We all know country legends like Willie Nelson, Waylon Jennings, George Jones and Johnny Cash, but few have ever heard of the enigmatic Weird Darryl & The Gusty Winds. Despite having a cult underground following among the outlaw country community in the ’70s and ’80s, Darryl never seemed to receive the same acclaim as other more well known country legends. Despite touring non-stop for almost 30 years, Weird Darryl was never able to release an album due to interference from his record label Columbia Records. Now, at last, the world finally gets to hear Weird Darryl on record for the first time in the form of a live recording of his last concert at Crazy Creek. This record would not have been possible without Weird Darryl enthusiast and ‘zine creator Freddy Keane. I recently corresponded with Keane about Weird Darryl’s history and the album.
For those who may be unaware, would you like to give a little backstory on Weird Darryl & the Gusty Winds and how you first heard their music?
Yes, I would love to. Weird Darryl & the Gusty Winds were an underground country and western band from about the late 70s to mid 80s. Mostly based out of Gallup, NM, but Darryl did live in Tulsa for a time. They relentlessly toured the American southwest, building up a rabid fanbase and becoming extremely influential. The band never released a record for reasons we’ll get into a minute, but their impact is still felt all across music today. I believe I first heard the band in 1979 or so. That would make me about 14 then. My older sister was a huge fan and I wanted to see what all the fuss was about so she snuck me into the show! After that I couldn’t get enough. I began catching every Weird Darryl show I could. When I was 16, I started the Gusty Winds May Exist fanzine which has been in continuous publication ever since. 35 years later, I’m now the premiere Weird Darryl expert in all of the world. I’m currently trying to raise the funds to open a museum in Gallup.
Weird Darryl had some well known contractual issues that spanned his entire career preventing him from releasing even a single album, can you talk a little about the labels problems with Weird Darryl?
Well I think it was 1977 that Weird Darryl moved to Tulsa. As you may know Tulsa is often referred to as the Nashville of the Midwest. At the time a lot of country musicians in the southwest were moving to Tulsa to try and get discovered. Darryl ended up getting signed by Columbia Records. He was young and naive and didn’t really read the contract. It was an exclusive deal that gave him almost no creative control. They basically wanted him to do terrible pop country and they refused to let him keep The Gusty Winds as his backing band. Darryl probably could have made quite a bit of money going along with Columbia’s terms, but he wouldn’t go for it. He went through a lot of lawyers trying to get out of that deal, but he never did find a way. But instead of quitting music like most guys probably would’ve, Weird Darryl decided to throw everything he had into touring.
Many people may not realize but Ringo Starr actually drummed for the Gusty Winds during the latter half of Darryl’s career, what was Darryl’s relationship with Ringo like?
Yeah, Ringo joined the band in ’86. Darryl and Ringo had met in Tulsa years earlier and became friends. Of course Ringo always loved country music. Even if you look back at the really early Beatles stuff, Ringo was bringing that country and western influence to the group. And he had some really great country solo records, too. So Ringo’s finger was always on the pulse of the American country underground and when he saw The Gusty Winds play, he knew they were great. Weird Darryl and Ringo were really close and loved to play jokes on each other. Darryl was particularly known for always doing terrible Beatles gags onstage and even trying to trick Ringo into playing old Beatles songs. Sometimes he’d just start playing one onstage and Ringo would either have to go along with it or look like a party pooper when he wouldn’t come in on the songs. It was a bit of a media circus having Ringo in the band, but he was only in the band because he was a great drummer and a great friend. The Beatles connection had very little to do with it.
Weird Darryl toured for his entire career. Some say Bob Dylan’s Never Ending Tour was even inspired by Darryl.
What are some crazy tour stories from Darryl’s time on the road?
There are so many! Folks interested in all the wild tour stories might want to search out issue #54 of Gusty Winds May Exist. I don’t have any copies left unfortunately but there’s bound to be some floating around out there somewhere. It’s filled cover to cover with just the craziest tour stories. Weird Darryl’s song “Drivin’ All Night” references a few of them, too. Anyway – there’s one story that’s so crazy I’ve never quite decided if I believe that it’s true or not, but the band’s original drummer Larry Ford told it to me so I’m inclined to believe him. Larry says that once the band was running late for a gig in Truth or Consequences and traffic was real backed up on the highway. They were stuck right around White Sands National Park and Alamogordo. See around there they sometimes shut down the roads when the army is doing missile tests in the area. Well Darryl hated being late for gigs so much that he would do whatever it took to make it on time. So he pulls the van off the highway and just starts booking it off-road through the desert. It went smoothly enough for a while but eventually the van overheated and broke down. They had to camp out in the middle of the White Sands that night and Larry swore to me that they could hear the missile tests off in the distance. The Gusty Winds didn’t miss too many gigs, but when they did, they’d be damned if they didn’t get a good story out of it.
Where does Weird Darryl rank among the greatest country singers of all time?
You know, I think he’s right up there at the top. All the great country singers of today are borrowing something or another from Weird Darryl even if they’d be hard pressed to admit it. Just because a guy wasn’t allowed to record doesn’t mean that he wasn’t the best there ever was. And now that we’re finally getting this recording out there in the world, I just hope the general public will finally start to see it and acknowledge how incredible Weird Darryl truly was. For years I’ve been lobbying the Country Music Hall of Fame to let him in, but I haven’t had any luck yet. I’m optimistic these recordings will change
Finally, if Weird Darryl were alive today what message do you think he would like to give to the multitudes of new fans this live album is sure to bring?
I think he would just be so tickled at the idea of all these folks sitting in their living rooms and their pickup trucks listening to his songs. Weird Darryl was always so nice to his fans and I can’t imagine it’d have been any different had he been a multi-platinum superstar. He was just a real down to earth guy who truly loved both kinds of music with all of his heart. I miss him every day.
You can check out and purchase Weird Darryl & The Gusty Winds’s The Last Boogie At Crazy Creek at https://weirddarryl.bandcamp.com/