Dino Valente was born Chester (Chet) William Powers, Jr. on 7 November 1943 in an upscale neighborhood in Connecticut. Chet Powers was using the stage name Dino Valente by the time he arrived in New York City in 1960. There he became part of the Greenwich Village folk scene, hanging around with other singer/songwriters like Fred Neil. Although it seemed that everyone was using drugs back then, Dino suffered more than his fair share of drug arrests. Ben Fong-Torres of Rolling Stone magazine once referred to him as the Underground Dylan. It was during this period that he wrote Get Together, which he recorded during a demo session for Elektra Records. As far as I know, it remained unissued for many years. You probably remember the hit version by Jesse Colin Young and The Youngbloods. It was also covered by The Kingston Trio, Jefferson Airplane, The We Five, Ian And Sylvia, Hamilton Camp, and several others.
By 1963, he had moved to Los Angeles to become part of the growing folk-rock movement that was being cultivated there. Here he met up with Roger McGuinn. Supposedly, David Crosby discovered drummer Michael Clarke while they were all playing in a band together in Big Sur. Dino was offered a spot in The Byrds, but he didn’t take it.
He worked his way north to San Francisco and began recording for Autumn Records. It was here he claims to have formed psychedelic rock group Quicksilver Messenger Service in 1964. But that claim has since been disputed by other members of the group. That group also included John Cipollina on guitar, David Freiberg on bass, and Jim Murray on harmonica and vocals. He was kicked him out of the band following one of his many drug busts. He would later rejoin the group as their lead singer and rhythm guitarist. It’s his voice you hear when you listen to their classic album rock tracks, Fresh Air and What About Me.
While riding in a friend’s car, he was arrested for possession of marijuana. While awaiting trial on that charge, he was stopped and searched by police on Grant Avenue. They discovered more marijuana. A search of his apartment uncovered his stash of amphetamines. He was sentenced to 1-10 years in Folsom State Prison. He was released on parole, but promptly arrested on yet another drug charge and sent back to jail two days later. To pay for his defense, he sold the publishing rights to Get Together to the manager of the Kingston Trio, who had recorded the first official version of the song in 1964 on their Capitol album, Back In Town.
For a while it was thought that he also wrote Hey Joe. That was later found to have been written in 1958 by a folk musician named Billy Roberts in Seattle.
Dino Valente died in Santa Rosa, California on 16 November 1994, just nine days after his 51st birthday, and is buried in the Mount Tamalpais Cemetery in San Rafael, Marin County California.
Here’s the recently released demo recording of Get Together, sung by the original composer, Dino Valente, from 1964:
In addition to the many vinyl recordings, you’ll occasionally hear some unreleased demo recordings and alternate takes from the 1950’s and 1960’s as you enjoy MusicMaster Oldies!