By Mike Jurkovic
In an apartment on Quince Ave, Daryl Hall practiced his scales and found the groove early. How could he not? Philadelphia in the 60’s was erupting with talent: Kenny Gamble, Leon Huff, Thom Bell, The Delfonics, producer Jimmy Bishop, and of course, John Oates.
Thirty years ago, the Recording Industry Association of America cited Hall and Oates as the best selling duo of all time. They’ve sold over seventy million records, still tour, and remain good friends. In 2004 they were welcomed into the Songwriters Hall of Fame and ten slow years later the Rock ’n Roll Hall of Fame finally took their blinders off and let ‘em in.
And, as you’ll read, that’s all well and good but Daryl Hall is a restlessly creative man. When not making the music a great deal of the world sings, he makes TV. When not making TV, he invests and remodels the old Towne Crier in Pawling and opens Daryl’s House Club, and he does historic restorations in the Hudson Valley, Maine, and England.
Can you draw any parallels between historic restoration and songwriting?
In concept, in theory, it’s not that different. You get a team of people together who know and understand their craft and you work to create something out of nothing. That’s really what it is. It’s seeing the big picture and paying attention to detail. It’s very similar to recording a song.
All the old wood, furniture, artifacts . . .
Yea, of course. Old ideas, new ideas. It’s all the same: you’re bringing them together to make something new.
‘Daryl’s Restoration Over-Hall’ on DIY, is still going on?
Well, that’s pretty much finished up, but I’m still working off camera on that project and I’m in the process of putting together a new show with restoration in mind. But I’m not sure if I’m gonna continue with the DIY thing.
When you were singing and practicing in Philly as a teenager, did you ever envision yourself in any Hall of Fame?
Well, y’know there weren’t any Hall of Fames when I started. (The Songwriters Hall was founded in ’69. The Rock Hall in ’83.) I’ve been a musician since I was old enough to think and so I’ve always made music. It was part of my life, my family’s life. (His dad was a professional singer and his mom a vocal coach.)
I never really set any specific goals other than to do the best work I could do and express myself and let life happen. Of course saying let life happen I mean I try my best to control it by taking advantage of the opportunities as they came along.
You’ve been skeptical about the Rock ‘n Roll Hall of Fame. Are you still since you and John were inducted this year?
I feel exactly the same as I always have. I feel there’s too much significance put on it. I know the people who created it. It was created as sort of a joke and it was a joke that turned into too serious a thing too quickly.
I mean I’m happy to be part of the historical aspect of it. It represents a part of twentieth century music which I certainly came up in and it’s an important thing to have happened in the world, but it’s really not an indicator of excellence or significance. It’s very arbitrary. The people who vote have an agenda. I don’t really put that much stock in it and I believe people shouldn’t think too much about it.
Do you feel Philadelphia is/was an unsung musical region?
Not to the people in Philly. Philadelphia created a sound that continues to move the world.
You go to a club in Bangkok or you go to a club in Munich and you’re gonna hear music that has its origins in Philly dance music. It’s a very important factor in world music. I don’t believe the people here in the States give the region its due but it resonates.
Any stories about working with Gamble, Huff, etc?
Yea, lots, lots. We were all kids starting out. I loved watching Leon Huff play piano. I learned a lot from him: the way he played his bass lines and the rhythms he used. I took a lot from him. I used to watch them write music that like I say, still resonates.
What was that like?
It was a family. We were all interacting. In those early days nobody knew what the Philadelphia sound was or was going to be. We were just writing songs and listening to what others were writing.
Kenny Gamble owned a record store and we hung out there. The first record I ever made (the Temptones, ‘Girl, I Love You’) was with Kenny and his band, the Romeos, on a four track. We just banged out a rhythm track and I sang lead. It was all very primitive and exciting. The b-side of my second record was written by Leon.
Unlike many of your peers who remain wary of the internet, you launched ‘Live from Daryl’s House’ in ’07 as a monthly web show. Did you see any risk in doing that?
