Friday, June 28, 2013

He made his dreams come true: Daryl Hall

My favorite musical group of all time, hands down, is Daryl Hall and John Oates. I’ve admired these Philly boys since I first saw them on the Merv Griffin Show in 1980. In pop music, duos tend to be “married off” for life.  Though it’s hard to talk about Hall without Oates, today I’m going to concentrate on Daryl Hall—the taller, blonder half of the duo.


Daryl Hall's solo Sacred Songs album cover

Where did Daryl grow up?
Born in 1946, Daryl Franklin Hohl grew up in Cedarville, Chester County, on the outskirts of Pottstown. After graduating from Owen J. Roberts High School in 1964, young Daryl headed to Temple University, eager to shake off the constraints of his small town. Daryl has said, “I had vague ideas of a music career.  I was always a musician.  Temple was considered to be the city college.  I wanted to move to Philadelphia for the music.”

How did Daryl get his start in music?
Once in the city, Daryl immersed himself in Philly’s musical scene, gravitating toward soul, R&B and the burgeoning Sound of Philadelphia. He sang with the Delfonics and the Stylistics and got to know Kenny Gamble, Leon Huff and Tommy Bell. Hall remembers spending time on Philly street corners, harmonizing with other singers.

Daryl also hung out with the Temptations when they performed at the Uptown Theater in North Philadelphia. Daryl has recalled, “I used to carry their clothes around and get them coffee. They were like gods to me and they were really great people. I used to sing harmonies with them, which was like being dead and going to heaven.“ Daryl christened his college R & B band the Temptones in homage to his idols.

How did Hall meet Oates?
Daryl met John for the first time in 1967 at the Adelphi Ballroom in West Philly when the Temptones, and John’s band, the Masters, were invited to lip synch their singles at one of the record hops there. In the midst of an escape from a gang fight that broke out, Hall and Oates discovered they were both Temple students. Their nodding acquaintance back on campus turned into friendship as they started to move in the same circles. Daryl and John eventually became roommates.


Hall and Oates in the early years

Why didn’t Daryl graduate from Temple?
Daryl was a music major at Temple. In 1969, he quit his student-teaching gig when the head of the education department told him to choose between it and playing in a bar band. Twelve weeks before he was supposed to graduate, Hall dropped out of Temple because he felt the degree had nothing to do with his future. Daryl picked up some session work for other artists recording in Philadelphia.

Daryl and his first wife moved into a father-son-holy-ghost house (three rooms, three floors) at 406 South Quince Street in Philadelphia after they eloped in 1969. After a post-graduation trip to Europe, John moved into the little house too. Gradually Daryl and John started writing songs together and performing in local clubs.

How did Philly figure into Hall and Oates’ experiences?
Though both Hall and Oates acknowledge the impact that Philadelphia had on their music, after a while, they felt stuck in Philly while elusive success twinkled menacingly 90 miles away in New York City. After a run of bad luck—John was mugged, Daryl’s bike was stolen, and their musical career was going nowhere—the duo penned the somber song “Fall in Philadelphia.” Don’t expect to hear it in the Philadelphia Tourism Bureau’s commercials.

How did Hall and Oates get their big break?
In 1972, Hall and Oates signed their first big recording contract with Atlantic Records. Their sophomore album Abandoned Luncheonette yielded the Top Ten single “She’s Gone.” By 1975, Daryl and John had signed a contract with RCA and left Philly for greener pastures in New York. Their first number one single, “Rich Girl” topped the charts in March 1977.

The Abandoned Luncheonette cover featured an old diner outside of Pottstown


What did they accomplish during their career?
Over the course of their career, Hall and Oates scored six number one singles, including “Rich Girl”, “Kiss on My List,” “Private Eyes,” “I Can’t Go For That (No Can Do),” “Maneater” and “Out of Touch.” They also notched five additional Top 10 singles and produced six consecutive multi-platinum albums, qualifying for the title of number-one selling duo in music history.


Voices, released in 1980, started Hall and Oates' rise to their greatest fame

What does Daryl think about being a pop star?
Unfortunately 1980s artists are sometimes dismissed as no more than a guilty pleasure because they had a series of hit songs. Daryl has said that he’s proud of all of his music. In one interview he said, “Every artist, no matter how you want to label him or her, has to be a pop artist. Now what that popularity means, depends on the time. But you gotta be popular, or else nobody knows who you are.”

What does Hall think about Oates?
Daryl once told an interviewer, “I admire the things about him that I’m lacking. He’s a dedicated person, and when he makes up his mind about something, he sticks to it. He’s meticulous, and I’m not. I look at the whole picture, and I’m a little slack at the details. He looks at the details—sometimes to the detriment of the whole picture. I think that’s where the complementary thing happens.”

What is Daryl doing now?
Hall still performs with Oates, though they haven’t produced any new music together since 2006.  His pet project is the web series Live from Daryl’s House, which features him jamming with a different performer every month. So far artists like Smokey Robinson, Dave Stewart, Cee Lo Green and Train have graced Hall’s “living room” in Dutchess County, N.Y., and the series has been nationally syndicated for TV. More recently, it was announced that Daryl will headline a home restoration show for the DIY network. Hall, who is passionate about historic preservation, will work with a team of craftsmen to restore a 1780 Connecticut house.

Daryl Hall performing on his Live From Daryl's House Show

How does Daryl feel about his Philly roots?
Four decades and millions of albums later, Hall loves the city back. Hall has noted, “You don’t leave Philly. I have traveled the world, but it is just one of those things.  I feel like the whole city is my cousin.”

Have you made your dreams come true? Does the world know your story? Personal Chronicles can help you tell it.

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