Eddie Cunningham Pays Tribute to Chris Darrow
“Get Back On That Horse And Ride”
A Tribute in Memory of Chris Darrow From Co-Writer Eddie Leroy Cunningham
AIRPLAY EXPRESS www.airplayexpress.com has released the single “GET BACK ON THAT HORSE AND RIDE,” the first of over 50 songs co-written and recorded by California Country Rock legend and multi-instrumentalist Chris Darrow and his co-writer and friend Los Angeles singer, songwriter and producer Eddie Leroy Cunningham www.eddieleroycunningham.com
Darrow died at age 75 on January 15, 2020 in Claremont, California from complications of a stroke leaving an unfillable void in the lives of all who knew and loved him and revered his music www.allmusic.com/artist/chris-darrow-mn0000108096
In addition to the songs they wrote together, Darrow and Cunningham co-wrote with Country Music Hall of Fame writers Dennis Knutson and A.L.“Doodle” Owens as well as with Michael Rodgers, Michael Alan Ward, Gordy Thomas, Judy Toy, Spike Loudermilk, and many others.
DARROW CUNNINGHAM’S first CD was “A NIGHT AT NADINE’S” (Nadine was Chris’s mother and the name of his studio.) Their second CD, yet unnamed, will be released by Cunningham later this year.
Darrow and Cunningham’s gentle yet powerful first song, produced by Chris Darrow at studio Nadine, speaks to the lessons of courage, strength and persistence taught by a father to his son and for the generations to come. It is more beautiful for the sensitive storytelling, depth of heart and uncompromising emotional truth of Cunningham’s uniquely authentic and richly nuanced vocals. Both artists contribute inspired and mindful guitar with Darrow adding bass and back up vocals. The song is prominently supported and significantly elevated by Jerry Waller on piano who told Cunningham, “I played on probably as many of Chris’s recordings as any individual.”
Moments of sparse orchestration allow the lyrics and Cunningham’s honest and pure vocals to really shine. When his voice rises, so does the harmonic support while the kinetic motion of Waller’s sparkling piano provides a current that keeps everything flowing. The momentary strings are like the blood flowing through his veins and the pacing is the perfect blueprint for their emotional message. The instruments work so well together that a rhythm section is not even needed, the pulse and heartbeat are built-in.
That Chris Darrow and Eddie Cunningham were intuitively and creatively aligned was evident on their first day co-writing. On his way over to studio Nadine, Cunningham wrote down a song title on a brown paper bag. When he arrived, Darrow said, “GET BACK ON THAT HORSE AND RIDE.” Cunningham replied, “What do you think I wrote down on my way over here?”
The depth of loss felt acutely by Cunningham is clearly reflected in his vivid recollection of the long-enduring and profound creative rapport he shared with his prolific co-writer, the remarkable musician, transcendent soul and beloved friend that was Chris Darrow.
“It was fun writing songs with Chris,” Cunningham thoughtfully reflected. “We could always come up with something and we had a way that we constructed the song. Mostly we would make three sections and link it all together with a solo and then go back to our favorite section or a bridge which Chris would always go to A (minor). I’d say, ‘We did that on our last song’ and he’d say, ‘Cause we are in the same key.’ Then he’d say, ‘Where would you go?’ and I’d go to another chord and back to our favorite section and he’d say, ‘Ok let’s record it.’”
“Sometimes Chris would play all the instruments or if somebody stopped by we’d get them on it, like Jerry Waller who was there when we recorded “GET BACK ON THAT HORSE AND RIDE.” He added the most beautiful piano and really took the song to a whole new level. We had a bunch of guest musicians on our tunes. Even Pat Cloud played killer banjo on a Spanish tune and if his sister Elizabeth popped in the studio she’d sing harmony with us.”
“After working all night on a song, Chris would have a rough mix for us to listen to and then he would refine it and add some bitchin’ lap steel or mandolin and in no time we’d have another tune. Sometimes Chris would sing lead and I’d do harmony and play guitar. He liked my upside down playing guitar righty turned lefty sound and would always want to feature it in our songs. And sometimes I’d stack vocals and Chris loved to sing bass under that.”
