Saturday, March 26, 2011

Psychedelic Pioneers: Dino Valenti

Dino Valenti
It's hard to tell the story of psychedelic pioneers. One who started out as part of the Greenwich Village folk scene and earned himself a reputation performing in clubs alongside future stars including a young Bob Dylan was Dino Valente, the stage name of American singer-songwriter Chester William Powers Jr.
Valente is accredited with writing the Youngbloods "Get Together" and the iconic "Hey Joe". The origins of Hey Joe are unclear. Many attribute the writing credits to Billy Roberts but Dino Valenti collects the royalties for the song.

It was Valente who inspired guitarists Jim Murray and John Cipollina to form Quicksilver Messenger Service, soon to be known as one of the first and premier ‘jam bands’, famous for their live concerts which featured lots of lengthy improvisation
Valente intended to be part of the band but was picked up by the police for one too many drug busts and got himself sent to Folsom State Prison for the next two years.

On his release, he released his only solo album, a mix of folk and psychedelia, where he took on the identity of the rambling singer-songwriter revolutionary. Despite having his own album out, he was still a relatively unknown character outside the west coast rock scene. Even though “Get Together” was now an anthem of the counter culture, the identity of its writer remained hidden, as he had been forced to sell the song’s publishing rights to pay for his court defence.

Eventually Valente was back as lead singer with Quicksilver whose style then moved towards a loose folk rock sound, driven by Valente’s vocals. They had keyboard player Nicky Hopkins with them, and his piano dominated a lot of their sound in this era, not leaving much room for Duncan and John Cipollina to jam out like they had done on earlier albums. Many fans of the old sound hated this new direction, and subsequently weren’t particularly fond of Valente and what he had done to "their" band.

Quicksilver released two albums under Valente before original members Cipollina and David Freiburg left, along with Hopkins. Two more albums followed with the lineup of Valente, Duncan, drummer Greg Elmore and new recruits Chuck Steaks (keyboards) and Mark Ryan (bass). The Valente-era Quicksilver Messenger Service had a very unique sound, as shown in their song “Fresh Air”.

Dino Valente / Chet Powers was a great songwriter and a truly unique character. He both preached peace and brotherhood in “Get Together”, and also played the role of rebel and outlaw, best portrayed in the lyrics of “What About Me”:

I smoke marijuana, but I can't get behind your wars.
And most of what I do believe is against most of your laws
I'm a fugitive from injustice but I'm goin' to be free.
'Cause your rules and regulations they don't do the thing for me

Dino Valente now rests in peace

Quicksilver Messenger Service

This is the original version of "Hey Joe" written by Dino Valente performed by The Leaves and later made famous by Jimi Hendrix.

"Get Together" written by Dino Valente and made famous by The Youngbloods

Fresh Air: Quicksilver Messenger Service

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