David Lindley (musician)

David Perry Lindley (March 21, 1944 – March 3, 2023) was an American musician who founded the rock band El Rayo-X and worked with many other performers including Jackson Browne, Linda Ronstadt, Ry Cooder, Bonnie Raitt, Warren Zevon, Curtis Mayfield and Dolly Parton. He mastered such a wide variety of instruments that Acoustic Guitar magazine referred to him not as a multi-instrumentalist but instead as a "maxi-instrumentalist."[1] On stage, Lindley was known for wearing garishly colored polyester shirts with clashing pants, gaining the nickname the Prince of Polyester.[2]

David Lindley
Lindley in 2013
Lindley in 2013
Background information
Birth nameDavid Perry Lindley
Also known asDe Paris Letante, Mr. Dave
Born(1944-03-21)March 21, 1944
San Marino, California, U.S.
DiedMarch 3, 2023(2023-03-03) (aged 78)
GenresRock, country, world music
Years active1962–2020
Formerly of

The majority of the instruments that Lindley played are string instruments, including violin, acoustic and electric guitar, upright and electric bass, banjo, mandolin, dobro, hardingfele, bouzouki, cittern, bağlama, gumbus, charango, cümbüş, oud and zither. He was the unparalleled master of the lap steel guitar in the rock music sphere,[3][4] and an expert in Hawaiian-style slide guitar blues.[5][6] Multi-instrumentalist Ben Harper acknowledges Lindley as an important influence.

Lindley was a founding member of the 1960s psychedelic band Kaleidoscope and worked as musical director for several touring artists.[1] He occasionally scored and composed music for film.[7]

Early life and careerEdit

David Perry Lindley was born in San Marino, California, to Margaret (née Wells) and John Lindley on March 21, 1944.[8][3] When Lindley was growing up in Los Angeles, his father had an extensive collection of 78 rpm records that included Korean folk and Indian sitar music, as well as Spanish classical guitarists Andrés Segovia and Carlos Montoya.[9][10] Lindley took up the violin at age three, and kept at it despite breaking the fragile bridge. He then moved on to the baritone ukulele in his early teens.[9] Next he learned the banjo. By his late teens, he won the Topanga Banjo•Fiddle Contest five times.[8][11] He played banjo with the Dry City Scat Band which included multi-instrumentalist Chris Darrow, and Richard Greene on fiddle.[12] Lindley and his bandmates aspired to emulate multi-talented folk singer Mike Seeger.[13]

Lindley began to frequent the Los Angeles–area folk music scene of the 1960s, primarily going to the Ash Grove club, but also attending the Troubador in West Hollywood, encountering an eclectic assortment of music including flamenco, Russian folk music, and Indian sitar music.[9] At Ash Grove, Lindley shared ideas with local musicians such as Ry Cooder and Chris Hillman.[14] Lindley formed an especially close relationship with Cooder; the two shared a love of exotic music, and they both turned away from corporate mainstream music to focus on less popular idioms such as folk and roots music.[15][16] At Ash Grove, Lindley learned the "right" way to play certain styles from traveling blues and folk musicians, and he learned violin methods from local star Don "Sugarcane" Harris.[10][17]

From 1966 to 1970, Lindley was a founding member of the psychedelic band Kaleidoscope which released four albums on Epic Records during that period.[13] After Kaleidoscope broke up, Lindley went to England and played in Terry Reid's band for a couple of years. In 1972, he teamed up with Jackson Browne, and played in his band through 1980, and occasionally afterward. During the 1970s, he also toured as a member of the bands of Crosby-Nash, Linda Ronstadt and James Taylor.

In 1981, Lindley formed his own band, El Rayo-X. Jackson Browne produced their first album. Their last show was December 31, 1989. After that, Lindley toured as a solo artist, first with Hani Naser accompanying on hand drums, then with reggae percussionist Wally Ingram. He also played on a multitude of studio sessions. Between his work in the studio as a session musician or on tour as a sideman or bandleader, Lindley learned new instruments. He was famous for having written the only song glorifying (a brand of) male condoms, "Ram-a-Lamb-a-Man," from his album Win this Record![18][19] The media often commented on his colorful polyester clothing,[20] with jarring differences between pants and shirt, earning him the nickname Prince of Polyester.[2]

