2/13/2020 12:32:00 PM Love of music connects father and son
Damon Mitchell and his bandmates take time for a pitcure at a show. Pictured from left to right are: Damonís father, Max Mitchell, Damon, Nick Tamez, Audie Blaylock, Nick Bowcott. (submitted photo)
By ANGELA DOWNING Daily News
The love of music has connected one Crawford County father and son and opened up opportunities they never expected.
Damon Mitchell is no stranger to music. His family has been in the business for decades.
He went to his first concert, where his father Max Mitchell was playing, when he was just six days old.
"I'd like to think that is when it all began," Damon said.
Max was no stranger to music at that point. He had been part of his parent's southern gospel group, "The Mitchells," since 1966, when he was nine years old. He continued to play with them until he retired on New Year's Eve 2017. The group was originally formed in the late 40's under the name "The Gospel Tones Trio."
When Max was starting out as part of the group, he played piano and as his love for music grew, so did his collection of musical equipment.
"I invested in an electric keyboard and moved on to recording equipment, " Max said.
"My obsession with rock 'n' roll began when I was two years old," Damon said. "This may be my earliest memory, I remember my father putting in a VHS tape of 'Chicago' live at The Greek Theatre. My mom provided me with pots and pans and I began drumming away," he said.
Damon played with "The Mitchells" for years. "We have been playing together since he was a little guy," Max said.
Throughout the years, Damon formed bands and played music with fellow classmates and friends.
"We would play talent shows at New Hebron Christian School, Robinson High School and Hutsonville High School," he said.
Eventually all his hard work paid off and one of the bands he formed with his friends, started touring. Just as most bands experience, members would come and go during the years. Once Damon was into his adult years, he began doing solo work with his own band.
In 2017, Damon began working on his debut album titled "Elise," which was released last year. The album contains original music and was charted on internet radio charts in two different categories.
While recording the album, he worked with legendary musicians such as Charlie McCoy, who played on the "Bridge Over Troubled Waters" album with Bob Dylan's "Blonde on Blonde" album and with Grammy nominated bluegrass artist, Audie Blaylock; Brian Arrowood, the fiddler for Travis Tritt; Kenny Loggins.
Tris Imboden, the drummer for the group 'Chicago,' would complete Damon's full circle of music. As a young boy that night drumming away to the music, Damon never thought that one day Imboden would be the drummer on his debut solo album.
"Suddenly I was making music with people that inspired me to play music. My dad, my ultimate hero, played keys on the record too," Damon said. "Dave Martin, an awarding winning producer and bassist, produced the album as well," Damon said.
In the summer of 2018, Damon became acquainted with the members of the band, 'America.'
"We connected one night when we were in Wabash, Ind. and to my surprise, they asked me to join them for an encore performance of "Horse With No Name," Damon said. "That may be one of the most thrilling moments of my life," he said. "Ironically I have done that three times now and on the second time, my father joined the group on stage, too."
"That was pretty fun to be able to be onstage with 'America' and Damon," Max recalled. "It is great spending time together, we are pretty good buddies."
Through the meeting with 'America,' Damon ending up landing a gig with 'Foreigner' last year.
"It was incredible walking out on stage with my father and Blaylock and playing original music for more than 1,500 people," Damon said.
Shortly after the performance, Damon received an email from The Clyde Theatre in Fort Wayne, Ind. asking if they would be interested in opening for 'Blue Oyster Cult.'
"And my answer was 'of course,'"he said with excitement. "One of my favorite memories that night was standing around talking with my father and Buck Dharma, an original member of 'BOC,' who wrote "Don't Fear The Reaper." I was also fortunate to be joined by my band members, Nick Tamez, Blaylock and Martin, as well as special guest Nick Bowcott, founding member of the metal band 'Grim Reaper,' who appeared with us on stage for our final song," Damon said.
On Feb. 29, Damon will be releasing a live CD that features Blaylock, Tamez, Martin, Walfredo Reyes Jr., from the group 'Chicago' and 'Santana,' as well as his father, Max.
"The album was engineered by fellow musician, Ian Roegels," Damon continued. "I had the privilege of going to Abbey Road Studios in London, UK, to have the album mastered by Frank Arkwright, who has done studio work for Elton John, 'The Killers,' 'Coldplay' and more. It was an honor to be able to work at the studio in which the most influential music was ever made."
Damon is currently working on another studio album that will contain all original music and will feature Blalock, Reyes Jr., Ryland Steen, of 'America;' Martin, Jacob Dupre, formerly of the 'Glenn Miller Orchestra;' Carolyn Martin, Jeff Pevar, guitarist for David Crosby, as well as his father Max. This will be Max's 50th album he has worked on during his musical career.
Max currently plays with the 'Red Letter Quartet' in Vincennes as well as with Damon. He also plays from time to time at Highland Church of Christ in Robinson.
"Playing is enjoyable," Max said. "I like meeting new people, making new friends and traveling."
"There is a lot of windshield time when Damon and I travel together, we have some pretty good talks," Max said.
Both father and son attended New Hebron Christian School and both are graduates of Robinson High School. Damon currently lives in Indiana and Max resides in rural Robinson.
The duo will join forces this summer to perform at the July 4th celebration in Robinson.
"I have come to the conclusion that I have been incredibly blessed to be surrounded with some of the best musicians who also want to act as teachers of the craft and industry. Every moment has provided another opportunity or experience I am thankful for and have learned from. I have an amazing support team," Damon said.
"My family, my wonderful girlfriend and a whole bunch of friends and mentors. I really do thank God everyday for how incredible this ride has been and it keeps getting better."
"This compulsion to create and play music runs so deeply within every part of me," Damon said. "It doesn't feel like a choice, it simply feels like my path."