R.I.P. Darondo

Spin magazine has reported some really sad news today: According to a post on his record label’s Facebook page, soul singer William Daron Pulliam has died.  Pulliam, more commonly known by his stage name Darondo was 67. The cause or day of his death have not been released.

I had the chance to interview Darondo in 2009. At the time he was living in an unassuming  Elk Grove tract home with his wife and family. It’s not clear if  he was still living there at the time of his death, however. Both the Spin and the Rolling Stone obituary dub him a “San Francisco” artist.

Certainly, SF is where Darondo first made a name for himself in the mid-'70s as a contendor for James Brown’s soul crown. His iconic “DIdn’t I?” song nearly made him a household name–as did his wildly fly style: High-flying kicks and splits on stage, full-length white mink coat, alligator shoes a showy car and pretty ladies always hanging around off-stage.

Eventually, however drugs set him back and Darondo faded from the music scene even has his scant music output became highly collectible. Not that he stayed low–he moved to Europe and weaned himself off the drugs and then moved back to Oakland where he hosted a racy cable access music show and earned a reputation as a hard-partying, cash-flush  pimp.

“That’s how I got my nickname, they called me ‘Daron-dough,” he told me in 2009.

He insisted then, however, that the pimp rumors were unfounded.

He enjoyed something of a comeback in the last few years after Justin Torres,  a Bay Area filmmaker tracked him down for a documentary he was making about Bay Area musicians. Torres happened to be friends with Andrew Jervis who had a label, Ubiquity Records.

In 2006 Ubiquity released a collection of Darondo’s old singles and previously unreleased tracks called Let My People Go.  If you can’t find that disc–the CD is reportedly hard to find although Ubiquity seems to have it available on their website (for now)–then check out the 2011 collection from Omnivore Recordings Listen to My Song: The Music City Sessions.

 

“Didn’t I” even made a cameo over the opening credits of the “Cancer Man” episode of Breaking Bad that aired in 2008.

 

 

I spent just a brief amount of time with Darondo but I remember him as stylish, funny and even sweet.

Justin Torres, the filmmaker, had the same impression.

“You hear all these stories about the man,” he told me then.  “But he was more down-to-earth than we expected.”