One of my best friends is Danny Welton. He’s been an actor in over 40 movies and a comedian who worked with Milton Berle for years. Look him up! At age 92, Welton is still worthy of being called one of the best harmonica players that ever lived. He kills it on the chromatic harmonica!
We met in L.A. in the Magnolia Audio Video section of the West Hollywood Best Buy, where I was working at the time. After a lifetime of thriving in the music and film industries, Danny had been swindled of his life savings by a crooked lawyer, and he was forced to live part-time on the street.
Our store had a mock patio with a counter for dining, and one day Danny, after visiting a charity food truck, came in out of the weather to sit and eat. When someone tried to kick him out, he brushed them off, announcing that he was a star. I Googled his name and immediately learned that he was telling the truth.
Our musical connection and his colorful personality made us into fast friends. I enjoyed his stories. He dated Marilyn Monroe and played harmonica accompaniment for a jailed Frank Sinatra in Meet Danny Wilson. He was a gang member with Brando in The Wild One. “Bebop” was his character’s name, and he plays jazz harmonica in the film, while harassing the local bartender. What drew me to Danny, though, was his love for music, and how he was always expecting a brighter future.
Today, he’s doing all right, with a modest place to stay. His health is still remarkably good. He is currently trying to set up an audition on America’s Got Talent, and he’s also cowriting a screenplay about the life of his favorite musician of all time, jazz singer Sarah Vaughan. It’s like a holy quest for him. How could someone so good be so overlooked!
The last time I spoke with Danny, he posed an interesting question. Knowing what a unique and brilliant talent Sarah was, should he use an actress who could sing well, or should he just dub in Sarah’s voice? I told him that I preferred finding a talent who could do justice to Sarah’s vocal stylings. But who could even attempt to fill the shoes of this incredible songstress?
Recently, I found just the person! Her name is Samara Joy. She is only 23, but the young lady has all the vocal style and sophistication of a singer in her 40s at the top of her career!
Samara just won her first Grammy Award in February. Before that, she actually won a Sarah Vaughan voice competition, so she’s already touring, accompanied by notable jazz artists. I’m still waiting to hear Danny’s impression of her singing, but I think I already know what his reaction will be.
I don’t know if this movie dream of Danny’s will come true in his lifetime. But the reason I’ve shared this story is to celebrate how important music is to life. It literally keeps Danny young. And for me, listening to music reveals new depths and refinements that I get to share with others through the equipment that I recommend. My clients often discover aspects of great music that were previously hidden to them. An audio system that can show off all of the music’s power and subtlety makes it easy to explore music at the level where its heart lies.
After you’re done learning about Danny, look up Samara Joy on YouTube, where the dynamics in her great voice are all effortlessly displayed. Her sound is rich and focused, without a trace of strain or artifice. She obviously loves what she does, and so does every audience.
May you always stay in hot pursuit of great sound and get pure joy from your music for the rest of a long, long life.
Paul Squillo owns Golden Ears, Inc., in Fairfield, Iowa, and has been a high-end AV consultant for 50 years.