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Dillard & Clark Expedition

The short-lived but creatively eventful late 60s country rock outfit The Dillard & Clark Expedition probably seemed pre-destined, considering all of the prior connections between Gene Clark and Doug Dillard. Dillard was a Missouri-born banjo virtuoso and, with younger brother Rodney, had made his name playing bluegrass with the Dillards in the early '60s. The Dillards had opened gigs for Clark's group the Byrds in 1965 and 1966. Dillard had also played banjo on an album featuring Gene Clark with the Gosdin Brothers in late '66. Both Douglas and Gene were originally from Missouri and grew up in musical families.

Though Gene Clark left the Byrds in March of 1966, his subsequent work often paralleled that of his former colleagues. In part, this was the result of their continuing ties and shared friendships with other L.A. musicians. Clark's first solo album, recorded and released more or less simultaneously with Younger Than Yesterday (with many of the same personnel) contained some early country rock songs. Clark's next project explored country and bluegrass music more deeply.

In early 1968, Gene Clark was signed to A&M, but several months had elapsed without much progress toward a solo album. Meanwhile, Clark was starting to spend more and more time with Dillard, who was living with future Eagle Bernie Leadon, who himself had just departed from the folk rock combo Hearts & Flowers. 

Clark hit on the idea of forming a modern bluegrass band with Dillard, and began writing songs with Leadon and Dillard, both separately and together. Clark's sponsor at A&M, Larry Marks, liked the idea, and the team of Dillard & Clark was given permission to start recording, with Marks producing. David Jackson, a bandmate of Leadon's in Hearts & Flowers, came in on string bass, and Don Beck contributed his expertise on dobro and mandolin. Chris Hillman added some mandolin, and Andy Belling played harpsichord on a few cuts.

By October of 1968, they had released The Fantastic Expedition of Dillard & Clark, an album rooted in bluegrass, with elements of rock, folk, and country. Leadon would cover one of the songs, "Train Leaves Here This Morning," (which he co-wrote) on the first Eagles album. Unfortunately, the commercial success was not afforded to Dillard & Clark and the album missed the charts entirely.

Dillard & Clark began recording a second album early in 1969 with a new supporting band. The new lineup featured Leadon, fiddler Byron Berline, drummer Jon Corneal, and guitarist/back-up singer Donna Washburn. Steel guitarist Sneaky Pete Kleinow and Chris Hillman, who were both members of The Flying Burrito Brothers, also appeared. After the release of ' Through the Morning, Through the Night ' Leadon left and joined the Eagles. Clark decided to pursue a solo career in early 1970. Dillard continued his solo career, using the remaining members of the duo's backing band as the core of his new outfit, The Expedition.

Dillard and Clark continued to pursue solo careers throughout the '80s and '90s, with Dillard garnering more success and critical acclaim than Clark. Clark died in 1991 at the age of 46. Douglas moved to Nashville, where he continues to play music at every opportunity.

© 2004