Oliver Darling plays Country/Folk Blues and Americana-his set's comprise of covers and originals influenced by artists such as Big Bill Broonzy and Sam Chatmon. His 2022 debut solo release Lee's Blues has recieved great reviews and extensive airplay. On his trio show he is joined by Rollo Markee on hamronica and vocals, and Rob Pokorny on drums.
Whilst not doing his own thing, he is guitarist with Imelda May and Geraint Watkins.
FULL BIOG-Folk Blues & Beyond
Oliver Darling has been performing solo acoustic shows in the clubs for years up and down the UK. He also performs as a Trio, often in the company of drummer Dean Beresford (Richard Hawley, Imelda May) and double bass player Al Gare (Imelda May, King Pleasure & The Biscuit Boys). Sets comprising classic delta blues, upbeat fingerpicking folk blues and their successors rockabilly and rock ‘n’ roll. Now Oliver has poured all that experience into a debut solo album scheduled for release in October.
2022 has been an incredibly busy year for Oliver with full tours of the UK, Ireland, Spain, plus Hyde Park, Glastonbury, Black Deer festivals as a guitar slinger with Imelda May’s band. Now he is looking ahead to going back out on the road with his own trio and solo shows performing the tracks off his new album ‘Lee’s Blues’. The trio will be completed with the addition of Rollo Markee (The Tailshakers) on harmonica and vocals, and drummer Rob Pokorny (Billy Branch, James Hunter, Si Cranstoun), both of whom have guested on Oliver’s new album.
Oliver Darling has built a career and solid reputation as a stylish guitarist of note through working with many musicians such as Mike Sanchez, Tanita Tikaram, Buena Vista Social Club members, Geraint Watkins, and today continues to enjoy being involved with some of the best artists in the business. He has been a touring member of Imelda May’s band since 2015.
The new album, a collection of eleven tracks with eight penned by Darling, is inspired by the folk blues singers and players of mid-century America, particularly Big Bill Broonzy.
‘Lee’s Blues’ sees Darling finally set out his stall as his own Artist.
Oliver has worked with many musicians during his career building a solid reputation, and today enjoys being involved with some of the best artists in the business.
He started playing a guitar his Mother got from a jumble sale after expressing an interest in playing after hearing ''Purple Haze'' by Jimi Hendrix at school. He then had lessons for three or four years, before teaching himself. His Fathers record collection was mainly country blues (especially Big Bill Broonzy) and 60s Rock and Roll , all heavily guitar led. For an aspiring young guitarist, this was a library of exciting tricks to learn, more so than other music around at the time or since, and Oliver quickly became a student of the blues and its many forms. But the lessons really started when he began playing with other musicians....
'I got ok at it (guitar), and my Uncle Martin introduced me to some local musicians, including Steve Walwyn (guitarist with Dr Feelgood and The Big Town Playboys at the time). Steve invited me up on stage when I was 15, and the buzz was amazing, I knew what I wanted to do...'
Oliver then formed his first band, with Chas Chaplin (the drummer from Steve's band) on drums, and firstly Matt Clark then later Craig Rhind (also from Steve's band) on bass....the band was called The Bluetits.
'Retrospectively, I was so lucky to be playing with experienced and tasteful musicians like these, really spoilt-they saved me years of messing around and pointed me in the right direction'.
Around this time Oliver saw Mike Sanchez, then front man of The Big Town Playboys;
'I was blown away with his style and charisma, and also the level of musicianship, I'd never seen anyone that good before. The fact that it was wrapped up with a great show as well was awesome, he had everything'.
This made an impression, and Oliver's understanding of the whole art of the show began to develop.
It was also around this time that Oliver fully began to appreciate the true brilliance of Fleetwood Mac's frontman and founder, Peter Green;
'I'd always listened to and liked Peter Green, but one day something clicked, and I just suddenly realised how different he was to everyone else. I suppose it was just growing up a bit, kind of like an acquired taste. It also happened to me like that with T-Bone Walker, and with Charles Brown and Johnny Moore especially-I listened to the albums the first time, and thought they were ok, but then something would keep nagging at me, haunting me, and I'd put the album on again, and then be think ''Wow, this is amazing.... I want to learn how to do this!'''
A few years later, Oliver was supporting a group called Electric Leg (featuring Sanchez's then bass player, Al Gare) with The Bluetits, and the guys really liked a couple of T-Bone Walker tracks The Bluetits performed. They asked Oliver up to do a couple of numbers with them. This was also where the nickname 'Darling' came from-at the end of the gig, the singer wanted to introduce Oliver, and asked 'what's his name?'. One of the band replied 'Darling', and when announced, there was some sniggering...! After this, the name stuck.
A few months later, Oliver got his first serious break, when Al put his own band together, Palookaville!
'Palkookaville! were a great band, we just did instrumentals and audiences loved it, the Spainiards especially went wild!'.
Palookaville! (also made up of ex-King Pleasure and the Biscuit Boys Dean Beresford and Danny McCormack) developed an under ground following, and did some memorable festivals in Spain (The Wild Weekend, The Dracula Festival), and Shambala Festival in the UK. Sanchez also became a fan of the band.
Oliver's love of music and appreciation of the best players meant he would often go and see Sanchez's band if they were in the area.
'I got to know Mike's guitarist Andy Silvester pretty well (former bass player of Chicken Shack, and close friend of Peter Green in the 60s). Peter is one of my heros, so I'd always pester Andy for stories about what he was like when they were younger'.
Unfortunately Andy had to have an operation on his arm, which meant he'd be out of action for a couple of months in the Sanchez band. He asked Oliver to fill in for him.
'It was an honour, and I got my dream job..... I joined Mikes band. I ended up staying in the band for 4 years, touring around Europe and the UK, and we also went out to Las Vegas'. Oliver left Mikes band to pursue his own projects, with his own band The Dirty Robbers, and also as a session musician.
Also in Mike's band at the time was singer Imelda May. She left Mike's group to persue a solo career which has been extremely succesful. In 2015 her guitarist left, and Oliver got the call and has been with her ever since.
As well as these artists, Oliver has worked with many different groups. Highlights include playing with members of The Buena Vista Social Club with Rhythms Del Mundo in Milan, touring with Tony Christie, and working with his own band, The Dirty Robbers.
He has worked with Tanita Tikaram, touring and appearing on her album 'Closer To The People'.
He is currently working with Welsh legend Geraint Watkins, and touring with Imelda May, as well as doing solo, duo, trio and band gigs.
“he is a virtuoso guitarist branching out doing his own thing, so I’m so pleased to champion that here on The Big Easy at Jazz Fm because there are so many sessions musicians who are doing their own beautiful blues things and Oliver is one of them.”
Kate Pieroudis , Jazz FM
“Darling is probably best known for his work with Imelda May in recent years. But Lee’s Blues conclusively proves his work can stand alone too.”
David Osler , Blues Matters
“This is pretty near the perfect album, a pure blues delight which should see Oliver’s reputation grow even stronger”
Pete Clack , Blues In Britain
“Throughout the album do listen to the vocals which are spot on”
Blues In The South
“Take a listen to the deep blues of ‘Devil Got My Woman’ with it’s accomplished vocal, eerie chords and fine harmonica playing from Rollo Markee.”
Norman Darwen , RnR
On stage Mike Sanchez and Band
With Dirty Robber Craig Rhind in Finland
Photo by Jon Francis