Work with other artistsEdit

Lindley in Brisbane, 1980

Lindley was known for his work as a session musician. He contributed to years of recordings and live performances by Jackson Browne, and also supported Warren Zevon, Linda Ronstadt, Curtis Mayfield, James Taylor, David Crosby, Graham Nash, Terry Reid, Dolly Parton, Bob Dylan, Bruce Springsteen, Toto, Rod Stewart, Joe Walsh and Dan Fogelberg. He collaborated with fellow guitarists Ry Cooder, Henry Kaiser and G. E. Smith.[21] Artist Ben Harper credited Lindley's distinctive slide guitar style as a major influence on his own playing, and, in 2006, Lindley sat in on Harper's album Both Sides of the Gun. He was known in the guitar community for his use of "cheap" instruments sold at Sears department stores and intended for amateurs. He used these for the unique sounds they produce, especially with a slide. In the early 1990s, he toured and recorded with Hani Naser adding percussive instruments to his solo performances, and his instrumental repertoire which he used in his session work. Lindley also toured extensively and recorded with reggae percussionist Wally Ingram.

Lindley's voice may be heard in the version of "Stay" performed by Jackson Browne. Browne's version is a continuation of "The Load Out", and its refrain is sung in progressively higher vocal ranges. The refrain of "Oh won't you stay, just a little bit longer" is sung first by Browne, then by Rosemary Butler, then by Lindley in falsetto.[22]

Lindley joined Jackson Browne for a tour of Spain in 2006. Love Is Strange: En Vivo Con Tino, a 2-CD set of recordings from that tour, was released May 11, 2010, with Browne and Lindley touring together starting in June of that year.[23] They played together at Glastonbury Festival in 2010,[24] and they won an Independent Music Award for Best Live Performance Album in 2011.[25]


Lindley in Oslo, 1981

Lindley had a large collection of rare and unusual guitars and other instruments from the Middle East and various parts of the world. He listed and categorized many of them on his website[26] but admitted that he had "absolutely no idea" how many instruments he owned and played, having gathered them since the 1960s.[1] A journalist described his home in 1994 as containing a "tidal flood of instruments strewn all over the house. In every room. On the floor, balanced against the wall, lying atop cabinets and just literally occupying virtually every inch of available floor space."[15]

Personal lifeEdit

Lindley married Joan Darrow, the sister of his musical colleague Chris Darrow from the band Kaleidoscope.[27] In 1970, Joan and David Lindley had a daughter named Rosanne who became a folk singer with The Mountain Goats[citation needed] and the Bright Mountain Choir in the 1990s. In 1995, Rosanne joined Lindley in a series of concerts with Ry and his son Joachim Cooder, billed as the Cooder–Lindley Family.[28] The Lindleys lived in a quiet neighborhood of Claremont, California.[15]

Lindley died after a long illness on March 3, 2023, at the age of 78.[29][27] He had COVID-19 in 2020 which his family said developed into Long COVID with lasting kidney damage.[30]

Selected discographyEdit

  • 1981 : El Rayo-X (Asylum)
  • 1982 : Win This Record! (Asylum)
  • 1983 : El Rayo Live
  • 1985 : Mr. Dave
  • 1988 : Very Greasy (Elektra) #174 US
  • 1991 : The Indian Runner original soundtrack with Jack Nitzsche
  • 1991 : A World Out of Time (Shanachie) with Henry Kaiser in Madagascar
  • 1994 : The Sweet Sunny North (Shanachie Records) with Henry Kaiser in Norway
  • 1994 : Wheels of the Sun by Kazu Matsui (Hermans Records) with Hani Naser
  • 1994 : Official Bootleg #1: Live in Tokyo Playing Real Good with Hani Naser
  • 1995 : Song of Sacajawea (Rabbit Ears)
  • 1995 : Official Bootleg #2: Live All Over the Place Playing Even Better with Hani Naser
  • 2000 : Twango Bango Deluxe (with Wally Ingram)
  • 2001 : Twango Bango II (with Wally Ingram)
  • 2003 : Twango Bango III (with Wally Ingram)
  • 2004 : Live in Europe (with Wally Ingram)
  • 2007 : David Lindley—Big Twang

With other musiciansEdit

with Kaleidoscope
with Graham Nash
with Terry Reid
with Jackson Browne
with Linda Ronstadt
with Crosby & Nash
with Rod Stewart
with Warren Zevon
with Ry Cooder
with others


