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Man of the House

Daryl Hall

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Last Updated: 03/18/2015 2:01 pm
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The twosome eventually hooked up with infamous music industry mogul Tommy Mottola, who became their manager and procured a contract with Atlantic for the release of their first three albums, Whole Oates (1972), Abandoned Luncheonette (1973), which yielded their first hit, "She's Gone," a number 60 single (number seven after its 1976 rerelease), and the Todd Rundgren-produced War Babies (1974). A label jump to RCA for 1975's Daryl Hall & John Oates brought their first Top 10 hit, that year's "Sara Smile," and with 1976's prophetically titled Bigger Than Both of Us the duo added more pop rock touches to their blue-eyed soul sound and ended up with their first number one, "Rich Girl." Toward the end of the decade the partners hit a wall when 1977's Beauty on a Back Street and 1978's Along the Red Ledge—which features guitar tracks by Rundgren, George Harrison, Cheap Trick's Rick Nielson, and Robert Fripp—and 1979's X-Static all charted low. In one of rock history's odder pairings, during this era Hall formed an alliance with Fripp, singing on the King Crimson leader's 1979 Exposure (E.G. Records) and collaborating with him for his own Sacred Songs. A shockingly aberrant avant-rock set, it combines crashing punk ("NYCNY"), haunting "Frippertronics" á la the guitarist's work on David Bowie's Low ("Urban Landscape"), and Hall's soulful delivery couched in experimental art rock ("Babs and Babs"). Deemed too uncommercial for release by the label, Sacred Songs didn't see store shelves until 1980, three years after its creation. "Typical music-business nonsense," says Hall about the delay. "RCA just wanted me to do 'Rich Girl Jr.,' and I wasn't interested in that."

But no doubt the company forgave the singer his sidestep soon after, as the early 1980s became the era when Hall and Oates owned the AM airwaves. In the first half of the decade, their onslaught of number one singles seemed unstoppable and the molten platinum flowed fast via the albums Voices (1980), Private Eyes (1981), H2O (1982), and Big Bam Boom (1984). The wild ride and the hits slowed down as the `80s closed (the group's last Top 40 tune was 1990's "So Close"), although Hall and Oates, who were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2014, have continued releasing albums and touring individually and together. Along the way, Hall developed another interest that would shape his life: restoring historic homes.

"Old houses and music," he says. "Those are my passions. Growing up near Philly, I fell in love with antique architecture. My grandfather was a mason, so I guess I got some of it from him, too." The singer has acquired and preserved several dwellings in the US and England, including two 18th-century houses near Hartford, Connecticut, that he had moved to Millerton and later discovered were connected to the same Colonial family. One of these homes became the initial site of "Live from Daryl's House," which began in 2007 as a webcast. The weekly episodes star the host and a different musical guest performing together, conversing about music, and preparing and enjoying a meal. "I don't like to tour as much as I used to, so I thought [the show] would be a great way for people to still see me and my friends play and for me to expose them to some newer artists," says Hall about the series that has aired on national TV since 2011. Among its many guests, the program—"still a web show at heart," Hall maintains—has featured his idol Smokey Robison plus Oates, Joe Walsh, Darius Rucker, Todd Rundgren, Sharon Jones, Billy Gibbons, Cee-Lo Green, and others, including numerous up-and-comers.

One of the latter is soul artist Mutlu, who also hails from Philadelphia. "I was one of the first guests on the show, and it's been an honor to work with one of my favorite heroes—plus it's cool that we have that Philly connection," says the young singer, who has toured with Hall and Oates, appeared on the broadcast multiple times, and performs frequently at Hall's Pawling nightspot. "[The club] has a great sound system and works equally well for acoustic or full-band shows. There's a really comfortable vibe. Basically, the place is an extension of who Daryl is." Extending himself further, Hall has parlayed his love of home preservation into another television show, "Daryl's Restoration Over-Hall," which debuted on the DIY Network last year and chronicles the musician's renovations of historic properties.

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