Blowing the doors off of Spinal Tap, the Chris Duarte
Group has easily gone through more drummers than any other band I
can think of! Since 1990, The Chris Duarte Group has had 25 different people
sitting in the chair and many of them came back to play again later! There's
been at least 40 times that the band has had a change in drummers. Some had the life expectancy of a moth while others
left their mark on the music in a big way. The band has had several talented,
powerful drummers who have definitely brought their own style and texture
to the music. Different ages, different backgrounds, different levels of
experience, even different physical builds - all have contributed to the
diverse range of styles and intensity of the Chris Duarte Group's music
and to the live shows. Chris Duarte has always given his drummers plenty
of room to add their own imprint to the band's sound. This, combined with
the natural freedom of playing in a trio format, has produced some really
exceptional drummers. Some sat quietly in the background, others were a
blast of percussion that demanded your attention. Some came back a few times
later for tours or to sit in for one-gig shows. Here's a chronological list
of the Chris Duarte Group drummer changes, followed by photos and bios:
Eddie DeCapua (May 1990 - September 1991)
Jeff Hodges (October 1991 - August 1992; also played with Chris Duarte 1986 - 1990)
Paul Mills (August 1992 - February 1993)
Johnny Benoit (March 1993)
Wally Doggett (March - May 1993)
Paul Mills (May - July 1993)
Wally Doggett (August - December 1993)
Brannen Temple (December - April 1994)
J.J. Johnson (April - July 1994)
Paul Mills (July 1994 - February 1995)
Barry "Frosty" Smith (February 1995 - August 1996)
Erick Tatuaka (August 1996 - January 1998)
Jimmy Way (March 1998 - July 1999)
Jason Patterson (September 1999 - April 2002)
Jeremy Russell (April 2002)
Jason Patterson (April - May 2002)
Ed Miles (May 2002 - August 2004)
Javier Garagarza (August - December 2004)
Nico Leophonte (January - April 2005)
Jimmy Way (April 2005 - March 2006)
Damien Lewis (April - August 2006)
Taizo Takafuji / Taro Takagi (Chris Duarte with Bluestone; September 2006)
Damien Lewis (October 2006 - July 2007)
Jeff Reilly (July - September 2007)
Taizo Takafuji / Taro Takagi (Chris Duarte with Bluestone; September 2007)
Jeff Reilly (October - December 2007)
Taizo Takafuji / Taro Takagi (Chris Duarte with Bluestone; January 2008)
Jeff Reilly (January - June 2008)
Ben Taylor (June - July 2008)
Taizo Takafuji / Taro Takagi (Chris Duarte with Bluestone; August - October 2008)
Chris Burroughs (November 2008)
Jeff Sipes (Chris Duarte with The dBs; December 2008)
Taizo Takafuji / Taro Takagi (Chris Duarte with Bluestone; January - February 2009)
Chris Burroughs (February 2009 - February 2010)
Taizo Takafuji (Chris Duarte with Bluestone; February 2 - April 2010)
Brannen Temple (May 2010)
Chris Burroughs (June - December 2010)
Jack Jones (March - August 2011)
Dave Anthony (January 2012 - July 2012)
Jack Jones (July 2012)
Dave Anthony (July 2012 - May 2013)
John McKnight (June 2013 - Present)
There's even more drummers if you count ones
who sat in for a few gigs here and there, as well as session drummers on
Chris Duarte Group studio recordings, such as:
Chris Layton (live shows)
Tommy Taylor (live shows)
Greg Morrow (December 1996, Tailspin Headwhack album)
Gordie Johnson (February 1997, Tailspin Headwhack album)
James Fenner (May 2000, Love>Me album)
Abe Combest (2005 live shows)
Jeff Sipes (2008 live shows)
Ben Taylor (2008 live shows)
Aaron Haggerty (June 2011, Blues In The Afterburner album; February 2013, My Soul Alone album)
...and there's likely more drummers than what's listed here!
Chris Duarte's own musical history extends back to the early 1980's, where he was lucky to have been exposed to several great drummers during his young, formative years as a member of other bands (an experience that many of today's young players rarely get exposed to). He played with many great drummers in a variety of bands that played R&B, blues, pop, rock, covers, and jazz. He was exposed to drummers like Jimmy Pate who taught Chris the shuffle, the immortal John "Mambo" Treanor, jazzy Chris Massey, and others, but this history will cover only the various drummers Chris has had since forming the Chris Duarte Group back in 1990 in New Hampshire. So, if you've been confused by who's who, when, how long, and how many, here's your guide to the Chris Duarte Group drummers (to the best of my recollection)...
EDDIE DeCAPUA (May 1990 - September 1991)
Chris left Austin, Texas, in the summer of 1990 and went to New Hampshire to live with his brother Bart. Chris worked at a summer camp and musically practiced a lot, participating in some open stage night jams. He soon formed a band to do gigs at places like Thums and the Down Under in Concord. He joined up with Don Saviano on bass and Eddie deCapua on drums as the Chris Duarte Band, and also did some gigs as Rebop. Eddie deCapua was a good, straight-ahead drummer. He was one of only two drummers who hadn't lived in Texas prior to joining the band (Jason Patterson being the other one). All of the other drummers Chris has had lived in Texas for awhile or were native sons. I say this only because I think it is something in the water, and I mean out of the tap, not in a bottle, plus the lazy Texas heat, which has something to do with nailing down that Texas shuffle which is a big, basic part of many Chris Duarte Group songs. For the next year, Chris was focusing on narrowing his music to a tighter range of styles and working on his singing. They quickly gained a solid local following in many towns in New Hampshire. In May of 1991, Chris, Don and Eddie flew back to Texas to do a 5-city mini-tour to test the waters and the band got a great response. This helped convince Chris to move back to Texas, form a band and take it on the road. Eddie and Don played with him through September of 1991. By November, Chris was back in Austin and hooked up with his next drummer and bassist, Jeff Hodges and John Jordan, both old bandmates and dear friends, forming the Chris Duarte Group...
