Lone Justice drummer, session professional Don Heffington dies at 70

by -5 views

Don Heffington, a prolific drummer and session musician who performed within the Los Angeles roots-rock band Lone Justice within the Eighties and later recorded and carried out with stars together with Bob Dylan and Dwight Yoakam, died Wednesday at his house in Los Feliz. He was 70.

His dying was confirmed by his daughter, Laura Heffington, who mentioned the trigger was problems from leukemia.

As soon as described by music journalist Ira Robbins as “Linda Ronstadt on velocity, maybe, or Dolly Parton backed by the Blasters,” Lone Justice performed rowdy however tuneful country-inflected rock constructed round singer Maria McKee’s excessive, swooping vocals. The band shortly established itself on L.A.’s membership scene, which led to a self-titled 1985 debut produced by Jimmy Iovine and a high-profile gig because the opening act on U2’s enviornment tour behind “The Unforgettable Hearth.”

But the lineup that made the “Lone Justice” debut album — McKee, drummer Heffington, guitarists Ryan Hedgecock and Tony Gilkyson and bassist Marvin Etzioni — broke up by the point of the group’s subsequent LP, 1986’s “Shelter,” which teamed McKee with a unique set of gamers for extra pop-oriented songs that smoothed out Lone Justice’s punky edge.

Heffington went on to work in several settings together with his previous bandmates; McKee known as him “the best and lovingest cat I ever did know” in an Instagram put up on Wednesday and wrote that he was “the one unique member of Lone Justice I by no means had any drama with.”

However the group’s splintering opened the door for Heffington to start collaborating extensively with different musicians, together with a number of the largest names in roots music. He performed on Dylan’s “Empire Burlesque” and “Knocked Out Loaded” albums, on Yoakam’s “Inhabitants Me” and on information by Jackson Browne, Victoria Williams, Shelby Lynne, Dave Alvin, Sam Phillips, the Jayhawks, Buddy Miller, the Wallflowers, Amy Rigby and Jimmie Dale Gilmore, amongst many others.

His drumming was regular however nimble, with a sensitivity and musicality that impressed these round him to evoke Ringo Starr.

“Don knew the distinction between loud and powerful,” Van Dyke Parks, a seasoned composer and arranger who labored continuously with Heffington, advised The Instances. “He knew methods to depart house. His strikes have been financial. And he was so observant. He discovered so much from watching different percussionists. He knew why Ringo was enjoying the dyslexic patterns that he got here up with.”

Van Dyke Parks, holding a guitar, poses with Don Heffington.

Van Dyke Parks, left, and Don Heffington

(Amy Allison)

Session guitarist Greg Leisz, one other of Heffington’s common collaborators, mentioned Heffington introduced “the sensibility of a jazz drummer into blues and rock and nation conditions” and mentioned he had “a singular understanding of methods to help a very quirky singer-songwriter” like Williams or Dylan.

“He’d observe the singer’s vibe and play simply the correct factor for the tune,” Leisz mentioned.

Laura Heffington, who mentioned her father valued improvisation over repetition, recalled a favourite quote of his: “Training a tune so to play it precisely the identical manner each time is like saying, ‘Hey, that was an amazing dialog we had! Let’s have that very same dialog again and again.’”

Heffington was born on Dec. 20, 1950, in Los Angeles. His mom performed upright bass and his grandmother was a drummer. As an adolescent, he performed jazz however turned his focus to rock ‘n’ roll after listening to Dylan’s mid-’60s work.

Leisz remembered encountering Heffington one night time within the ’70s — “would possibly’ve been on the Troubadour,” he mentioned — because the drummer was hanging out with Tom Waits.

“I had no thought what he did, however I used to be simply intrigued by the best way he carried himself,” Leisz mentioned. “He had this form of bohemian, beatnik high quality.”

Don Heffington, behind his drum kit, leans his chin into his hand.

Don Heffington at L.A.’s Largo nightclub.

(Laura Heffington)

Earlier than he joined Lone Justice, Heffington performed as a member of Emmylou Harris’ Sizzling Band and carried out on her albums “Blue Kentucky Lady” in 1979 and “White Footwear” in 1983. A function on Lone Justice in Spin journal in 1985 described Heffington’s presence as a sort of professionalizing pressure, and certainly many within the music enterprise had next-big-thing industrial hopes for the band that by no means fairly materialized.

With fun, Leisz mentioned, “I’ve to consider that Don was — ‘suspicious’ is the improper phrase — however that he took all of the hype with a grain of salt. He’d been round too lengthy by then.”

Parks agreed, saying Heffington “didn’t spend any time rehearsing victories. He was at all times extra serious about sticking his neck out.”

In recent times, Heffington launched a pair of solo albums — of 2014’s “Gloryland,” he advised the Argonaut web site, “I needed it to sound like some drunk falling down the steps whereas he was training the trombone” — and carried out recurrently as a part of the “Watkins Household Hour,” a spread present began by Sean and Sara Watkins of the bluegrass trio Nickel Creek at L.A.’s Largo nightclub.

His survivors embrace Laura Heffington; a son, John Heffington; and a stepdaughter, Desiree Buckman.

On Wednesday, Sara Watkins recalled hiring her brother, Heffington and bassist Sebastian Steinberg to accompany her on a no-frills tour behind her self-titled 2009 solo debut.

“I used to be tour managing, they usually all simply piled right into a minivan with me — all of the inconveniences and not one of the luxurious,” she mentioned. “However Don was totally in for the entire thing. Simply recreation to play. To hit the street. To make some music.”

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *