Donald's Encyclopedia of Popular Music



(b 10 May 1945, Worcester, England) Singer, songwriter, guitarist. His first group was the Jaguars, modelled on the Shadows in the early '60s; he then formed the Hellions with Jim Capaldi, drums; Luther Grosvenor, guitar; John 'Poli' Palmer, keyboards; later of Traffic, Spooky Tooth and Family respectively (the name of the group changed to Deep Feeling after Kim Fowley produced 'Daydreaming Of You').

Mason was a roadie for the Spencer Davis Group, and his friendship with Stevie Winwood led to a new band Traffic '67, an instant success: he wrote the single 'Hole In My Shoe' (no. 2 UK) but left late '67 after their first LP Mr Fantasy. He released a solo single 'Just For You', produced the Family album Music In A Doll's House, sessioned on Jimi Hendrix's Electric Ladyland '68, rejoined Traffic for their second (eponymous) LP (one of his four songs, 'Feelin' Alright', was much covered i.e. by Joe Cocker, Three Dog Night, Grand Funk, etc). He joined the Traffic splinter group Mason, Capaldi, Wood and Frog, without Winwood, and with regard to Traffic, Mason said many years later, he had happy memories of the period, but 'When it came time to select singles from the albums, my songs were usually picked [by the record company] and that created some kind of animosity. But my feeling was, Who cares who writes the hits? People will buy the albums and they'll hear everybody's music. But they didn't see it that way so I said, To hell with this! I packed a bag and my guitar and I headed to America.'

For months he slept on Gram Parsons' sofa trying to figure out what to do next. Parsons introduced him to Delaney and Bonnie Bramlett, and his next career began. He guested with them, and they played on his first solo album Alone Together with Leon Russell, Capaldi, and Rita Coolidge: it was a no. 22 album '70 in USA. That year he released a duet album Dave Mason And Cass Elliot, while hanging out at Cass's house in Laurel Canyon playing a lot of Frisbee (the Whammo company sent Cass all their latest products). Other company included the likes of Eric Clapton, Neil Young, Joni Mitchell, Graham Nash and David Crosby, as well as scores of actors and filmmakers, including a couple of people who were murdered by Charles Manson's family at Sharon Tate's house. 'They were nice people; there was nothing crazy or freaky about them...I could easily have been at the Tate house that night; it was a place I had visited many times.'

He played with Derek and the Dominos (having played with Clapton in Delaney & Bonnie), rejoined Traffic yet again for live Welcome To The Canteen. A projected mostly live two-disc set was released as two single LPs Headkeeper '72 and Dave Mason Is Alive! '73. He switched from Blue Thumb/MCA to CBS for solid singer/songwriter albums It's Like You Never Left '73 (with Nash and Stevie Wonder), Dave Mason '74, Split Coconut '75 (with Nash, Crosby, and Manhattan Transfer), Let It Flow '77, Mariposa de Oro '78, all top 50 LPs USA, but ignored at home. Other albums included two-disc Certified Live '76; Old Crest On A New Wave '80 reached no. 74 USA, the title summed it up.

His fluid, melodic guitar playing was often overlooked; it took Duane Allman to replace him in Derek and the Dominos. He was leading a good band at the annual Musicfest in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania in August 2010, and the show was sold out; his latest album was 26 Letters, 12 Notes in 2008. Critic Amy Longsdorf called for one of those four-disc boxed-set retrospectives to do justice to his career. Rhino did release a deluxe four-CD edition of Delaney & Bonnie on Tour with Eric Clapton in 2010, which includes several versions of his 'Only You And I Know', a big hit for Delaney & Bonnie. [Quotes are from Longsdorf's article in the Morning Call.]