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Telling it Like it is

For nearly 25 years William ďDarondoĒ Pulliam remained a mystery to vinyl collectors and 70s soul and R&B enthusiasts. The Bay Area singer released three singles in the early 70s before abandoning the music scene and virtually disappearing, leaving only a few rare 45s -- which reportedly sell for hundreds of dollars -- and a mysterious persona. In addition to his music, and its nods to Al Green and The Isley Brothers, Darondo was known for sporting flashy clothes, spending money and driving his with 1965 Rolls Royce. Some thought he was a pimp, but the singer claims he was a legit businessman, enjoying the finer things in life.

Darondo re-emerged in 2006 after Bay Area rare-records collector Justin Torres tracked him down after an extensive search, and his recordings from the 70s and previously unreleased songs from that era were re-released by Luv Ní Haight Records. The singer returns to the stage for the first time in more than 20 years at The Rickshaw Stop on December 19th. He spoke with SF Station during a phone interview from his Elk Grove home.

SFS Station (SFS): When is the last time you performed?

Darondo: The last time I did a show, I think it was in Dallas, Texas, at some kind of arena. That was right after I made ďLegsĒ in the late 70s or early 80s, something like that.

SFS: What inspired you to get back on stage?

Darondo: Justin Torres and my children inspired me to really get back into it. When Justin came by here, I thought he was just going to do some little interview, but he came here with a camera and his partner and records. He had some records that I hadnít heard for 25 years, or so. It blew my mind; it was like the "Twilight Zone".

We got to talking, and then he got my guitar from upstairs and dusted it off. He had me sitting on the couch playing around. We were having fun, a little bit. It was just like a time trip, or something.

One thing led to another thing, and later I found an old tape with an old recording, and they were able to run it through a computer and re-record it. I came back down to the studio in Berkeley and recorded the parts that were missing. I hadnít been to the studio in 30 years, and everything was flip-flop to me. The new technology is something else. It got me excited in it again.

My son bought me a guitar and my daughter bought me an amp, and the next thing I know, Iím sitting down messing with it again.

SFS: Have you been writing new music?

Darondo: Yeah, Iíve done a couple of things. I did something with one young man that is doing some jazz music and Iím working on something else right now.

SFS: You had kind of a mythical persona in some circles. Do you enjoy having that kind of image?

Darondo: A lot of that is myth. Iíve traveled all over the world because I like to meet people. But other things are myths. You canít judge a book by the cover.

When I was carrying on, I never wanted to dress like anybody else. I wanted to be the trendsetter. I wasnít going to follow behind nobody and I was going to do my own thing. Thatís why there were the mink coats, the alligator shoes and the mink hats, and all that kind of stuff.

With the circle that I was in, I might be with doctors or lawyers, or I might be eating lunch with the mayor. I knew everybody, which also included people that were living the fast life, but I wasnít living fast.

Also, I had a home up in the Oakland hills with a bunch of empty rooms, so I would rent the rooms out to a bunch of young ladies. But all these young ladies had jobs -- secretaries, lawyers and doctors, that kind of thing. When people saw that, they got the wrong impression.

SFS: They thought you were a pimp.

Darondo: Yeah, but that is too low down for me. Some people thought that was my persona, but there was nothing I could do about it. Iím telling it like it is. Thatís just a myth.

SFS: You had a Rolls Royce with a bar and a picnic table. Do you ever miss that ride?

Darondo: Oh man, do I ever miss that ride! It had a Bradley conversion kit in it. It had a picnic table in the trunk, and when you pull up to a park you could open the trunk and push a button and the table would come out. It also had the bar and a hot-plate grill where you could make coffee, or you could cook some eggs. It was cold. That car was something else.

SFS: What are your plans? Will you perform more often now?

Darondo: Iím going to do the show [at the Rickshaw Stop], and then I might do a CD or two, and just take it from there. Iím gonna keep on rolling. It should be a whole a lot of fun.

SFS: It must be kind of a strange experience to get back on stage after all those years.

Darondo: It will probably be enjoyable. Iíll be ready. Just give me one martini, and Iím ready.

Darondo performs at the Rickshaw Stop on December 19th. Tickets are $10 and the show starts at 8pm.