JEFF HODGES (October 1991 - August 1992)
Moving back to Austin in November of 1991, Chris was fired up to form a new band, get a manager to book gigs, and take it out on the road! He signed up John Jordan on bass and Jeff Hodges on drums, both longtime bandmates and good friends. They'd both played together with Chris from 1986 through 1990, in bands like Junior Medlow & The Bad Boys and Arson, as well as doing the very first trio gigs together in The Bad Boys. Each was also individually involved in other projects as well. It was Jeff Hodges who first introduced John Jordan to Chris Duarte. The three young musicians were learning at the same time from diverse influences such as jazz, blues, and r&b, playing this music in various bands. This helped develop a keen intuition and ear and feel for each other's playing and it showed in the live shows they played together in the Chris Duarte Group. Chris got Cleve Hattersley as his manager and within a week of being back in Austin had booked gigs, created a band and started playing! The band, now called the Chris Duarte Group, hit the road! Cleve Hattersley relentlessly booked the band throughout the midwest, Colorado, and Texas, even up into Canada. Pulling from their backgrounds together, a Chris Duarte Group show would include a raucous mix of blues, rock, shuffles, Hendrix, and sometimes even jazz. It was with Jeff Hodges that the legendary series of Zoo Bar jazz shows began, the tradition being that if the Chris Duarte Group was ever booked at the Zoo Bar on a Sunday night, they would do an all-jazz show. It started when the band had been booked over several nights at the Zoo Bar, so they had their equipment already set up. This was back in the drinkin' days, and our three heroes put a buzz on after a Saturday night show and wanted to jam together. They tracked down the owner, Larry Boehmer, and got him to let them into the Zoo. They proceeded to play an incredible set of jazz! Floored, Larry talked them into staying and doing an all-jazz show that Sunday night and a tradition was born. The tradition was kept up through various drummers up to Barry "Frosty" Smith. Amazing stuff! In 1992, word spread about the CDG and they were booked on "Much Music", a famous Canadian TV show. The band recorded some demos to shop around in April of 1992. Sadly, Jeff had a growing problem with alcohol at the time and in August Chris made a painful decision and let him go. They remained great friends afterward, though, and kept in touch over the years. Jeff Hodges later underwent medical treatment for depression. He had put alcohol behind him and was playing steadily in various bands such as the Tracy Conover Band and Appa's Blues Power, but one gray April day in 1999 he stunned everyone and took his own life. Jeff was one of the truly great CDG drummers. Even though his time with CDG was short, his history with Chris and John before that was long, making Jeff Hodges the drummer with the longest history of playing with Chris Duarte. Jeff's deep understanding of the music, and his wonderful timing, I think affected Chris's playing style and phrasing. When Chris was in a dark period of his life and had moved to New Hampshire in 1990, it was Jeff Hodges that drove up on his motorcycle from Austin and played some gigs with his old friend. Jeff's warm heart, relentless Cajun energy and endless sense of humor were infamous, and he is sorely missed by all of those who were lucky enough to have seen him play. He was simply one of the greats.
Click HERE for a tribute to Jeff Hodges from Chris Duarte and John Jordan
PAUL MILLS (August 1992 - February 1993)
Replacing Jeff Hodges was mighty, mighty Paul Mills, a big, lovable, strong-as-an ox, drummer. If I had to pick just one favorite drummer it would be Paul Mills during his first period with the band (before the serious auto accident in the band's van). Paul's muscular arms were as thick as my legs and he hit those drums so hard that it created a pressure wave hitting your chest all night long! His power amped Chris and John up to a higher level of playing, many songs had Paul leading the way like a rocket! He was awesome to watch play. Like Barry "Frosty" Smith later on, Paul was just physically built to play the drums. The spittin' image of his father, John Mills, also a drummer, Paul played his Pearl kit like a jackhammer! I remember one show where Paul was showing me these new drumsticks he wanted to try. They were as thin as a pencil, with a big cotton ball on the end. I knew they were doomed from the get-go and, sure enough, Paul hit them just once and they snapped like toothpicks, somersaulting into the air. The look on his face was priceless, he was one of those big gentle giants who really had no idea just how strong he was! Some of the flat-out most intense live Chris Duarte Group shows I have ever seen, in hundreds of live shows, occurred with Paul Mills from August of 1992 to February of 1993. He was a force of nature! But it was on February 17th of 1993 that a horrible accident changed everything. Driving north of Denver, Colorado, to a gig at the Zoo Bar in Lincoln, Nebraska, in an ice storm and in -14 below zero temperatures, the band's van skidded on some black ice and was hit broadside by a Freightliner truck on a highway. The van was rolled twice and Paul Mills was asleep in the back seat. He was the most seriously injured, the impact hitting him directly, putting him in a coma. Chris Duarte and John Jordan were also injured, but they were back playing, with Wally Doggett on drums, by March of 1993. Paul came out of the coma, but had to learn to walk again, and drum. This was the first period with Paul Mills, he came back two times later, but it was this first period that was, in my opinion, the most powerful phase of the band with this incredible powerhouse on drums. Believe me, if this line-up had been on the Texas Sugar/Strat Magik album, it would've been something else entirely (and I think the album rocks already)!! During Paul's recovery, the band forged ahead, promising him he had the chair whenever he was ready. Paul Mills worked hard to do just that.
