Dave Matthews Band, sometimes shortened to DMB, is an American jam band formed in Charlottesville, Virginia in 1991. Founding members were singer-songwriter and guitarist Dave Matthews, bassist Stefan Lessard, violinist Boyd Tinsley, drummer Carter Beauford, and saxophonist LeRoi Moore. In August 2008, LeRoi Moore died due to complications from an ATV accident. Grammy Award-winner Jeff Coffin, of Béla Fleck and the Flecktones, has since filled Moore's spot as the band's saxophonist. Rashawn Ross and Tim Reynolds have also become full time touring members of the band. With musicians who each have roots in differing genres, including jazz, classical, soul, rock, bluegrass, and hip-hop, the band has come together to create an eclectic sound which has earned them fans from a variety of quarters.
The band is known for their annual summer-long tours of the US and Europe, featuring lengthy improvisational renditions of their songs, accompanied by elaborate video and lighting. The band's newest album, Big Whiskey and the GrooGrux King debuted at number one on Billboard 200, giving the band their fifth consecutive number one debut.
The band has won one Grammy Award, and was awarded the NAACP Chairman's Award. According to Julian Bond, "they sell out the largest arenas on Earth, but frequently give their music away."
Songwriter David John Matthews, working in Charlottesville Virginia as a bartender at Miller's bar in November 1990, made friends with a lawyer named Ross Hoffman. Hoffman convinced Matthews, usually reserved and reluctant to play in front of people, to lay down a demo of the few songs he had written. Hoffman hoped Matthews could shop the songs in order to find other musicians to perform on some studio work with him. Hoffman encouraged Matthews to approach Carter Beauford, a local drummer on the Charlottesville music scene. Beauford had been in several bands and was then playing on a jazz show on BET. After hearing the demo, Carter agreed to spend some time playing the drums, both inside and outside the studio. Matthews also approached LeRoi Moore, another local jazz musician who often performed with the John D'earth Quintet to join them. Moore skeptically listened to the demo, but liked what he heard and decided that he too would give the young South African a chance. These three began working on Matthews' songs in 1991. Matthews recollects that, "...the reason I went to Carter was not because I needed a drummer, but because I thought he was the baddest thing I'd ever seen and Leroi, it wasn't because I desperately wanted a saxophone, it was because this guy just blew my mind. At this jazz place I used to bartend at [Miller's], I would just sit back and watch him. I would be serving the musicians fat whiskeys and they'd be getting more and more hosed, but no matter how much, he used to still blow my mind. And it was the sense that everyone played from their heart. And when we got together and they asked, 'What do you want the music to sound like?' I said, 'I know this is a song I wrote and I like what you guys play, so I want you to play the way you react to my song.' There was a lot of breaking of our inhibitions."
Matthews later said in an interview with Michael Krugman, "In a way, initially it was just the three of us and I approached them with this tape and they said 'Sure,' cause they had time on their hands. They were both working on other things, but they had some afternoon time." The beginning stages of this new band was, in the words of Morgan Delancey, "a time of trial and incubation." Beauford would later recall that, "It started out as a three-piece thing with Dave and Leroi...working on some of Dave's songs. He only had four songs at the time..And it didn't work out with the three of us." Matthews said, "The first time we played together...we were awful. Not just kind of bad, I mean heinously bad. We tried a couple of different songs and they were all terrible...Sometimes it amazes me that we ever had a second rehearsal."
Miller's Bar on the Downtown Mall in Charlottesville
Their limited instrumentals, however, did not provide the full sound they desired; more musicians were needed. Secrets was a former jazz fusion band based in Richmond, Virginia most notable for having LeRoi Moore and Carter Beauford as members before forming the Dave Matthews Band. Moore's former bandmate, John D'earth, conductor of the University of Virginia Orchestra and local musician, taught music at the Tandem Friends School. Stefan Lessard, a junior bassist at the time, was under his guidance in the student jazz combo, Yabanci Jazzites. On the recommendation of John D’earth, the 16-year-old Lessard was asked to join in the studio to help complete the demo. While the partnership was never intended to continue beyond the studio, the four liked the sound and decided to continue together for live performances as well. Consequently, regular practices began in the basement of Carter Beauford's and Matthews' mother's home.
Peter Griesar was a bartender at Miller's beginning in 1989, and in August 1991, during Miller's annual respite for inventory, Matthews, Beauford, Moore and Lessard used the empty bar for rehearsing. Griesar heard them rehearsing and decided to stop working for a while, pulled out his harmonica, and started playing with them. After a few songs, he was invited to perform with them. He immediately accepted, becoming the band's first keyboardist. Griesar's last show with the band was March 23, 1993.
Boyd Tinsley was the last member to join the band. Although he had performed on the demo with Matthews, Moore, Beauford and Lessard, he was busy with a couple of other bands at the time (Boyd Tinsley Band and Down Boy Down) and did not want to commit to a group of musicians that were only together in the studio at the time. He didn't become a full-time member until the middle of 1992. Matthews later admitted, "We had no plans of adding a violinist. We just wanted some fiddle tracked on this one song "Tripping Billies", and Boyd was a friend of Leroi. He came in and it just clicked. That completely solidified the band, gave it a lot more power."