Making a Scene Presents an interview with Danny Liston
What do record mogul Ahmet Ertegun, blues legend Gregg Allman, and Grammy award-winning producer Jim Gaines have in common? They all played a significant role in the music that is truly Danny Liston.
Growing up in the St. Louis Irish working class neighborhood known as Dogtown, Liston came from a musical family. His mom Lucille sang on KMOX radio in the 30’s, and his grandmother, who was from Reinze Mississippi, was a self-taught five string banjo player. As far back as he can remember music was the landscape of his childhood. His older brother Mike had Ray Charles and Little Richard singles that Liston sang along with so much that he knew the A side as well as all the B sides. At a very early age he found that R&B stirred something in his deepest soul. As a teen he started out as a drummer playing in soul bands around St. Louis, but eventually he took up guitar, under the threat of he, his mother and brother being evicted from their apartment.
Liston, his brother Pat, and lifelong friend Max Baker formed a band called Mama’s Pride, who were signed by Ahmet Ertegun, Atlantic Records President. They recorded their first album with Arif Mardin as producer at Criteria Studios in Miami. Their sophomore release, Uptown And
Lowdown, produced by Jim Mason of Firefall fame, wasn’t the commercial success that the label had hoped for, but they held out hope for one more try.
A last-minute show opening up for Lynyrd Skynyrd brought new life to all involved when Ronnie Van Zant expressed his desire to produce the band’s third record for Atlantic. They were to record with Van Zant, and then pick up the second leg of the Street Survivors tour, but the unfortunate tragedy of the Skynyrd plane crash changed the course of the band’s future. They were immediately released from the label, but 18 months later they went into a club that was their home away from home in Daytona Beach and the sign read Gregg Allman tonight. After the gig, Liston’s brother approached Allman because he was told Allman needed a band to go on tour. The band rehearsed with Allman the next day and went on tour. They would open the show as Mama’s Pride then come back as the Gregg Allman band. One night a critic said that Mama’s Pride blew the Gregg Allman band off the stage. They weren’t sure how to feel about that.
Liston stepped away from music for some years, going into the restaurant business and starting a family which led to eventually finding the need to shed the addiction laced lifestyle of rock ‘n’ roll that had permeated every area of his life. He credits his wife and his faith for his sobriety. Liston’s first recording effort after sobriety was with his old band Mama’s Pride, and they were introduced to Grammy award-winning producer Jim Gaines. His credits were vast, Stevie Ray Vaughan, Santana, Steve Miller, and many more. Liston credits Jim Gaines for reigniting his passion for music. He has since recorded three records with Gaines at the helm.