JOHNNY BENOIT (March 1993)
After the accident in February of '93, Chris and John were back playing gigs in March, their first gig occurring at Antone's on 3/19 with Wally Doggett on drums. During this time the band underwent a series of replacement drummers as Paul recuperated from his injuries. Wally Doggett was unable to hit the road at this time so the band hooked up with Johnny Benoit. I really don't know how this came about, it reeks of being thrown together at the last minute without auditions or rehearsals, perhaps by Cleve Hattersley, Chris's manager at the time. They hit the road in March and from the get-go it became painfully apparent that this was a bad fit! Johnny Benoit had previously been the drummer for the new wave band Havana 3 A.M. and it even said so on his drum kit (which looked ridiculous facing the audience at a Chris Duarte show!). He didn't really seem to have much of a r&b background, and seemed to not give it his all when playing. Chris expects 110% out of everyone on his stage and sparks will fly if this does not happen naturally. Johnny was also very much into himself and even walked around handing out pretty-boy promo photos like the one shown here (only not ripped up!) I was showing John Jordan the photo above that Johnny Benoit had just given me, and in a split-second, with a rapid-fire series of blurry kung-fu hand moves, had disdainfully ripped up the photo and flung it into the air! He sniffed and walked away and I picked up the pieces and later taped them together (for the archives you see) and noticeably missing is the big chunk where his brain should be! Chris and John played a brief series of ever-frustrating, angry, disjointed shows which culminated in the only gig where Chris called a show early. While in Colorado, at the Double Diamond in Aspen, everything boiled over and Chris smashed his guitar into the stage and kicked over the drums, cancelling the show after only 20 minutes. The signature crack on the headstock of Chris's stolen 1963 Fender Strat came from this show. They cancelled some dates and headed back to Texas to get another drummer! John Jordan said that the van ride was the longest one he has ever experienced! Johnny Benoit's time with the Chris Duarte Group lasted just a few weeks (but felt like an eternity to Chris and John)!
PAUL MILLS (May - July 1993)
Paul Mills played with Chris and John again for the first time at a benefit concert on April 30, an amazing feat for someone who had just gotten out of a coma and was learning to walk again! It was a wonderful feeling for everyone to be playing again, but Paul still needed more time to heal up. Wally Doggett continued playing with the band through most of May. Towards the end of May, Paul Mills, still far from 100%, decided to undergo some extreme physical therapy and play drums for the band again! He was determined to play and tried hard. Paul sounded great on some songs, but seemed a bit confused on others, his head still healing from the tremendous impact of the accident back in February. Nonetheless, it was great to see him sitting back on the kit again! Paul did a good job on drums, but the shows tired him some both physically and mentally. Paul played on the road with Chris until the end of July. He knew he had more work to do and left the road to continue his rehabilitation in Austin. He continued to practice, playing local gigs in Austin with groups like the Tejana Dames and blues artist Miss Lavelle White, but vowed to return.
(April - May 1993; August - December 1993)
Wally Doggett played drums with the Chris Duarte Group in Austin for some dates back in March, shortly after the accident which severely injured drummer Paul Mills. While Paul was recuperating from his injuries, Chris asked Wally to go on the road with them but he was unable to do so at the time. The band ended up with Johnny Benoit, which ended going up in flames in short order. After the fiasco with Johnny Benoit, Chris and John had to get someone fast as many more dates loomed ahead. The Chris Duarte Group was playing several hundred shows a year and word was getting around. Record companies began to sniff around as well. In April, they contacted Wally again and he joined the band for most of April and May on the road. Wally was a good, solid, steady drummer and fit in well with the band. Paul Mills worked hard and rejoined Chris and John for the first time on April 30th in Austin for a benefit show (it was also at this show that Stevie Ray Vaughan's band, Double Trouble, with Chris Layton on drums, backed up Chris Duarte for a killer set, including Hendrix cuts!). It was obvious that Paul wasn't quite ready to go on the road so Wally Doggett did a bunch of Midwest gigs in May. By the end of May, Paul Mills wanted to try again and rejoined the band, playing through July. Paul still needed more time to heal and Wally came onboard again in August, playing fulltime for the Chris Duarte Group into December of 1993. During this time Chris got signed by Silvertone Records and recording of the first album was slated for early 1994. Chris wanted to really make an impact with his first album and wanted a drummer with more experience than Wally had. Wally knew that the drum position was a temporary gig until Paul Mills wanted it back and understood what Chris wanted to do with the album, too. Studio pro Brannen Temple became available and Chris jumped at the chance to have him in the band. Wally was a good drummer, not flashy or powerful, but reliably there, and proved his versatility by holding his own on some of the legendary all-jazz shows at the Zoo Bar in Lincoln, Nebraska, as well as being right in the thick of it as Chris performed new material in preparation for the new album and performing covers such as "Wild Thing" and lengthy Hendrix encores.
