tribute to my father


My good friend Jerry Rapp recently sent me a copy of his tribute to my father. Jerry and my father shared a chicken coop that had been divided in half and converted into studio space. My father rented one half — Studio Um, his “place of light and sound” — and Jerry rents the other half, where he writes. From Jerry Rapp:

Dear Friends and Family,

Many of you have had the pleasure of being in the company of my friend, my neighbor, my sage, my father figure, Mr. Darrell DeVore. Those of you who haven’t have no doubt heard me speak of him fondly.

The moment my dear friend Cain introduced me to his elder, it was awe at first sight. Many have had similar experiences upon first meeting. Darrell always left a lasting impression. He has been extremely influential in my life for over sixteen years. With great heaviness in my heart, I am writing to inform you that Mr. DeVore, aka Mr. Sound Magic, aka Dr. Um, passed into the next dimension Saturday, July 9, at approximately 3 pm, after an accelerated lung cancer claimed his physical form.

To attempt to describe the life of the Dr. in a short summary is nearly impossible. I’ll wait for the various tributes to emerge, of which there will no doubt be several, as this extraordinary being touched so many lives. Darrell had an incredible existence, from his early days as a jazz trumpeter and pianist in the Kansas City region, his stint in the 60s band, The Charlatans (who often shared bills with the Grateful Dead), his later move to primitive instruments and his final days exploring all the sounds of the Universe, many of which he found in recycled materials. Darrell was music personified. He lived in a world of constant discovery, brightening with child-like glee over the eureka of a new sound discovery. He took his knowledge into the streets and classrooms, spreading the power of music, and was convinced the world would be a peaceable kingdom if everyone could express their inner musician. He dreamt of a world where there was “a grand piano on every street corner.” Darrell was a font of progressive ideas, a true visionary, a riveting historian, and our talks into the wee hours covered everything from the solos of Roland Kirk to the future of the planet.

Darrell was a writer, a painter, a maker of mandalas, a maker of installations, an avid reader, and a master at haiku, to name but a fraction of his gifts. But he was truly at his happiest when he was demonstrating his cache of discovered sounds to new ears. He heard frequencies most humans don’t. He didn’t just play — he experienced music. He took his passion everywhere, teaching new sounds and musical possibilities not only in schools, but in workshops and public venues. Anyone who ventured to his studio space were treated to some of the best, most intimate concerts they’d ever seen. No person was a stranger, no ear unworthy of hearing his musical ideas. He taught, he encouraged he watched as discovery would dawn in the eyes of his rapt visitors.

In the town of Petaluma, he was a respected icon. Generations of children and adults alike would stop to say hi as they saw him shuffle along like a pied piper. Sometimes they would sing back to Darrell the simple, primitive tunes he had taught them in the classroom. He would usually answer them with an accompaniment from the flute that always dangled from his neck, throw a little wave, and beam his winning smile.

On the day Darrell passed, friends and family couldn’t help but notice that his eyes looked like a teenager’s, all the discoloration gone, now pools of vibrant blue. They were filled with the joy and youthfulness we had all come to know, as if in death, something had been reborn. Stepping out into the field for a private moment, I was relieved that his pain had abated but so utterly sad for the world, having lost this incredible spirit. I happened a look into the sky, where the overcast was breaking, and was utterly floored by the striking hue of blue — the richest, most amazing blue I’d ever seen — beaming through the clouds. I felt comforted by the idea that Darrell’s spirit continues on. The music isn’t dead. It is just beginning.

Losing Darrell has, needless to say, been very difficult. The gravity of this loss hits me at completely unpredictable times, but it also feels natural. At times, even comforting. It has beamed a light on a lot of things for me. Whenever I start to feel down about it all, I start imagining the music session that Darrell is having right now: Miles, Mingus, Cannonball, Dolphy, Roland, Dizzy, Jerry G., Harry Parch, Mr. Cage, and on and on . . . JC (that is, Johnny C.) was heard to remark, “DeVore, what took you so long?” And in music heaven, everybody gets to solo.

I will always remember you, my good friend. For my part, I will make a little music everyday, somehow, someway, to say hello to you. And every time I experience the music, I will know you are near.



One Response to “tribute to my father”

  1. 1 DRNOAH

    i’m frealed out, for real! your dad and i played many a gig in kansas city, mo. when he was a fledgling pianist, writing his own unique stuff, like “pinwheel,” which we recorded with k.c.legendary drummer, chuck mcfarland….your dad and i spent countless hours hanging at the conservatory, where i was a student, out from new york city…my name at the time was richard youngstein and i played acoustic bass. your dad, myself and drummer charles gray, in addition to mcfarland, played a few times(as a trio and with saxist, the late great travis jenkins)at the first few kansas city jazz festivals. what a man! what a creative soul and heart! i loved him, even though we lost touch until about a year or so ago when we hooked up via telephone. he was going to send me his choice of a handmade flute to me and i was going to send him a copy of a spoken word/jazz cd i recorded a few years ago called: Dr. Noah Young: Freaks-No Fear of Contagion.” i never got around to mailing it due to illness and never got my devore flute either. didn’t matter. i loved him and always will. there never was nor will be another darrell. blessings from the heart to him and his beloved family. if i ever find photos from those days in k.c.(1962-67 or so)please let me know where to send them; i had some of him and young son cain, with sandy in a few too. This is too sad to contemplate. (I legally changed my name to Noah Young in 1970 or so).

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