  1. ^ a b c Kotapish, Paul (2005). "BIG little MUSIC: The Weird and Wonderful World of String Wizard David Lindley". Acoustic Guitar Magazine. pp. Cover Story. Archived from the original on June 14, 2009. Retrieved May 31, 2009.
  2. ^ a b Doran, Bob (August 25, 2005). "Preview: Organic Polyester". North Coast Journal. Retrieved March 6, 2023.
  3. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l Pete Prown, Harvey P. Newquist , Legends of Rock Guitar, H. Leonard, 1997
  4. ^ Marsh, Dave; Bernard, James (1994). New Book of Rock Lists. Simon and Schuster. p. 347. ISBN 9780671787004.
  5. ^ Helen Casabona, ed. (1989). Rock Guitar. Hal Leonard. p. 107. ISBN 9780881889086.
  6. ^ Madsen, Pete (2005). Slide Guitar: Know the Players, Play the Music. Hal Leonard. p. 55. ISBN 9780879308520.
  7. ^ "David Lindley". IMDb.com. Retrieved January 22, 2020.
  8. ^ a b Craig Harris. "David Lindley | Biography". AllMusic. Retrieved July 13, 2014.
  9. ^ a b c Oksenhorn, Stewart. "World Pieces: For David Lindley, the world is still flats (sharps)". www.aspentimes.com. Retrieved October 3, 2020.
  10. ^ a b "David Lindley Interview". NAMM Oral History Library. 2021. Retrieved March 6, 2023.
  11. ^ "David Lindley". David Lindley. Retrieved July 13, 2014.
  12. ^ Harris, Craig. "Dry City Scat Band". AllMusic. Retrieved March 6, 2023.
  13. ^ a b "Chris Darrow Interview". Richie Unterberger. April 13, 1999. Retrieved March 6, 2023.
  14. ^ Unterberger, Richie (2002). Turn! Turn! Turn!: The '60s Folk-rock Revolution. Hal Leonard. p. 76. ISBN 9780879307035.
  15. ^ a b c Rosen, Steve (December 9, 2016). "Behind the Curtain: David Lindley". Rock Cellar Magazine. Retrieved March 3, 2023.
  16. ^ Browning, Boo (May 15, 1981). "David Lindley And His 'El Rayo-X'". The Washington Post. Retrieved March 6, 2023.
  17. ^ Roland, Terry (2007). "David Lindley: The Troubadour Jester of Reggae, Oud and Polyester". Folkworks. Retrieved March 6, 2023.
  18. ^ "POP MUSIC REVIEW : Lindley Keeps on His Toes During New Year's Kickoff". Los Angeles Times. January 2, 1990. Retrieved March 18, 2020.
  19. ^ "David Lindley | Biography & History | AllMusic". AllMusic. March 18, 2020. Archived from the original on March 18, 2020. Retrieved March 18, 2020.
  20. ^ Staff (October 21, 2008). "David Lindley On Mountain Stage". NPR. Retrieved March 6, 2023. Reprinted on March 15, 2011.
  21. ^ Snow, Mat (March 5, 1991). "Q&A". Q Magazine. 55: 34.
  22. ^ Browne, Jackson (1978). "Jackson Browne The Load Out / Stay 1978". Jackson Browne in Concert Live at Shepherd's Bush Theatre, London 1978 distributed on YouTube, time mark 7:03. Archived from the original on January 12, 2009. Retrieved September 19, 2009.
  23. ^ "With David Lindley Tour Heads To U.S. And Europe This Summer". Jackson Browne. Archived from the original on March 17, 2012. Retrieved 2012-03-31.
  24. ^ MacInnes, Paul (June 27, 2010). "Review: Jackson Browne with David Lindley at Glastonbury 2010". The Guardian. Retrieved March 6, 2023.
  25. ^ "10th Annual Independent Music Awards Winners Announced. Independent Music Awards, March 29, 2011. Retrieved on September 9, 2013.
  26. ^ Lindley, David (2005). "The Official David Lindley Web Page". Official Website. Retrieved May 31, 2009.
  27. ^ a b Erlewine, Stephen Thomas (March 3, 2023). "David Lindley, guitarist best known for work with Jackson Browne, dies at 78". Retrieved March 4, 2023.
  28. ^ Washburn, Jim (June 3, 1995). "Tour de Four: Ry Cooder and David Lindley team up with two of their kids". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved March 6, 2023.
  29. ^ "Iconic Claremont musician David Lindley dead at 78". March 3, 2023.
  30. ^ Willman, Chris (March 4, 2023). "David Lindley, Instrumental Virtuoso Known for Guitar Work With Jackson Browne, Dies at 78". Variety. Retrieved March 6, 2023.
  31. ^ McCullaugh, Jim (September 9, 1978). "Closeup: Leo Sayer". Billboard. Vol. 90, no. 36. p. 68. ISSN 0006-2510.
  32. ^ "The Bucket List". Soundfieldband.com. Retrieved January 22, 2020.

External linksEdit