” and made them his personel back up group. There would also be folks that would argue that Dino helped or in fact did form the group. And, although that I wasn’t there, from observation and comments from those that were, I can say from an outsider’s interpretation, yes, Quicksilver was a great band without Dino Valente. And, they deserve much credit for being the band that “they were”. But one needs to look at the band as a whole and see that there was not only the ORIGINAL Quicksilver but many other bands under that same name. They were always changing membership. Musicians comming and going, yet they still kept the name Quicksilver Messenger Service. Maybe that was a mistake. To this day they are still around under the same name with some of the original band members. So might I suggest that the era of Dino Valente be charged with being the Dino Valente version of the band. How about that! And might I also add that the Dino Valente version of the band was my personal favorite. I thought that he was a songwriter that spoke for a generation with “Get Together”. Whether or not he was a mad man on cocaine carring a hand gun, or a poser carney of some sort has no relavence for me. For me, his voice alone was a cry in the deepest blue night sky like angry angels trying to burst through the clouds to be heard.

  7. gennyfer Says:

    Dino was a powerful soulful man who created great music..his ‘Fresh Air’ song was what led me to discover Quicksilver Messenger Service – a unique great band (except for the shady grove and Nicky Hopkins other nonsense). Dino coming back into the fold made QMS rock again because of his soulful songs and his unique presence (and what a performer!)…what a man… what a mighty mighty man. (Hello Elaine you might see my post on dinovalenti.com – I am hungry for intimate knowledge of that hot cat known as ‘Dino’!)

  8. brent Says:

    I can see why so many women love(d) Dino. Kind of a better looking or more soulful looking Al Pacino-type. But there is no other Dino-type. What an amazing voice. I do take issue with the not a “gifted singer” part of the blog/bio. It’s well written, but in fact Bob Johnston only produced two tunes on the LP. Dino’s voice was soaring thru much echo and ether. With great technical skill he used his “head” voice to hit those high notes. Nasal, yes. But he had the chest voice to push it and hold the notes. And a lot of HEART.

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