Danny Kalb, Greenwich Village Scenester And Blues Project Co-Founder, Dies At 80

The short-lived group helped to fuel a revival of interest in blues music in the mid-1960s.

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Al Kooper and Danny Kalb of the Blues Project in 1965. Photo: Don Paulsen/Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images
Al Kooper and Danny Kalb of the Blues Project in 1965. Photo: Don Paulsen/Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images

Danny Kalb, a regular on the thriving Greenwich Village scene of the 1960s who became guitarist and leader of the influential Blues Project, has died at the age of 80. He had been diagnosed with cancer some three years ago.

Born in Brooklyn in 1942 and raised in Mount Vernon, New York, Kalb came under the wing of folk figurehead Dave Van Ronk, joining his Ragtime Jug Stompers in 1963. He met Bob Dylan when both attended the University of Wisconsin, and performed with him as well as with Judy Collins, Pete Seeger, and Jimmy Witherspoon.

Goin' Down Louisiana

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Kalb played second guitar for Phil Ochs on the singer-songwriter’s debut LP of 1964, All the News That’s Fit to Sing, before forming the Danny Kalb Quartet and then the Blues Project, with Steve Katz, Tommy Flanders, and later notable producer and session man Al Kooper. Their first LP was Live at the Cafe Au Go Go, recorded in late 1965 and early 1966 at the New York venue of that name. It was released by Verve/Folkways, with whom the group put out their first studio set, Projections, late in 1966.

Both LPs made a good impression on the Billboard album charts, on which they spent 21 and 36 weeks respectively. Their one appearance on the low rungs of the Hot 100 was with “No Time Like The Right Time.”

No Time Like The Right Time

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The group’s influence as key experimentalists in blues-rock, with elements of jazz and rhythm and blues, helped to spearhead a blues revival, and has continued to be felt. But the group began to unravel after the release of Projections, with Kooper leaving in the spring of 1967. The Blues Project played at the Monterey International Pop Festival that June, but Kalb left soon afterwards.

After his departure from the group, he collaborated with Stefan Grossman on the 1968 set Crosscurrents and reemerged for Blues Project reunions in 1973 (leading to the album Reunion In Central Park) and 1996. Kalb recorded a number of albums with his trio in the 2000s, and as a solo artist with his last release Moving in Blue, in 2013.

Listen to the Blues Legends playlist.

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