(December 1993 - April 1994; May 2010)
Joining the Chris Duarte Group in late December of 1993, Brannen Temple was well known as a great studio drummer. He had an extensive resume of session work and had done big tours with the likes of Janet Jackson and Sheila E. A crisp, professional player, Brannen Temple, of all the Chris Duarte Group drummers, was second only to Barry "Frosty" Smith in experience and technique. Just watching him you could tell he was BAD, and he had a killer shuffle, perfect for the roadhouse feel Chris wanted for his debut album, Texas Sugar/Strat Magik. With a new old guitar to get a feel for, a new drummer, and a debut album to be recorded in just a couple of months, Chris had a lot to think about. Brannen took a lot of pressure off by hitting the ground running, picking right up on Chris's original material and even adding to it. Brannen was so good that he was one of the few drummers that was allowed a drum solo at CDG shows! During the solos he created some unique, otherworldly sounds by grinding his drumsticks against the cymbals. Brannen was a lot of fun to watch, his hair usually braided and pulled up at the top of his head like a Dr. Seuss character! He was the tallest of the drummers and, like a lanky baseball pitcher, had arms like whips. Many of his fills and drum rolls were blurs of motion and sound. Brannen added a lot to the sound of Texas Sugar/Strat Magik, Chris's debut album recorded in Seattle, Washington in March and April of 1994. Brannen's studio expertise helped things a lot, both in playing and recording. Chris, not quite being a thousandaire yet, couldn't match a great offer Brannen received and Brannen left the group in April for greener pastures. His time was brief, but his effect was profound. Chris was fortunate to have him in the band and on the album. Always in demand, last time I saw Brannen he was drumming on Austin City Limits TV show with Eric Johnson. He also sat in with Chris Duarte at some one-off gigs years later. Brannen also reunited with Chris Duarte and John Jordan in May of 2010 for a tour celebrating the 16th anniversary of the release of Texas Sugar/Strat Magik.
J.J. Johnson started playing in the group at the end of April, 1994. He was an energetic, young drummer with a surprising amount of power in his playing. Like Wally Doggett, he kind of stayed in the shadows and was not a flashy player. J.J. got to sit in on some unusual Chris Duarte Group gigs including some dates with Ted Nugent, where he also did duty as Ted's drummer, and a reunion show that featured the late, great Junior Medlow. J.J. was another solid drummer that Chris has been fortunate to find and he played up until July when Paul Mills indicated he was ready to rejoin the Chris Duarte Group fulltime. J.J. later ended up playing drums with Ian Moore for awhile. He is someone to watch for!
PAUL MILLS (July 1994 - February 1995)
Paul Mills had worked very hard to overcome his injuries from the terrible accident back in February of 1993 and was ready to join the band fulltime at the end of July, 1994. Oddly enough, the only lingering damage he still had was a loss in his sense of taste! Paul had been working hard and he came back for some great shows. He picked up the new material off of Texas Sugar/Strat Magik quickly (most of it he had performed before with Chris) and the debut album was released that October. It did very well, getting good reviews, quite a bit of airplay, and generating lots of attention and new fans. Paul's playing was much better than his second time in the band, but still didn't match the fury of his days before the accident. Additionally, Chris and John had both been playing together every night while Paul was gone for a year, bouncing ideas off of each other, working on new material and songs, and had sort of evolved into a different style and direction musically from where he was. By December, Texas Sugar was doing well, the band did several radio appearances, and there was a feeling of momentum and excitement. Chris was already looking towards the second album, thinking about new rhythmic ideas when an opportunity arose to land the legendary drummer Barry "Frosty" Smith. Chris made the painful decision to let Paul Mills go, not only a wonderful drummer but a good friend, too. Paul had worked hard to come back and thought he was doing good. I have to agree to some extent, Paul on a bad night kicked total ass over many drummers on their best night, but things had changed in the band. John Jordan and Chris Duarte at this time had been working on new songs for their follow-up album to Texas Sugar and it had a decidely different feel to it, especially the drums and bass. It was a difficult thing to see him go, but the "chemistry", for lack of a better word, had changed, as well as the music. The upshot was the magnificent era of the next Chris Duarte Group drummer, Barry "Frosty" Smith, a true drummer's drummer. Paul Mills continues to play in several bands around Austin and has dabbled in producing and is a great singer as well. In fact, he later formed a band in Austin, Texas, with Barry "Frosty" Smith on drums and himself on vocals!
BARRY "Frosty" SMITH (February 1995 - August 1996)
"Frosty" as Barry Smith is known, is a master drummer and it created quite a stir when Chris had the honor of him joining the band in February of 1995. Frosty is a drummer that other drummers go see perform. He can do anything on the drums, his extensive experience going back to the 1960s and 70s in such bands as Rare Earth, Lee Michaels, and Sly & The Family Stone. He had been playing in Soulhat prior to joining up with Chris. Frosty's impact was immediate, his playing just as intense as Chris and John's, and the three of them often jelled into this incredible musical force onstage. Sitting low behind the drums, Frosty was hard to see. Like Paul Mills, he was born to drum and was physically built for the job. He, too, had massive arms and played with a potent force that drove the music up in intensity. He had a keen sense of timing and phrasing, his chops totally unique and inventive, with power to burn. Even at his most intense, you always got the feeling that he had more in reserve. This was a very exciting period, with high hopes for the band. The 1st album was still doing very well, CDG was on some nice tours, getting good exposure opening for Buddy Guy and touring in Europe, and the expectation of doing a second album soon, with Frosty, was eagerly anticipated by fans everywhere. Chris had won "Best New Guitarist" in Guitar Player magazine's readers poll in October and it would just seem natural that Silvertone would want to put out a second album in '95. Chris certainly had the material, many songs that came out later on Tailspin Headwhack were already written, and most certainly the personnel, to put out a great second album. Plans were on for a December recording date and an April release date, but those got put on hold, beginning a series of delays that frustrated CDG fans everywhere! It is one of the greatest blunders I have ever seen why Silvertone did not strike while the iron was hot and put out a follow-up album to Texas Sugar/Strat Magik. The Chris Duarte Group played on with their grueling road schedule, performing some of the hottest live shows in the history of the band. But the road was taking its toll physically on Frosty. He left the group for awhile due to a knee injury and Tommy Taylor filled in for some dates in November of 1995. Frosty was back by December, but the physical pain only worsened during the spring and summer of 1996. It became apparent that Silvertone was dragging its feet for a second album and Frosty decided to leave to pursue other interests. Frosty, like Brannen Temple, is a drummer who is always in demand. It really was a lost golden opportunity that the second album was not recorded with Frosty on drums. However, later on, in May of 1999, bassist John Jordan did record the three of them on his own label, Tana Records. Releasing the incredible Only One album was a personal point of pride for John and Chris, having finally made a recording with this legendary drummer. Frosty is truly one of a kind, bringing magic wherever he goes.
