In It For the Music
Danny Louis was born in a small Catskill Mountain town, not far from the global music epicenter of Woodstock, N.Y. According to his mom an accomplished opera singer, and his next door neighbor, who was just trying to sleep, Danny was beating on tables, singing complete songs, and banging on pianos even before he could walk. His musical calling, passion for the arts and love of live performing took him far beyond those early performances. Louis has carved a career as one of rock music’s premier keyboard, piano and horn players. And he has shared his talents with audiences across the country and around the world, while performing on stage with such rock and roll luminaries as The Kinks, Gregg Allman, Joe Cocker, Levon Helm, Phil Lesh and Eric Clapton.
As a youngster Danny was consumed by music. In grammar school, he took up the trumpet and was quickly recognized as one of New York State’s top school musicians. Starting in seventh grade, Danny launched a six-year run by earning the top rating in the New York State School Music Association’s Annual Solo Competition. In the eighth grade, Danny toured for the first time, playing trumpet with a seven-piece brass ensemble that accompanied the renowned West Point Cadet Choir.
During that same time, the 60’s revolution was in full swing and along with it came a rapidly evolving revolution in rock music. Trumpet was better suited for jazz and classical, but Danny wanted to rock. He became a multi-instrumentalist, developing skills he continues to employ today on some of the biggest stages in the world, as one of the most versatile players in contemporary music.
First up for Danny was bass guitar, followed by keyboards and guitar. While deeply involved in sports and student government in school, Danny’s main passion was rock music and as a preteen he began to play out and about. He appropriately named his first band, “The Forgotten Past”.
After high school, Danny attended the Berklee School of Music in Boston, with a dual major in Arranging and Composition and Music Education. He minored in Performance on trumpet. Boston’s vibrant music scene lassoed Danny, and he left school to work full-time as a musician. While in Boston, during the mid-1970s, Danny met Ric Ocasek, Ben Orr, David Robinson and Eliot Easton — and joined them as a founding member of The Cars.
After his time in The Cars, Danny returned to New York. He teamed up with legendary bassist Harvey Brooks on multiple projects and moved from the Woodstock area to Manhattan, where he remained until 2004. At first in New York City, Danny worked primarily as a trumpet player, studio musician and on tour with Joe Cocker and UB-40.
Then in 1989, Danny’s career as a trumpet player came to an immediate halt when he was struck by a severe case of Bells Palsy, a form of facial paralysis. After a partial recovery, Danny turned full-time to the keyboards, taking every gig he could get to refine skills that would later place him on stage, performing for tens of thousands in a single night. He played comedy clubs, country and western bars, and every benefit he could. All of this set the stage for Danny to break into the New York City studio session scene on the keyboards.
In 1992, mutual friends introduced Danny and Allman Brothers Band guitarist Warren Haynes. A long-standing musical and personal connection was launched when Danny played keyboards on tour supporting “Tales of Ordinary Madness,” Haynes’ debut solo release. Over the years, Louis and Haynes have collaborated repeatedly. The pair wrote the title track for Gov’t Mule’s “Life Before Insanity” album, as well as the timeless rock balled, “Beautifully Broken,” which was featured on the HBO hit series, “True Blood.” Though not yet a full-time member, Danny sat in often with Gov’t Mule when the improvisational rock and blues ensemble was a trio featuring Haynes, bassist Allen Woody and drummer Matt Abts.
Through the 90’s Danny toured, performed and recorded with many top artists and maintained a New York City recording studio, writing and producing music for television and film with NY Noise.
In 2001 Danny became a member of Gregg Allman and Friends, playing keyboards with the legendary songwriter and co-founder of the Allman Brothers Band. Not long after, Danny was invited to tour with Gov’t Mule and then asked to join the band, where he remains. Since joining the band, he has added guitar, trumpet, and trombone to the Mule arsenal.
With Danny as a member, Gov’t Mule has recorded three studios albums, is currently completing a fourth, and has developed a reputation for stellar live performances and a rigorous touring schedule. Gov’t Mule’s marathon New Year’s Eve concert runs and Halloween shows are just two of the reasons why this band has one of the most devoted legions of fans in contemporary rock music. Live recordings of Gov’t Mule concerts have sold millions of downloads.
In 2004, Danny relocated from the Big Apple, back to the Woodstock area, with his wife: vocalist, musician and sometimes collaborator, Machan Taylor. Nodding to his roots playing at clubs in the Woodstock area, Danny and Machan and friends formed a funk and soul side project, Phelonious Phunk, which plays repeatedly to sold-out crowds full of inspired fans.
In addition to his duties with Gov’t Mule, Danny has performed often with the legendary rock band Cheap Trick and is featured on the band’s DVD, “Sgt. Pepper Live.” He also played organ and piano on Ricky Martin’s 2011 CD, “MAS: Musica+Alma+Sexo.”
When not on the road, Danny spends time in his own studio recording keyboard and horn tracks for clients and working on his debut solo record. Danny is also a member of the band Stockholm Syndrome along with Dave Schools, Jerry Joseph, Wally Ingram and Eric McFadden. Danny has also appeared multiple times as guest keyboardist with the Levon Helm Band and recently recorded horns for a new release, POA: Planet of the Abts,” which features drummer Matt Abts and bass player Jorgen Carlsson of Gov’t Mule.