Kal David is a white guy from the South Side of Chicago—but, man, can he play the blues.
Kal—aka David Raskin—appears at Oscar’s Café and Bar with the Kal David Trio on Monday evenings from 6 to 9 p.m. for “Blues and BBQ” when he’s not off touring the world. He also plays regularly at the Purple Room.
One interesting fact about Kal David: He played in a band called Kal David and the Exceptions, which included Peter Cetera, who went on to join the band Chicago, and Marty Grebb, who went on to join The Buckinghams.
“Peter was in my band and was my bass-player, and I like to kid around and say I taught him everything he knew,” Kal David said during a recent interview. “He came to me fully skilled, and we were just kids. I was just out of high school, and he was still in high school. I, of course, was alongside him through his career, and I remember when he was invited into that band, which was called The Big Thing and eventually became Chicago. They didn’t have a bass-player, and after Peter and Terry Kath buried the hatchet, given they didn’t get along, Peter came into the band, and he was great.
“When Terry passed away, I did call them and offer my services, as did a number of people who were considered for the position, but they went for a longhaired younger guy named Donnie Dacus at the time. They did what they did, and that’s great.”
David has had a successful career on his own, and has collaborated with a number of larger-than-life musicians.
“I have performed several times with B.B. King, and I could say that he was my first idol,” David said. “I looked at that man playing guitar standing in front of a band, and I said, ‘I want to do that when I grow up.’ Meeting him was spiritual, and no one has a bad thing to say about Mr. King. He was IT as far as I’m concerned.
“I shared the stage many times with Stevie Wonder, opening for him, and (we also had) a few jam sessions. He was one of my first idols, and I still revere him. It’s as if the hand of God came down, pointed at him, and said, ‘You!’ I admire many of the guys I’ve played with, too, and I’ve had the privilege of playing with guys who have gone on to do other great things.”
When I asked David which of his records was his favorite, he asked me if I had kids, and implied that choosing a favorite album would be like choosing a favorite child. However, he then talked about the experience of making his latest album, Living the Dream, with his partner, Lauri Bono.
“We found ourselves in Germany, and we were offered the chance to go into the studio,” he said. “This was all with German musicians, and I called my drummer in New York and asked if he could join us in Germany. He came over and did the record with us. It was a great experience, and I told the studio owner, who is also an organ-player and the engineer, that it was the best experience we ever had in a studio. … Anytime anything was getting tense at all or people were questioning what was going on, the owner would invite us upstairs to eat. There’d be 14 of us taking in a meal.”
David is loyal to Gibson guitars and always plays his sunburst Gibson Firebird onstage.
“I’ve played a Gibson Firebird since the ’60s,” David said. “Eric Clapton was a Gibson guy for many years, and when I first saw him, was playing a Gibson SG. Then he became a Fender guy, for some reason. I can see why, because those Fenders stay in tune: You can throw them down the stairs, and they’ll still be in tune. I actually own a Fender Telecaster, but I can’t seem to get away from my Firebird. I saw Brian Jones from the Rolling Stones playing one, and I saw one in a store, and the guy told me to try it out, and there’s nothing like it. It’s my sound.”
After living in Los Angeles for many years, David said that he and Lauri Bono were attracted to the Palm Springs area for the same reason that many others are.
“I discovered Palm Springs because of the weather,” he said. “I used to come out here whenever I could just to take a couple of days off from the crazy Los Angeles scene. I came out here with Lauri one time, and we actually had four days to spend in Palm Springs in a row, and it was like a big deal. I had the chance to look around at some real estate, and I said to Lauri, ‘You think we could make it out here?’ After we moved here, I was commuting back and forth to Los Angeles, sometimes twice a week. But I did eventually find work out here, and it’s cool. It’s very cool.
“I didn’t know what to make of it at first. Usually, my band is Lauri and me and two other guys. I have a pretty good Rolodex of great players I work with, and now I have a more steady band, which is called The Real Deal. I got called to play this gig (at Oscar’s), and it didn’t feel like it was going to be a suitable place for me, Lauri and a band. We like to make a certain amount of money, and this was on Monday, and I quoted them a price for my trio, and they went for it. I discovered that just playing with the trio and without Lauri, I could do any tune I could think of, or even take requests. I really enjoy the casualness and the looseness of playing here—it’s like a jam with my guys, the Kal David Trio.”
For more information on Kal David, visit www.kaldavid.com.