After performing together for decades, local musical mainstays David Maloney and Ginny Reilly have announced a farewell concert on Nov. 5.
When I first moved to Seattle and started writing about music, one of my esteemed predecessors asked for a favor.
“There’s a folk duo that works here a lot called Reilly & Maloney,” he said. “Could you make sure to cover them from time to time? They’re a Seattle treasure.”
That was 1979, and Reilly & Maloney had already been working for nearly a decade. In a move that is sure to draw a rush of fond memories and sadness from fans of a certain age, the duo has announced its farewell tour, which hits Town Hall on Saturday (Nov. 5).
Reilly & Maloney Farewell Tour
7:30 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 5, at Town Hall Seattle, 1119 Eighth Ave.; $25-$28 (206-652-4255 or townhallseattle.org).
“I really want to do my own work,” said David Maloney. “I got two Grammy nominations for my last two albums.”
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For her part, Ginny Reilly, 70, who recently released a solo album, “The Blues of Bessie Smith,” says she doesn’t want to live out of a suitcase on the road and also wants to sing more jazz.
Few folk groups have been as cherished as Reilly & Maloney. A locket couple in the romantic, heart-on-sleeve folk tradition of Ian & Sylvia or Richard & Mimi Fariña, the pair features a sweet blend of Maloney’s rugged, wind-behind-your-back tenor/baritone and Reilly’s diaphanous, willowy soprano. When they strategically harmonize on a song like Tom Paxton’s bittersweet lament “Early Snow,” as they do on their 2003 album, “Together Again,” it’s easy to feel chills running up your spine.
The pair first got together in San Francisco in 1970 and found immediate success at a Lake Tahoe steakhouse owned by a Seattle entrepreneur who subsequently engaged them at his Northgate outlet, The Hindquarter.
“The rest, as they say, is history,” said Maloney, 73, sitting in the sunny breakfast room of his wood-shingled San Anselmo home, about 20 miles north of San Francisco, where he lives with his artist wife of 47 years. (Reilly & Maloney have never been a romantic couple.)
In the ’70s, Dave & Ginny, as they were first known, became a Seattle institution, packing the Hindquarter and Bellevue’s Northwest Passage, where The Seattle Times hailed them as a “freckle-faced couple” whose show felt like a “rewarding night spent with two friends.”
When the couple released its first album, “At Last” (1976), it got heavy airplay on the much-loved and -lamented free form radio station KZAM. The pair later got a good ride on KEZX, too, thanks in part to DJ Dave Littrell, who in 1984 booked the duo on the first concert series at the Woodland Park Zoo.
“They were polished,” recalled Litrell. “They weren’t please-forgive-us-because-we-can’t-play-our-instruments kind of folkies.”
In 1978, Reilly moved from San Francisco to Seattle after marrying Northwesterner Jack Burg, who became the duo’s manager. For 20 years, the pair made a good living from music, playing the national folk circuit and releasing five vinyl LPs. But while their lilting 1980 cover of Buddy Holly’s “Every Day” became a minor hit, and they played to adoring crowds with Arlo Guthrie at the prestigious Philadelphia Folk Festival, national success eluded them.
“We’ve had a lot of people who’ve wanted to change us,” said Maloney. “(A guy) flew us down to Hollywood and wined and dined us at the Beverly Hilton and wanted to change our name to Buttermilk and have Ginny wear short skirts and high boots. It just wasn’t us.”
In 1990, Reilly & Maloney called it quits, taking time out to raise kids and work on their own music but in 2000 reunited and have been working together ever since, though at their own pace. They give annual summer and holiday concerts in Seattle (including this year, so Saturday’s concert isn’t technically their absolute last).
Maloney has been more productive, touring backup for the great Paxton (a major influence) and releasing eight albums since 1990, including Grammy nominees, “One Day More” (2011) and “ … A Little Homespun Wobble” (2013). His most recent effort, “My Father’s Shoulders,” features a lovely filial homage, “His Irish Heart.”
Reilly, who went back to school to study music theory, can occasionally be heard trying out jazz repertoire at the open mic at Fremont’s Couth Buzzard Books.
But for most fans, the duo harmonies and back-and-forth is what it’s all about. When they sing one of their early favorites, such as “Hesitation Blues,” or “Seattle Afternoon” or “Every Day,” it’s easy to see why fans will be sad to see this Seattle evergreen finally fall.