I’m the kind of person who embraces risk and I see things for what they are. Many of my generation, musicians, and more importantly, record executives, are living in the past. They think that the power they had in the past continues to support them, and that’s a joke. It’s not happening.
Anybody still trying to fight the internet is in a losing battle. You can’t punch the ocean. It’s real. It’s what it is. So you have to work with it. You have to come up with creative ideas to use this amazingly powerful and new medium to your advantage to do some interesting and creative things.
Are the few record companies that exist still putting up a fight?
Yea, and they’re screwing it up. I still have the same problem with publishers and record companies this far into the game as I had back when. Allowing ‘Daryl’s House’ to exist is still a big deal to them.
They’re scared of it because it’s so new and they’re so conservative. They shoot themselves in the foot, what more can I say?
Did you ever envision ‘Live from Daryl’s House’ becoming a full blown restaurant/music club here in the Valley?
Hah-hah! I’ve lived in this area for a very long time. I started in Fairfield County then moved to Millbrook for years. I started the show there and my studio is right next to where Daryl’s House Club is now.
People kept asking me if they could come by the house and watch the show. But there’s no audience other than the web or TV viewers. So I decided to bring the Daryl’s House experience to a live audience and eat good food and pretty much do what we do on the show.
I’d known about the Towne Crier for years and that Phil wanted to move on so I found an investor who saw things the same as I did and we converted the place to pretty much look like my house and, so there it is. Now we have a great restaurant with great bands coming in.
Did you do a lot of the work yourself?
Yea, I designed it. I sourced the materials, I did everything. That’s my construction business. Actually I was doing that conversion while doing the DIY shows. It was a pretty busy time.
Did you get into construction as a kid trying to make a few bucks while doing the music?
Well I did do some of that, yeah. But it was really a family thing. My grandfather was a mason and I grew up on construction sites. All my family built their own houses so I’m very hands on. I grew up in old houses. Just outside Philly there were a lot of eighteenth and nineteenth century houses. So all those things come together to form a lifetime interest to recreate and redesign old houses.
You were hands on building Daryl’s House Club. Are you going to be hands on running the place?
I am One person really has to be in charge of any business and I’ve devoted myself to making this work. Some of my recipes are on the menu so I’ll be in the kitchen. I’ll be involved in bringing bands in.
A lot of my band members are putting bands together so they’ll be in there. I’ll jump up onstage occasionally when I’m there. I’ll make sure the bar’s happening. So if you want a great meal and want to hear some great music ‘n maybe see me runnin’ around, c’mon down!
So you are chief, cook, and bottle washer then?
(Laughs) I am indeed.
Your long time guitarist and producer T-Bone Wolk passed in 2010. Last thoughts?
I’ll never have a last thought on him. He’s still with me in my heart, y’know. I wish he was here to be a part of all this. He was there at the inception of Daryl’s House. He passed way too soon. I love the guy.
He was my best friend and I sorely miss him.
Any special moments from the show you’d like to recollect? I know Nick Lowe and Smokey Robinson hooked me in.
Aw man, thousands. Every show has its special moment. It has a time when it all comes together.
Do you have a wish list of artists you’d like to bring on the show?
I don’t know. I leave it open to chance. I mean we throw a net out and see who’s around and who’s schedule fits to come on and we run with that. But I don’t have any wish list.
How much time do you spend rehearsing?
Usually how it works is that as soon as we know who the guest artist is, we let all the players know and get a list together of songs that we’re thinking of playing, but that often changes. We don’t necessarily rehearse together with the guests until everyone is in the room and we just have at it. Sometimes we nail it on the first take. Those are the special moments of each show.
It’s the most fulfilling thing I’ve ever done musically ‘cos you never know what’s going to happen.
Nick’s a good friend of mine, but a lot of the artists I’ve never met so there’s a lot of strange interaction that’s never happened before that sets off those magical moments.
Daryl’s Restaurant & Live Music Club
130 Route 22 Pawling, NY 12564
Weds & Thurs: 3:30pm - 11:00pm
Fri & Sat: 3:30pm - 1:00am
Sunday: 3:30pm - 11:00pm