ERICK TATUAKA (August 1996 - January 1998)
Erick Tatuaka was a young drummer with a lot of energy who was recommended by Richard Belisle, Chris Duarte's road manager at the time. I would have to say that the most shirtless shows (balls-to-the-wall ones where, about half-way in, Chris, John and the drummer are dripping with sweat and shirtless!) occurred with Erick Tatuaka than almost any other. His first gigs with the band had John Jordan playing a rented bass keyboard, playing with a broken hand. Erick was the first drummer to introduce electronics into the sound and was also the first drummer to sing back-up vocals. He used an electronic intro beat and played on top of it to great effect on songs such as "People Say" and "Thrill Is Gone". One thing I enjoyed watching was Erick's ever-improving style and growth during his time in CDG. Each time I saw them, every 3-6 months, he was noticeably better and more confident, trying out new rhythmic approaches to songs such as "Walls" and "Cleopatra" and definitely "Azul Ezell", which is still the best version of the song I've heard, thanks a lot to Erick's swaying, driving, percussive display of drumming. He also threw in a lot of little extra surprise fills and flourishes that would cause Chris and John to laugh out loud and look back at him in surprise. Sometimes, being a young latin hot-head, his temper would flare. There was one show I was at where this guy kept taking flash pictures, big bright ones, all during the songs. Erick leaned into his vocal mike and asked the guy to please stop taking so many pictures. Chris looked surprised, but quietly agreed with his drummer. During the next song, again, the nimrod started taking flash pictures as before. This time, at song's end, Erick really told him in no uncertain terms to knock it off (and stood up as he said it!). It was the kind of warning John Wayne would give you before sending you through a wall! Luckily, the half-wit put his gear away and promptly left the show. Erick had a very aggressive, physical style of playing and gave many songs a big boost of juice! By the time he left the group in January of 1998, I thought he had become one of the best drummers the Chris Duarte Group has ever had. Erick rejoined the band for one outrageous show in the summer of 2000 at the Fox Theater in Boulder, Colorado, leaving the place nothing but a burned-out shell! At the time he was doing shows where he played a variety of drums, percussion and electronics to a hip-hop scratch DJ, as well as doing some acting on the side.
JIMMY WAY (March 1998 - July 1999)
Following Erick Tatuaka's departure as drummer came the news that Silvertone had dropped the Chris Duarte Group. But the show must go on and dates were coming up fast. There was an urgent need for a replacement and there was no time for auditions, so manager Joe Priesnitz obtained the services of the next drummer, Jimmy Way. To be honest, it was a rough beginning, as Jimmy came from a completely different musical background and didn't have as much exposure to the shuffle and blues as Chris and John. There were some clunky moments where he'd be off-beat or doing a different rhythm, but he'd manage to keep it from going over the cliff! John Jordan and him clued in on each other on many songs in the beginning. He had a frenetic energy to his playing that was interesting to watch. Some songs would wobble along with an off-kilter Howlin' Wolf-like beat, which added tension to cuts like "Crimino" and ".32 Blues". Jimmy Way really brought electronics to the CDG sound, this time with a lot more buttons! Hooked up to his kit was a big, electronic Kurzweil machine that was programmed to play all kinds of samples and effects. It worked good on a few songs, but had the effect of distracting him from the task at hand (drumming) as he tried getting it to work (Jimmy hadn't had it that long). Always interested in recording gear as well, he experimented with recording drum snippets, filtered into outer space, for use as samples to load on the Kurzweil. There was one show in which Jimmy bravely let loose with a sample that made both Chris and John visibly rattled. During an extra-intense "Shiloh", as Chris was reaching the very absolute climax of the lengthy screaming guitar solo, the loud sound of an air-raid siren went off and drowned out Chris AND went on for probably twenty seconds or more! I don't think Mr. Way knew at the time that the song was a Civil War tribute and the airplane had not been invented yet, but hey, an "E" for Effort! Actually, the panicked look on Jimmy's face was worth the price of admission alone! But seriously, over time Jimmy got better and more focused, always listening intently to Chris and John and always playing hard. While Jimmy was in the band, Chris started getting interest from various record labels. He ended up entering into negotiations with Rounder Records and wanted to audition another drummer for the band and have time for him to learn the material in time for the next album. Jimmy Way was let go in July of 1999 and auditions began for the next CDG drummer. Now fast forward to the year 2001: Bassist John Jordan had left the Chris Duarte Group and formed a fantastic improv trio, the John Jordan Trio, with John on bass, Alex Coke on saxophones and flute, and Jimmy Way on drums (without any electronics). With just Jimmy and his drum kit, he developed into a very interesting drummer, with interesting new ideas, and was a wonderful fit for the wide-open John Jordan Trio. Jimmy Way also assembled his own recording studio (Rancho Jimmy Way) out in the beautiful Texas hill country near San Marcos and it was there that the John Jordan Trio began recording their first (still unreleased) album. Also recorded there was Mysterious Quartet from Helsinki, a rare 200-run CD that was recorded from the same sessions, both of which feature Chris Duarte on guitar. Jimmy Way joined the Chris Duarte Group onstage (two drummers at the same time, Jason Patterson and Jimmy) in Eureka Springs, Arkansas, on 3/8-3/9/02. It was a most entertaining combo to watch, to say the least, if not less!!! Truth be told, I think Jimmy Way is from another planet or a parallel dimension or both! He has a unique drumming style all his own and is another drummer that is really interesting to watch perform.
