Sunday, May 27, 2012

With Care From Someone: Douglas Dillard (1937-2012)

Doug Dillard

And maybe we'll find
This time is designed
For finding the meaning of one

And now we will know
What love will show us has begun
So here's to you
With care from someone

  ----- With Care From Someone (Clark, Leadon, Dillard) 

    I was sorry to learn that Doug Dillard passed away last week but very, very grateful that he passed through in the first place.

        I first heard Doug play in his family group, The Dillards, but was  completely unprepared for the art-apotheosis of The Fantastic Expedition of Dillard & Clark, his brilliant 1968 collaboration lp with ex-Byrd Gene Clark, when Elizabeth Jeffords first played me the disc in Gunn dormitory.  It has been a musical and poetic touchstone for me ever since, one I turn to almost every day. 

Fantastic Expedition

   Like so many revolutionary-seeming art breakthroughs (I can’t think of another record that sounds like it or shares its unusual palette of instruments) , Dillard & Clark’s first record reflected style-shift probabilities that were already in the air, but the album surpassed other worthy competition in quality and remains a timeless/spaceless artifact that eventually will fascinate post-Armageddon visitors to our planet, convincing them as they shift through the rubble that Earthlings once had something going for them, however improbable that seems at this Euro-broke/Beyoncé moment. 

Through The Morning, Through The Night (Second Dillard & Clark lp) Acetate, 1969, photograph Whin Oppice.

     Too often Gene Clark discussion focuses on his lyrics’ unique poetic projections and too seldom on the music which frames the words.  Nothing in Clark's work can match "Fantastic Expedition's" sonic gyroscopics, with Doug Dillard’s bluegrass mini-orchestra (comprising Bernie Leadon, David Jackson, Andy Belling , Chris Hillman, Jon Corneal, and Dillard’s own banjo, guitar and fiddle) perfectly jacketing Gene’s autumn-all-the-time melodies with constant filigrees and vari-speedy rhythms. 

   The songs wear their music like sleek and slippery coats of closely-woven chain mail or Islamic tilework calligraphy at Tabriz's Blue Mosque.
     A masterpiece of tensegrity, the work recalls William Faulkner’s  image of  a “miniature replica of all the whole vast globy earth …. poised on the nose of a trained seal.” 
 Like all the great records of its era (and unlike almost anything on today's hit parade), “Fantastic Expedition” takes you on a magical mystery tour.

   Douglas Dillard produced mountains of superb work during his long career and led a colorful life which ended much too soon.  (Although he wasn’t a young man when he passed away, it gives unhappy pause to think of him dying only two months after his mentor Earl Scruggs, who lived much longer.)   

Doug and Gene playing with The Dillards

   My other favorite Doug Dillard performance dates from his brief membership in the post--“Sweetheart Of The Rodeo” Byrds as part of their Summer 1968 European touring outfit.  The rare Byrds recording from Rome’s La Dolce Vita-land Piper Club is wondrous 

      Playing old folk-rock hits and new country material to a dancing audience , Dillard stuns playing absolutely furious banjo, challenging Roger McGuinn, Chris Hillman, Gram Parsons and Kevin Kelley to keep up with him as he electro-banjo speeds perfectly through “I’ll Feel A Whole Lot Better.”   

  The group’s breathtaking performance cuts through the crude recording quality, creating yet another artifact to impress and enlighten our future Martian visitors about the “pre-merch” Earth era  when real musicians played real instruments and concert tickets were easy to purchase and also affordable. 

The Byrds, Europe Summer 1968 (l-r, Doug Dillard, Chris Hillman, Roger McGuinn, Kevin Kelley, Gram Parsons)

Thank you, Doug.  Thank you Doug SO MUCH.

Someone is speaking of time now to gain
The voice cryin' be I am bound
Life is undyin' yet somebody weeps
The season declares its own sound
Encirclin' my mind
These worlds that I find
Tell me why
Tell me what shall I seek that shall be found

Now as the waters of mornings will fall
The wind is set free to demand
And orbit of distance inclusive of all
To know there is space to expand
These things that I see
These things that are me
Tell me why
Tell me where do I fit in the plan

These things that I see
These things that are me
Tell me why
Tell me where do I fit in the plan

 ------In The Plan (Clark, Leadon, Dillard) 

Doug Dillard LA Times 5-18-12 (link) 

Doug Dillard Chronology (link)

Dillard & Clark: With Care From Someone (link)

Dillard & Clark: Train Leaves Here This Morning and In The Plan (link)

The Byrds featuring Doug Dillard: I'll Feel A Whole Lot Better (Live At Piper Club, Rome, May 1968) (link) 

Note:  Gene Clark expert and collector Whin Oppice writes that:  "We are always looking for unreleased Gene recordings for our next Symposium. Be sure to scroll down to the March 6, 2012 post where the first Symposium is reviewed by three of our attendees or as we call ourselves Symposiumeers."  Whin asks (and I recommend) that readers visit the Gene Clark Symposium Facebook page HERE (link).

Gene Clark and Doug Dillard

Artifact for Martians from 1966


  1. I don't know their music. Now I will have to check them out. And thank you for the post on the bridges. I rarely take the time to appreciate the beauty of bridges and monuments, being more countrified. I like to have someone point them out to me. Thank you. Happy Memorial Day!

  2. I'm sure you would enjoy Fantastic Expedition. You're undoubtedly familiar with some of Gene Clark's material -- for example, I'll Feel A Whole Lot Better -- from his days in The Byrds. The music he made with Doug Dillard is really remarkable. I'm glad you liked the bridge post. Don Jackson, who wrote the 50-state guide when he worked at the Smithsonian, was my college roommate. He took a combined art history-engineering degree and went on to become a leading technology historian who now teaches at Lafayette in Easton, PA. Don's really a "dam man," but has written on bridges also both because they're fascinating structures and because they're a more "commercial" subject than dams. We have had some very good conversations about beaver dams. Don's book, by the way, is available both for "popular prices" on and new via Amazon. Happy Memorial Day for you and yours. It's terribly hot here. Jane's studying math, physics and Spanish. Curtis

  3. Just for accuracy, the A&M label photo above captioned "Fantastic Expedition Acetate" is actually Dillard & Clark's second L.P. -Through The Morning Through The Night, 1969. That's my acetate, my photo. -Whin Oppice

  4. Dear Whin, Thank you for providing the correct information and the correction. As I recall, I picked up the caption from another source. I'm correcting my own caption and including your credit, if that's ok w/you. Thanks also for visiting here. I'd like to think you might find other posts that interest you. Regards, Curtis