Memories of Danny McClain from Friends and Family
In this week's RFT, we profiled Danny McClain, the mind-blowing local musician who passed away on March 28 at the age of 31. To further honor his memory, we invited some of his friends and family to share their favorite Danny McClain stories with A to Z.
Courtesy of Mary Ann Starr
Mary Ann Starr, sister: Danny got a Fraggle Rock drum set for Christmas when he was 6 or 7 years old. Our parents let him play in the garage and for a few hours a day. They had to put a limit or he'd play all the time.
Matt James, childhood friend: Danny and I had a Saturday ritual. His mom would take us to every thrift store and record store in the entire city and we'd pick up whatever used cassettes we could find and collect Ramones and Black Flag records, then we'd spend the evening watching [punk documentary] The Decline Of Western Civilization for the 40th or 50th time and eating pizza. This went on every Saturday for about two years.
Starr: He was always interested in things other kids weren't interested in. He loved movies. One of his favorites was Rocky Horror Picture Show; he and my mom watched that movie every Friday night for about a year. And he would write these very intellectual, eloquent movie reviews when he was nine years old. He came up with his own grading system. Movies would get up to four stars, and zero stars was a turkey, like a little drawing of a Thanksgiving turkey.
James: We started a band doing Ramones and Nirvana covers. Our first show was at the junior high talent show. We did "About A Girl" by Nirvana. It was especially cool because somebody set up the amps for us and had them up way too loud, and it turned into an overdriven feedback mess for three minutes.
Starr: He was thirteen or fourteen when he started his first band, Detox. It was like, four eighth graders and they were just kind of finding their way playing noise punk. He was a really mature kid. When Danny was fourteen he was in a band, he was playing shows and he was making zines. He was always very serious about [music].
Jesse Johnson, former bassist of Johnny Angel and current keyboardist for Motion City Soundtrack: Danny was one of the funniest people I've ever met. His dark sense of humor definitely shaped what I still find funny to this day. For my 21st birthday Danny and our friends went to Chuckie Cheese and played around in the ball pit and took photos on kids' rides before going outside and jumping in puddles like children. Since our pants got soaked, by the time we met our friends at Del Taco, Danny and I strolled in nonchalantly with shoes, shirts, and underwear. No pants.
Starr: We were really close in age and knew how to push each other's buttons. He would follow my friends and I around and be like, "Hey Mary Ann, I'm going to tell mom that I saw you smoking unless you give me a dollar." But a few years later, I remember telling my mother that I really like my brother, and she said, "I've been waiting my whole life to hear that."
James: I went on tour filling in on guitar with Johnny Angel. We had shows booked in Canada, and ran into some trouble when we attempted to cross the Detroit Windsor Bridge because two of the guys in the band had brought a fairly large amount of fireworks. The border patrol took our amplifiers apart to search them for drugs, read our journals, kept us in a holding cell for 12 hours, confiscated the Johnny Angel tapes and records and read the lyrics to make sure they were appropriate for the Canadian people. After all that they said, "Okay, you guys are free to come into Canada." Then we drove to Quebec City and played for two people.
Darin Gray, Grand Ulena bassist: From the early stages Danny was somebody who pushed me. He sensed I was getting older and sensed I was getting, I don't know if lazy is the right word, but that I was getting tired and he pushed me really really hard. I mean, Grand Ulena band practices would last eight, nine, ten hours. I wouldn't have been able to do anything like that if it wasn't for him. Along with Chris [Trull, Grand Ulena's guitarist], he saved me from not playing music again and pretty much saved me from a life of misery.