(September 1999 - April 2002)
Jason Patterson was from South Carolina and played in the band Cry of Love. He had seen the Chris Duarte Group perform a few years prior and was very impressed. He contacted Chris's manager and told him he would like to audition if the drummer slot ever opened up. He got his chance and got the job. Jason brought more of a "rock" feel to the drums, and had a forceful grace, rapid-fire fills, and a big bass drum. He recorded the album Love Is Greater Than Me in May of 2000, having spent a little over half a year with the band. Jason already had previous studio experience with Cry of Love. In October of 2000, bassist John Jordan surprised everybody and left the Chris Duarte Group. He'd been playing solid with Chris for over 10 years and needed a break from the road and to spend time with his family, as well as get going on his own solo projects. In a pinch, dates looming, Jason called Robert Kearns, his former bass player in Cry of Love. This was a plus, giving Chris an experienced rhythm section to hit the ground running. There were some obligatory clunky moments at first, but what ended up happening was that the Chris Duarte Group evolved to more of a "rock" feel on many songs. Jason was a blur of motion on many songs when you saw them perform live, he really moved around his kit! Some drummers sort of maintain a certain position throughout the night, but Jason would sometimes jump up and play standing! He played ferociously despite excruciating back pain which worsened over time, finally forcing his departure from the road and the band in December of 2001. Jason bravely played on through May of 2002 while the band looked for a new drummer. During this time he played a memorable series of shows, a real trooper (or a glutton for punishment)!
JEREMY RUSSELL (April 2002)
This drummer was from Ohio and lasted a record-setting two shows before being let go, the shortest duration of any drummer in CDG history (hence, no photo either). Chris Duarte had auditioned drummers in person in Texas and others he had listened to on audition tapes. Jeremy was one who had sent in an audition tape and, with the band needing to quickly find a replacement for current drummer Jason Patterson, he landed the job. I guess it became apparent that it was not going to work out from the get-go and Jeremy was dropped after two gigs (kind of surprising because many CDG drummers had awkward debuts and were given time to get up to speed). I can't say one way or the other how Jeremy sounded, having never heard him play, but Chris is the one who hired him so he couldn't have been all that bad!
ED MILES (May 2002 - August 2004)
Ed Miles joined the Chris Duarte Group in May of 2002 and played his first gig at JD's in Victoria, Texas. Like some other CDG drummers before him, Ed looks like he was born to drum! Ed quickly learned the wide-ranging CDG catalog, got into the groove fast, and quickly proved to be one of the greatest CDG drummers ever. His powerful and intuitive drumming can be heard on the album ROMP! Ed was in the group for more than two years and made a big imprint on the band's sound. He also played at a time when bassist John Jordan had rejoined the band and he and John were a lethal back-up unit for Chris. The live shows were always amazing, full-tilt supernovas of musicianship. With Ed and John backing him up, Chris mixed it up and stretched it out. New jazz covers were introduced to fans and the jams became longer and experimental. Ed also played with John Jordan in an all-jazz band during this time. Ed eventually decided to give up life on the road after the birth of his baby girl, Annika, in 2003. He went back to Austin in August of 2004 to be with his family and went on to perform in local bands. Ed Miles was definitely a fan favorite and one of Chris Duarte's most powerful drummers.
JAVIER GARAGARZA (August - December 2004)
In June of 2004, Chris Duarte took a break and went down to Monterey, Mexico, to visit some friends. While there, he jammed with a band in a little bar. He had an absolute blast and when Ed Miles left the band, Chris contacted the drummer, Javier Garagarza, to see if he would be interested in auditioning for the band. Javier rehearsed to all of the CDG albums and learned the material. He auditioned for the band in Austin, Texas, on August 3rd and 4th and they were very impressed. He made his debut gig at Antone's in Austin on August 5th and kicked ass! Like drummer Erick Tatuaka before him, Javier brought some really swingin' latin rhythms to many of the band's songs like "Azul Ezell. He played with a ton of energy and was a great fit for the Chris Duarte Group. After just a couple of months or so touring in the U.S., some overseas dates got booked and it was discovered that Javier didn't have a green card! So this, along with some family commitments, forced Javier to jump ship and go back to Mexico. The live shows during his time with Chris Duarte were some of the most fun and surprising. Javier was always throwing curveballs at Chris and putting a smile on his face.
