[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