In Memoriam: Kal David

Kal David: Rainer Knäpper/Wikimedia Commons.

Blues/rock guitarist Kal David died August 16 in Palm Springs, California. He was 79 and a cause of death was not immediately announced.

Born David Raskin, in 1961 the Chicago native took a stage name to front Kal David and the Exceptions, which included Peter Cetera on bass. The band signed to VeeJay Records and were regulars on the city’s blues scene until ’65, when David left to join a short-lived band before forming the Rovin’ Kind with Paul Cotton. In ’68, they changed the name to Illinois Speed Press and moved to Los Angeles.

Illinois Speed Press recorded two albums before David left in 1970 to form The Fabulous Rhinestones with bassist Harvey Brooks. The following year, that band moved to Woodstock, where over the next six years they recorded three albums, jammed with members of The Band and Paul Butterfield, and toured with Stevie Wonder, War, The Doobie Brothers, and The Allman Brothers.

Known as a Gibson Firebird player, David acquired his first at a repair shop.

“I thought ‘Boy, that’s an ugly guitar’,” he told VG in 2010. “But I got it for $175, and fell in love with it.” He later had a signature Hamer T-51.

In ’78, David and his longtime girlfriend, singer Laurie Bono, moved to Los Angeles, where he played for Etta James, Al Kooper, and Johnny Rivers (who also hired Bono as a backing vocalist on world tours and for two albums). Through the early ’80s, David played in John Mayall’s Bluesbreakers, helping to record Cross Country Blues.

In the early ’90s, David and Bono moved to Palm Springs, where they recorded two albums for a local label and became favorites at jams, including one hosted by Rivers. From ’98 through 2004, they operated the Blue Guitar club in Palm Springs, where they hosted musical acts and jams. David also sold instructional DVDs and did voice work for Disney World.

In the early ’00s, 38 Special co-founder/lead guitarist Jeff Carlisi spoke to David in Palm Beach, recalling that he “…was completely unaware the Speed Press had been so influential” on his band and other Southern-rock acts including Lynyrd Skynyrd. In 2008, the two jammed at a club in Boston, and stayed in touch afterward.

“He was humble and sincere,” Carlisi said. “No pretense, and he was a great ambassador for the blues.”

This article originally appeared in VG’s October 2022 issue. All copyrights are by the author and Vintage Guitar magazine. Unauthorized replication or use is strictly prohibited.

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