Danny Kalb, guitarist with blues innovators The Blues Project, dies aged 80

The Blues Project
Danny Kalb [L] performs with The Blues Project, circa 1965 (Image credit: Don Paulsen/Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images)

Danny Kalb – guitarist for and leader of The Blues Project, trailblazers of New York’s blues scene in the ‘60s and ‘70s – has died at the age of 80.

Kalb’s passing was confirmed by his brother, Jonathan, his only immediate survivor, who tells the New York Times that Kalb was diagnosed with cancer around three years ago, and that he stopped eating about a week ago.

Born September 9, 1942 in Brooklyn, New York City, and raised in Mount Vernon, New York State, Kalb later attended the University of Wisconsin, where he met and later performed with Bob Dylan.

“Dylan crashed with me for a few weeks in Madison on his way from Hibbing, Minnesota, to New York,” Kalb told AM New York in 2013. “We had so much fun, I dropped out and followed him.”

Kalb went on to become a staple of a bustling Greenwich Village music scene, playing with the likes of Dave Van Ronk, Pete Seeger, Judy Collins and Jimmy Witherspoon, and accompanying Phil Ochs on his 1964 debut album, All the News That’s Fit to Sing.

With The Blues Project – which formed in 1965 – Danny Kalb sought to explore what the future held for blues music in the ‘60s. “We’re not reviving the blues,” the guitarist said in 1966. “We’re looking to interpret what’s happening today.”

While never achieving nationwide fame or success, The Blues Project made a significant mark in New York City blues clubs – most notably with extended residencies at Greenwich Village’s Cafe Au Go Go – covering blues classics including Chuck Berry songs, in addition to a selection of original material which took influence from a variety of genres, from pop to soul and jazz.

Despite the fact their impact was largely limited to NYC, The Blues Project did embark on a series of nationwide tours in the late ‘60s and early ‘70s.

The original Blues Project lineup parted ways in 1967, releasing their only studio album, Projections, in 1966. The band would later reunite in 1969, but with a new lineup.

In more recent times, Kalb performed solo acoustic gigs, and recorded music with the Danny Kalb Trio – including 2008's I'm Gonna Live the Life I Sing About – and as a solo artist, namely 2012's Moving in Blue.

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Sam Roche

Sam was Staff Writer at GuitarWorld.com from 2019 to 2023, and also created content for Total Guitar, Guitarist and Guitar Player. He has well over 15 years of guitar playing under his belt, as well as a degree in Music Technology (Mixing and Mastering). He's a metalhead through and through, but has a thorough appreciation for all genres of music. In his spare time, Sam creates point-of-view guitar lesson videos on YouTube under the name Sightline Guitar.