Nicholas "Nico" Leophonte was from the south of France (with dual citizenship), and had been in Austin since 1998. He has played and recorded with Preston Hubbard (Fabulous Thunderbirds) with the band Barfield and spent a couple of years with the Hadden Sayers Band. He has also played and recorded with the surf band "3 Balls Of Fire", as well as tours and gigs with Alan Haynes, Van Wilks, W.C. Clark, Lazy Lester, Shawn Pittman, and even Bo Diddley. Nico was a good, versatile player who drummed like a studio pro. He just didn't stick around long enough to really get a solid feel for the CDG catalog or to add his own style to the music.
(April 2005 - March 2006)
Former CDG drummer Jimmy Way came back, a welcome return for a drummer more familiar with the band's catalog. His unique style of playing was always fun to watch! His epileptic rhythmic style, combined with spaced out facial expressions, brought a Thelonius Monk-style approach to the live shows and you never knew what to expect. Sometimes it seemed like he needed a seatbelt to keep him from flying off his stool. Jimmy was also formally trained in music and composition. He always had a lot of intelligent musical ideas and wasn't afraid to try them out, often presenting Chris with new ideas and the latest technological doo-dads.
DAMIEN LEWIS (April - August 2006; October 2006 - July 2007)
By the end of 2005, Chris Duarte had moved to Atlanta, Georgia, and was introduced to some of the musicians on the scene there. This was the beginning of a new series of drummers and bassists from the area that joined the band off and on over the next few years. Chris also wanted to do shorter tours on the road and this worked out better for many of his bandmates who also had other projects also. One of Damien Lewis side projects, his passion really, was his own recording studio there in Atlanta. This was very handy and Chris Duarte utilized it to record demos for CDG as well as with the Japanese band Bluestone. Damien was a solid drummer and he and bassist Dustin Sargent were a tight rhythm section. He was a little less adventuresome than some of Chris's other drummers and hadn't really played much in other bands, but he made up for it with skill, gusto, and a relentless sense of humor. In the year he played with the band he got to go to Moscow, Russia, and Canada for some live shows (Chris has some pretty crazy stories about his bandmates that involve Russian vodka and some large furniture and the KGB!). Damien did the drumming on the CDG album Blue Velocity (recorded in May 2007) and also appears on Something Old, Something New, Something Borrowed, Always Blue. Damien's real passion was mixing and engineering and he decided to leave the band to put more effort into his recording studio. He went on to do engineering work with popular R&B artists like Whitney Houston, Mariah Carey, Mary J. Blige, Beyonce and many more.
In 2005 Chris Duarte moved to Atlanta, Georgia, where he met a lovely Japanese woman, Tomomi Hamamura. They decided to get married and her parents lived in Japan. Tomomi and Chris flew there in January of 2006 to meet them and to also begin a long, fruitful, musical collaboration with the popular Japanese band Bluestone. Tomomi knew members of the band going back to when they were known as Savoy Truffle and in 2005 had contacted them to say that Chris Duarte was coming to Japan and would they like to get together and play. The band Bluestone was heavily influenced by American rock & roll, especially served up southern style like the Allman Brothers or drenched in blues like Freddie King, and had already heard of Chris Duarte and were eager to get together. Thanks to previous drummer Jimmy Way and his electronic know-how, Chris Duarte was dragged kicking and screaming into the new digital age of doing things and quickly took to it like a fish to water. Chris swapped samples and music files with Bluestone and recorded some solos on top of their songs, utilizing drummer Damien Lewis' home studio there in Atlanta. Things went so wll and it was such a good musical fit that talk turned to doing 4 or 5 live shows together with Chris singing lead vocals and sharing lead guitar duty with the great slide guitarist Toshihiro Sumitomo. Bluestone had a tight, powerful rhythm section that was chaired by two drummers! Taizo Takafuji played a full drum kit while Taro Takagi played a variety of percussion instruments, bells, and congas. By the time Chris Duarte hooked up with them they were a force to be reckoned with and had played together for several years prior. Bluestone was one of the most popular bands in Japan at the time and Chris had a great time playing with them. They both talked of playing again and working on musical projects together. Taizo (photo above) and Taro (below) were excellent musicians and could rock out bigtime or improv and jam on lengthy songs. Bluestone was also really good at changing the tempo or rhythm of a song in midstream. It was a new style of playing for Chris and he had to sing in a higher register and also tune his guitar differently to better jive with this cool band. They made plans to do a U.S. tour together later that year. In June of 2006, Chris recorded 5 vocal and guitar tracks on top of Bluestone tracks for their full-length album Bluestone Co. The files were sent electronically as before and Chris recorded his parts again at Damien lewis' home studio. Chris also wrote the lyrics to the songs as well, since they would be sung in English by him anyway. It took awhile getting passports and such, but in September of 2006 Chris Duarte and Bluestone did their first U.S. tour, a well-received jaunt through the Midwest. Chris Duarte fans ate it up and Chris has several funny stories regarding life on the road with a Japanese band that doesn't speak English! He said that by the end of the tour they had all learned to say, "Supersize it!" in English. This new musical collaboration started to create a buzz and prompted them on to more tours and projects together when they could arrange it. Chris still toured with the Chris Duarte Group and they still played in Japan, so coordinating schedules became tricky. Bluestone's album also helped things along, especially with the presence of Chris Duarte onboard. Bluestone returned for another U.S. tour in September of 2007, this time in the eastern part of the country and this time booked by Chris Duarte's booking agency. They played a circuit of clubs that were popular for the Chris Duarte Group and were always full of new fans of Chris and Bluestone. By now, Chris and the band were much tighter in their live shows and had keen intuition into each other's playing. Chris went to Japan and did another tour with them in January of 2008. Mike Varney, the head of Shrapnel Records, Chris's label at this time, had also gotten interested in Chris and Bluestone and wanted them to do an album together on his label. Songs were written and plans were made for a big U.S. tour that would lead up to them recording in California at Prairie Sun Studios. The tour kicked off in August of 2008 and made its way west to record the album 396 in October. Chris again went back to Japan in February of 2009 and toured with them to promote the 396 album. They came back one last time and toured together in the United States in March of 2009. By this time, percussionist Taro Takagi had married and left the band and there was a bit of infighting going on. Bluestone broke up a few months afterward. Their many collaborations together created a rich musical chapter in Chris's career, both in the live shows and in recorded material. It improved Chris Duarte's singing and from this point on he really began to work on that aspect of his music. It also sharpened his songwriting skills as well. The live shows were always explosive and full of sound. They were a crapshoot however, not due to the band or their playing, but to the sound system they were playing through and the IQ of the soundman that night. It took a veteran soundman to properly mix the 5-piece band with two lead guitarists and two drummers so that everything wasn't just mush. Chris's vocals and guitar often got buried in the mix, but when the mix was "on" their live shows were really something to behold!
