Monday, June 18, 2012
Darby Warren Project, A musician’s wife’s story
When he was only 6 years old, he fell from a rooftop severely breaking his left arm. The accident left his arm and fingers with permanent nerve damage and no feeling at all.
LONGVIEW They say behind every great man there’s a woman. And if this is true, I will be glad to share with you why I felt compelled to encourage my husband to form a band and share his music with others. My husband is Darby Warren, and he’s a songwriter and rockabilly blues musician.
When I first met Darby Warren in 2003, I was amazed at his quiet talent for songwriting. He wrote songs one after another on anything he could find: cardboard boxes, paper plates, napkins... you get the idea. I was fascinated with his talent for words and the way he created the sounds of a song. It’s like the whole song would come to him all at once. He would write these beautiful love songs, one after another. For the first time in my life, my heart was filled with music. Also for the first time in my life, I fell in love with a musician.
To truly appreciate Darby’s talent, I must tell you his story. When he was only 6 years old, he fell from a rooftop severely breaking his left arm. The accident left his arm and fingers with permanent nerve damage and no feeling at all. For 15 years, he would pick up the guitar, try to play, then set it back down in frustration. He could hear songs in his head, but he had no way to express them. One day, a man showed him how to tune his guitar chord open. That lesson changed his life; he finally could play the guitar.
Once we were married, I would often beg him to share his songs with our friends and family. Sometimes he would, but most of the time he would not. It would tear at my soul. I wanted so badly for others to hear what I was hearing... beautiful music!!
One day, I met the owner of Mojoe’s Coffee Shop, Travis Driver, in downtown Henderson. This isn’t an ordinary coffee shop. It’s more like an upscale art gallery which happens to sell amazing coffee. I noticed the coffee shop had a small bandstand. Travis let me know that he encouraged local musicians to perform on the weekends. I told him about my husband and showed him some YouTube music videos that Darby had produced.
Travis loved Darby’s unique style of music and immediately invited Darby’s band to perform. There was only one problem: Darby had no band. Darby had recorded alone with Levi Kitchen who owns a garage-based recording studio. Thus began our quest to form a band!
I first contacted David McElhaney. I had known David for many years and knew he was a fantastic singer and played the acoustic guitar. Next, through a friend, I became acquainted with Clark Langley. Clark plays the stand-up bass. He was invited into the band, and a trio was formed. The trio began to perform regularly at different East Texas venues, and their popularity grew.
The band was invited to open for a well-known local musician, Mark Cooke. The event would draw over 400 people, so the band needed a drummer. Clark knew a talented drummer from his church, Mark Wynn, who joined. Later, they completed their band with an awesome lead guitarist, Dave Stopani.
Soon the guys were booked every weekend even though people had told Darby that on a local level he would never be able to book gigs singing original songs. He was told venue owners only wanted cover bands. Darby refused to accept this, saying, “I am not going to be just another cover band that sings ‘Sweet Home Alabama.’ If people don’t like my music, so be it.” But people did love his original music, and his fan base grew.
Darby likes a cool retro-styled attire. He wants stage presence! He recently said after seeing a performance by Bruno Mars, “You see, baby. Look how cool his band looks, all of them wearing gold jackets just like Elvis.”
People often ask, “What kind of music is this?” I’ve told Darby I think he’s created his own genre of music with a mix of many different eras... 40s blues, 50s rockabilly, and a touch of the groovin’ 60s.
In a few short years, the guys have played all over East Texas performing in the company of some very well-known musicians including Mark Cooke, Ricky Lynn Gregg, and Little Texas. The highlight would certainly have to be opening for Little Texas.
Sometimes the guys refer to me as Momma Partridge. I am the one that keeps up with the band calendar, buys them cool shirts, cooks them dinner on practice night, photographs and videotapes their live performances, updates their Facebook band page, sells T-shirts and CDs, contacts the press, negotiates fees, straightens their ties, buttons down their collars, and I attend most every concert. Whew! It can be all consuming at times, but it is still worth it.
I am very proud of my husband and his band. I am amazed at what they have accomplished in such a short time. They are not youngsters by any means. But the beauty of Darby’s talent is that he is a songwriter, and songwriting is something he can do the rest of his life. Maybe he will be discovered one day for his songwriting talent. But in the meantime, the guys are truly enjoying the wave, riding it while it lasts. So, I guess the moral to this story is, “It’s never too late to reach for your dreams... and it never hurts to have a loving and supportive wife by your side.”