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Talent, Tenacity, Tequila & a Tale of Two Texas Teenagers

Alan Bryson By

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"It was the only thing I'd heard that made sense to me, so I responded to it. That began to spawn some ideas to write songs that might help people to understand, or help ones who maybe couldn't feel anything or were cynical or cold. Lyrically, I think music can convey things that are hard sometimes for people to say to each other. But through a song, through someone else's eyes, they can see it and it's not so much a confrontation."

When Marcia Day heard them she recognized they clearly had something special, and became the duo's manager. Their spiritual awakening gave their music and lyrics meaning, purpose, and heartfelt intensity. In a January 1971 interview with Stereo Review Magazine by Deborah Landau, Dash put it this way:

"Our awareness of our lives has changed, and therefore our music too. You start out writing songs like 'the leaves are green and the sky is blue and I love you and you love me' -very simple lyrics -but you grow into a much broader awareness of life, of love, and of unity. It's really great to be able to say something real in your music."

The big sound of the Dawnbreakers hadn't fit what they wanted to convey. Dash and Jimmy opted for intimacy and recognized that sometimes less is more, and the mandolin became Dash's primary instrument. Louie Shelton, his friend, producer, and brother-in-law at that time, shared this with me here on AllAboutJazz in an interview:

"Imagine, Dash's brother had a mandolin hanging on the wall at his place, so Dash pulled it down and learned how to play it, and that became the Seals & Crofts sound! At first it was totally acoustic, just the two guys and later they added a bass. So it was initially very sparse, but also very complex."

People who only know them from their radio hits aren't aware of the intricate guitar mandolin duets Jimmy and Dash played—they were, in their own way, somewhat reminiscent of what the Allman Brothers were doing with dual lead guitars at that time— of course Seals & Crofts were acoustic and more structured, but also more complex. It's all the more remarkable when you consider they had been touring for eight years as a saxophonist and drummer.

How Good Were They?

Many people who saw Seals & Crofts in concert during their early years, from 1969 though 1973, became ardent life-long fans. They were a tremendous live act. Two seasoned professionals who were unique in style, sound, and approach. They exuded sincerity and authenticity and somehow managed to create a cone of intimacy into which the audience was drawn. Dash Crofts (a fitting name, but Flash Crofts would have been perfect) was engaging, extroverted, and a flamboyant dresser, and Jimmy Seals was quiet and cerebral. Once a disc jockey jokingly asked Jimmy, "So you're Dash's dad, right?" Jimmy and Dash exploded in laughter. They complemented each other in terms of music, voices, temperament, chemistry, and personality. As is often the case with popular music partnerships, they had a synergy that somehow rendered the whole greater than the sum of its parts.

As a testament to how good Seals & Crofts were live, think of them playing venues like the Fillmore as an opening act for high energy bands like Chicago and Procol Harum. Young people can be vicious when it comes to substitute teachers and opening acts. Imagine walking out on stage as an opening act in front a rock crowd with two chairs, a mandolin, an acoustic guitar with nylon strings, and a bassist. Wimps could not survive something like that. Not only did Seals & Crofts survive, they thrived, and consistently won over audiences. They tenaciously kept at it and built a fan base, impressed critics, and caught the attention of bookers. They actually opened for Delaney and Bonnie and Friends with Eric Clapton at the Fillmore East two night in a row on February 6th and 7th 1970. It must have gone well because six month later they again opened for Delaney and Bonnie and Friends in New York's Central Park. The New York Times reported on Aug 7th, 1970:

"Delaney & Bonnie and Friends, a joyous soulrock gospel ensemble, played a long concert Wednesday evening at Wollman Rink in Central Park... The group was joined for the evening by Herbie Mann on flute, and Duane Allman, who was outstanding on slide guitar. On the bill, too, was a fine folk and bluegrass performance by Seals & Crofts."

(Interesting factoid: Delaney Bramlett, Dash Crofts, and Jimmy Seals were once bandmates. After relocating to Los Angeles to break into the music business, Delaney Bramlett did a brief stint as a guitarist with the Champs before landing a gig in the house band on the television music show "Shindig!" It would be interesting to know if that played a role in Seals & Crofts opening for them.)

How Good Were They? A Fan's Perspective

Here's a note posted on the concert experiences section of the Seals & Crofts website that captures what they were like from a fan's perspective:

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