(July - September 2007; October - December 2007; January - June 2008)
After the departure of bassist Dustin Sargent and drummer Damien Lewis in July of 2007, Chris filled the bass slot with another local Atlanta musician named Joseph Patrick Moore who recommended Jeff Reilly, a drummer he had played with locally. They rehearsed and then hit the road, getting better and tighter with each gig. Chris Duarte did a couple month-long tours with the Japanese band Bluestone and some side gigs with a band called Lemonade Handgrenade while Joseph and Jeff did some of their own things there in Atlanta. The band recorded the album Vantage Point in June of 2008. There never seemed to be a sense of permanence to the Chris Duarte Group at this time, it seemed like some bandmembers were part-time help. Lacking was a sense of a "band" that you used to see in previous incarnations of CDG. Jeff Reilly was a good drummer who got better over time and then, like many before him who were just hitting their stride, he suddenly was gone. He left the band in June of 2008 and filled in on some shows years later. Chris picked up Ben Taylor on drums for a short tour in July before teaming up with the Japanese band Bluestone for a tour in August of 2008. After the tour Chris obtained the services of Chris Burroughs on drums in November.
It had been quite a few years since Chris Duarte had a powerhouse drummer in the band, one that you felt in your chest at the live shows. He certainly found one in Chris Burroughs who joined the Chris Duarte Group in November of 2008. Chris was another Georgia musician and quickly found his groove in the band. He had a sharp, aggressive style but was also versatile and could play anything that was thrown his way. Lightning bolts would actually strike the stage when he would lead the band into "Like Eric"! He also stuck around awhile which was a nice change of pace for the drummer's chair. He recorded the album Infinite Energy with Chris Duarte in June of 2010. Chris Burroughs was definitely one of the hardest-hittin' drummers that Chris Duarte has had over the years.
BRANNEN TEMPLE (May 2010)
It was exciting and fantastic news that rippled through fans of the Chris Duarte Group upon hearing that a special anniversary tour was in the works for May! The stars had aligned themselves in such a way that Chris Duarte, former bassist John Jordan, and drummer Brannen Temple were going to reunite for a tour celebrating the 16th anniversary of the release of the album Texas Sugar/Strat Magik. It kicked off in Florida and ended in Austin, Texas. Chris brought his '63 Fender Strat out of retirement to get that authentic sound. Brannen played as if he never left the band. He is such a seasoned pro by now that he effortlessly can play in any situation, any style, at the drop of a hat. A series of excellent shows and it was a real treat for the fans to see John and Brannen and Chris playing together again. In June, Chris went back to his fulltime line-up of Chris Burroughs on drums and Matt Stallard on bass.
(March 2011 - August 2011; July 2012)
Jack Jones is a young drummer who keeps the beat with energy to spare. He played with the band through the summer, including a six-night stand at the Hogs Breath Saloon in Key West, Florida. Jack jumped right in as he laerned the CDG catalog and propelled the music into some skull-rattlin' live shows. He left in August of 2011 to study music on a scholarship. Chris took a break from touring for the rest of the year, other than recording a session with band Mama. Jack Jones came back in July of 2012 to play with Chris on a tour of Japan. Another drummer you can tell is really good and hope would stick around longer to see what impact they might have over time.
(January 2012 - June 2012; August 2012 - May 2013)
Dave Anthony brought a lot of energy and a steady, drivin' backbeat to the Chris Duarte Group. His aggressive drumming style pushed Chris to play harder. He introduced Trey Lander, a bassist he had played with, to Chris Duarte who tried him out on some short tours in April and May of 2012. I saw some of these shows and there is a noticeable, instinctive "tightness" that always seems to occur when the rhythm section, like here, has played together before. It always enhances the songs and allows Chris to play with more freedom knowing there's a strong rhythm section backing him up.
(June 2013 - Present)
John McKnight is one of the most powerful drummers that has ever graced the CDG throne. I would even put him in the same league as Frosty. And when you think he's playing as hard as possible, he'll suddenly open up afterburners and singe your eyebrows if you're standing too close. John is also the drummer on Chris Duarte's most recent album "Lucky 13". He amps up the energy of the live shows and is a lethal rhythm section with Dustin Sargent on bass.
Who are your faves? I cannot think of a single instance, not even close, of a band that has gone through so many drummers! It truly is one of the more unusual aspects of the evolving, dynamic, organic sound of the Chris Duarte Group! Wonderful music that is driven and shaped by the drummers in the chair. The beat goes on....