Interview With Chris Daniels; Musician, Cancer Survivor, and MMJ Activist
It has recently come to my attention that the popular musician and Cancer survivor Chris Daniels of Chris Daniels & The Kings has recently released a new song titled “Medical Marijuana” which is a quirky, bluegrass tune that is a great theme song for the recent progression of Marijuana laws. While battling his Cancer, Chris realized that medical marijuana can help a large number of people deal with the symptoms associated with Cancer treatment (pain, nausea, etc). I recently had a chance to speak with Chris and ask him some questions, including a few regarding his views on marijuana and how they were changed after his battle with Cancer. You can listen to some of Chris’ music here, including his song Medical Marijuana.
Here is the transcript of my conversation with Chris:
Who are your inspirations when it comes to making music (both musicians and others)?
Well I’m amazingly lucky because I got to (and still get to) play with a lot of the people that inspired me. Now some like the Beatles — no I never to play with them — but Al Kooper, David Bromberg, Sam Bush, Bele Fleck, Poco and Buffalo Springfield — were all influences — plus some pretty obscure ones like Spider John Koerner and John Fahey and others, of course Little Feat and all the amazing players in Booker T’s band — especially Steve Cropper
Joni Mitchell’s song writing — she totally changed the world — it wasn’t just verse chorus — she totally broke things open for songwriters
I have read a bit about you, and have seen that music has been in your blood for a long time. What inspired you to become involved with bluegrass?
I listened to a lot of blues, bluegrass, and especially folk as a kid. I got my first banjo and bought Pete Seeger’s little red banjo book. Then I was asked to join the band Magic Music in 1972 and we played the 2nd and 3rd Telluride Bluegrass Festivals where I met Sam Bush and John McEuen and they both just blew my mind with their playing … so I started to really study it. I got to do some banjo duets with Bela Fleck in the 80s — but then my R&B horn band kind of took off in the 90s — But I still work on it. I just got to sit in with Sam Bush’s band last weekend and that was a blast. And on the new CD Better Days I got to play a bunch of banjo and mandolin and acoustic guitar…just a blast.
How has marijuana helped you in your battle with cancer, and how has it changed your perceptions on marijuana? Did you smoke prior to developing cancer?
OK, let me get this out right away “yes I inhaled” — and hell, our last three President’s smoked pot. So yes, I did in my youth. In the 80s I got into some harder stuff and quit all drugs and alcohol and I’m still clean and sober now. That said, the kind of cancer I was diagnosed with is very very commonly treated effectively with marijuana. In fact there is a new study out about the reduction in pain that it helps with in Leukemia patients who undergo massive chemo. And I did … the chemo doses I got were so strong they pretty much killed my thyroid and for sure blew all flippin hair off my head … it ain’t never coming back. LOL… So I have a ton of pals how medical mj has really really helped. I was in Texas for treatment and — well can I just say it’s Texas … pot is not real big on the Gov’s list of likes. So I was reading about what was going on in Colorado and wishing I could partake .. and hearing from pals how STRONG the new stuff is. But by the time I got back to Colorado, I was past the point of really needing it … I was in Texas 8 months…so I didn’t start up … but I’m a total believer and I earned my pot badge many many times over in my youth.
Have you ever used a marijuana vaporizer before?
No I haven’t, but my pal in South Carolina (another unfriendly State to medical MJ) does. He has a really devastating cancer and when I played him the song Medical Marijuana he was laughing so hard he started crying … so yes, I have heard good things about it.
Do you have any closing thoughts that you’d like to share with the audience?
Yeah, I wrote the song “Medical Marijuana” because I loved the old sound of Dan Hicks and Fat’s Waller and I wanted something to celebrate the fact that attitudes are finally starting to change in America (well some of America) about it. And when I was a kid there were so many great names for pot … and the words medical marijuana are just musical … I wrote it sitting on a hospital bed in Houston with tubes in my arm and suffering from a lot of side effects of chemo that I knew pot could help with. The nurses got a huge laugh when I played if for them … and that is what pot has always been about, enjoyment of life or music or food or a sunset. And there is no reason to put a kid in jail because they tried pot. I first smoked it when I was 14. It was fun. It did not lead to harder drugs … the music scene I was in back in the 80s pushed things that way. And even though I know there are people like me who have the propensity to abuse anything (hell I can abuse a jar of peanut butter) marijuana is proven to reduce suffering in patients who undergo massive chemo like I did … and it’s time we got it out of the hands of foreign drug dealers and into the amazing regulated shops we have here in Colorado. It’s safe and it adds tax money to help the economy and it flippin helps PEOPLE who are suffering…plus about a hundred other arguments that I could bring up…for me it’s personal … so I wrote a song to give people some fun and a laugh because I believe that humor and music are a great way to get people to listen to reason and truth. And the fact is with Sam Bush playing fiddle and Greg Garrison from Leftover Salmon on bass and the amazing players on the track it is just really a great record … and I’m really proud of it. I hope the fans like it…we had and have a blast every night we play it.
As someone who has lost family members due to Cancer, Chris’ message really spoke to me. I really hope that more states see the benefits of ending marijuana prohibition and implementing a saner system of taxation and legal regulation.