I met Paul Lagos during the time my brother Art and I were starting a band. Paul was by far the best drummer we tried and from the first bar of whatever we played, we could hear that. Paul died in 2009. He left behind a lot of people who miss him!
I met Don at Paul Lagos' house, in the basement where we started jamming. Paul put together the "Sugarcane Harris Band", I believe after touring with Don and Larry in John Mayall's band and recording "USA Union". Don was impossible to work with and John dropped him. Larry quit the band after a couple of gigs, one of which was at the Troubadour Ash Grove on Santa Monica Blvd.
When Larry split, my friend Victor Conte came in and I think the band sounded better from then on. Victor's style, which developed during that band's life, got really personal, and he learned, we both learned a huge amount of shit from Paul, from Don and from others like Richard Aplan, the great sax and flute player that we got to know through Paul.
One of the first gigs we played with Victor was at El Monte Legion Hall, opening for Johnny Otis, with whom Don and Paul played before. In fact, Paul is the drummer on the Monterrey Jazz Festival recordings of Johnny Otis. On that gig, the audience went nuts over Don's playing, singing and his stage antics, such as jumping into the crowd with his violin, creating at the same time a hugely amplified 60 hz hum when the cord snapped out of the violin.
From the first gig on, I saw the magic Don inspired in audiences and I thought he'd be another Jimi Hendrix, albeit not as creative in song writing. I think we could have gone there eventually if not for Don's total self-destructive habits. All I can say is that I never got chills in any other band like the ones I got when Don took off alone in a cadenza or when he and Paul did violin-drums duets. It was tribal, it was primitive and it was real music with all the faults that make us human. Don had a swing to his playing, a groove, a soulfulness that you don't hear anywhere else. No one plays with such gut-wrenching rawness, because musicians are trained to play "better". Little by little, I want to try to comment on the recordings I will post. I hope someone reads this and shares their own memories.