“GET BACK ON THAT HORSE AND RIDE” was a first take vocal and Chris didn’t like me to re-do vocals unless I messed up words. He’d always say, ‘That’s good, it captures the right emotion.’ I was used to re-singing a bunch of vocals and comp the best.”
“The nicest compliment we ever received about the song was from Paul Worley, head of A&R at Warner Brothers Records Nashville who said, ‘Vincent Van Gogh had his “Starry Night” and that is what this song is to you.’ Rock music legend Kim Fowley’s comment to us was, ‘The stars were aligned the night you wrote that song. “GET BACK ON THAT HORSE AND RIDE” is your rising star.’”
“Chris’s forte was when he played lap steel,” Cunningham continued. “I always wanted a lap steel solo but he was very selective on what tunes he thought deserved it. The recording process with him was pretty awesome ‘cause he could play so many instruments. Sometimes I’d say, ‘Hey, what would that sound like on our song?’ and it was something like a squeezebox or a WMI (Weird Mexican Instrument). Chris was game to add anything and when he was alone after I’d leave, he’d put more stuff on the songs as he felt it.”
“While working with Chris on our material in studio Nadine, it was an old school 8-track at first and then he went to a digital format that was on a high tech cassette kinda like a DAT (Digital Audio Tape) but in the size of a cassette. We recorded a lot on that machine. I hope Chris’s son Steven will research all that history and put out more of Chris’s music in future years.”
“Chris was not only a virtuoso on many instruments but a gifted storyteller and a very adaptable songwriter of many styles and situations. He could co-write with anyone I teamed him up with and anyone he wanted to write with. He always had his thumbprint on the song. I think that’s why we hit it off so well as writers because it’s where I shine the most, being adaptable in any writing scenario.”
“Almost every time I got together with Chris we wrote a song and recorded it. Even if we were just getting together to chat and hang out if a title came out of our conversation, boom…we’d write another one. I know I will write a Chris Darrow tribute song. I have so many ideas in my mind right now, I will let them brew around and see which one comes to the surface. I’m sure in some sorta way Chris will guide me through this one and it will be fitting.”
“I think anyone reading this most likely will know what Chris has done,” said Cunningham. “He will be remembered most as an innovator of California Country Rock and a pioneer of mixing American Psychedelic Folk-Rock Bluegrass with World Beat Music. This tribute is not about me, what I’ve done or what I’m doing, it’s about what I’ve learned from Chris and how easy it was to write a song with him. He was an awesome friend and healer who gave generously of himself to others. His door was always open and I was always in the right place when I spent time with The King of The Inland Empire.”
“My favorite performance with Chris was at The Longhorn Music Festival at Mt. Baldy Lodge. (It’s on YouTube.) My greatest memory of him is cruisin’ in his ‘55 Nomad “Charlena” going to IN-N-OUT BURGER. What did I learn the most from Chris? So much, it’s hard to pick one thing. I liked it when we were working on a tune, if I drifted a little too far he’d say, ‘Stick to the story’ and then I’d focus and come up with something really good. And he’d say, ‘Thatta boy.’”
“I miss the hell out of him,” said Cunningham, “and this first-time single release of “GET BACK ON THAT HORSE AND RIDE” is my way of honoring my friend and co-writer Chris Darrow. He believed in this song so much and I’m going to do my damndest to get it out there. He was a treasure in my world and anyone who doesn’t know Chris Darrow, just Google him and look at his discography and all the major bands he was part of. He wrote “WHIPPING BOY” that Ben Harper recorded. Chris is a true music legend and he would want everyone to “GET BACK ON THAT HORSE AND RIDE!”
“I will keep Chris Darrow’s memory alive by always playing “GET BACK ON THAT HORSE AND RIDE” at gigs, giving him a shoutout onstage and turning people on to his music,” Cunningham said with conviction. “I have so many parts of songs we started and I will eventually finish them. And when I do, I’m sure Chris’s guidance will be at hand. He will be missed by the Claremont music world and his music will live on for generations to come.”
– Two Poets Music & Media