March 10, 2008 – Chuck Day (Mamas & Papas) was born on August 6th 1942 in Chicago, Illinois.
At age 15 in 1957, he recorded the single “Pony Tail Partner” under the name Bing Day at Federal Records. He recorded several singles over the next ten years as ‘Bing Day’ and, also, ‘Ford Hopkins’, before moving to L.A. in 1965. He worked with the likes of the Johnny River band on the tracks “Here We GoGo Again” and “Rivers Rocks the Folk”.
Chuck wrote the distinctive riff in “Secret Agent Man”. He next joined the Mamas and Papas as their bass guitarist and was second guitarist on “Monday, Monday” and “California Dreamin’.
Day was the father of Mama Cass Elliott’s daughter, Owen, but Elliott, who died of a heart attack in 1974, never identified him as the father. He was stunned when his daughter, then 21, sought him out. They met for the first time in Fairfax.
Day was a musical prodigy who recorded the teeny-bopper tune “Pony Tail Partner” on a regional record label in 1957, when he was 15.
Two years later, he came tantalizingly close to the big time, recording a jazz-oriented single, “Mama’s Place,” for Mercury Records, a major label. It broke into Billboard’s Top 100 at No. 98, but fell off the chart the next week. He never got that close to stardom again.
“I’m very often frustrated that people make it who don’t have as much talent as I do,” he said in 1983, when he was tending bar and playing a couple of nights a week. “But I reconciled myself to that a long time ago.”
After moving to Fairfax in 1969, he played on Shel Siverstein’s “Freaker’s Ball,” the soundtrack for the movie “Fritz the Cat” and other projects in the ’70s and ’80s.
An imposing bear of a man, Mr. Day played guitar left-handed and sang in a bluesy baritone. He almost always played sitting down, commanding the stage from a stool.
For 15 years, he hosted the Blue Monday Jam at the 19 Broadway saloon in Fairfax, providing the limelight for countless Marin musicians who were influenced by him.
“He was the soul of the music scene in Fairfax,” said 19 Broadway co-owner Garry Graham, a close friend. “He had a lot of musical disciples. He meant a lot to a lot of guys. This is a great loss for our town.”
Tim Bush, who played bass in Chuck Day’s band, the Burning Sensations, called him “the best musician I’ve ever played with in my life. He had the most soulful voice.”
As a bandleader, Bush added, “He could be the sweetest guy on the planet or a tough SOB.” In 1997, the band recorded a CD, “Desperate Measures.”
In an Independent Journal interview, Charles “Chuck” Day conceded that he smoked and drank too much. Last summer, he was too ill to attend a tribute day at the Fairfax Festival. It included a concert in his honor featuring his many musician friends and proteges, who billed themselves as “Chuck’s Chilluns.”
“The whole town turned out for it,” said Mike McShea, who helped organize the show. “It was the biggest crowd ever.”
While renowned for his musicianship, he also was remarkably astute and highly intelligent. “He was a brilliant conversationalist,” Graham said. “People should know how smart he was.”
Chuck also recorded with The Young Gyants, Shel Silverstein and in 2006 with Steve Wolf.
Chuck Day died after a long illness on March 10, 2008 at the age of 65.
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