Pellegro, longtime drummer for Dead Kennedys, dies at 63

DH Pellegro, a musician best known as the legendary drummer San Francisco Punk band The Dead Kennedys died at his Los Angeles home on Friday after police said he suffered head trauma from an accidental fall, according to an Instagram statement shared by the band. He was 63 years old.

“The arrangements are pending and will be announced in the coming days,” the statement said. read. “We ask that you respect the family’s privacy during this difficult time. Thank you for your thoughts and words of comfort.”

Born in St. Louis, Missouri on July 9, 1959, Pelegro (Darren Henley) began drumming early in his childhood and moved to San Francisco when he was about 15 years old.

“By the time I arrived, I had eight dollars in my pocket,” he said Tell Music writer Mark Brendel in a 2004 interview for his website, Mark’s Music Reviews. “I crossed the Bay Bridge, got in there and boomed. This is where I lived in a pickup truck on Shipley Street near Folsom between 5th and 6th.” While there, he met members of SSI, the first band in which he would play.

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At the time, Pellegriw said, he was influenced by a number of leading punk and ska bands from San Francisco and Los Angeles, including Offs, Dils, Plugz, X, and Go-Gos, and frequently attended shows at Deaf Club, a popular spot on Valencia Street in the late 70’s. He likened SSI rhythm guitarist Paul to Clash’s Joe Stromer and described the first band’s sound he played in as “very fast,” with the lyrics “politically clever.” Dead Kennedys lead Jello Biafra noticed Pellegro on SSI’s live performances, but it was guitarist Raymond John Pepper (East Bay Ray) who invited him to audition for Dead Kennedys after original drummer Bruce “Ted” Slesinger quit a career as an engineer architectural.

Portrait of the dead Kennedy in 1980.

Ann Fishbein/Getty Images

“I ran into the East Bay Ray down at Mabuhay Garbage…we used to call it Mabuhay Garbage after a while,” Peligro He said To Prindle of the North Beach club. And he asked me if I’d come down and take the test. I immediately thought, ‘Well, you know what?’ I won’t get to the party. I’m black, and no one wants a black drummer in their band, even though it’s punk rock. …that’s definitely what I thought. Because I’ve seen all these other bands, and played a lot of rock before that, but I think I was one of the first black rock drummers. Or so it seemed to me.”

For the audition, Pellegro said he played “Insight,” which was later released on the Dead Kennedys’ 1987 compilation album “Give me Convenience or Give Me Death.” The band told him he was there – and according to Pellegro’s own account, he beat out 15 other drummers who also tried to take part in the gig. Pellegriw later joined them in the studio to record the singles “Too Drunk to F—” before their performances in the 1981 EP “In God We Trust” and 1982’s “Disasters of Plastic Surgery”, as well as “Frankenchrist” in 1985 and “Bedtime for Democracy” In 1986, which was released the year the band broke up.

After that, he briefly played with Red Hot Chili Peppers, and wrote some songs on their fourth studio album, “Mother’s Milk”. The Dead Kennedys reunited in 2001 Sans Biafra on multiple tours and released live studio albums including “Live at the Deaf Club” and “Mutiny on the Bay”.

Red Hot Chili Peppers (LR) Anthony Kiedis, John Frusciant, Michael "flea" Balzary, D. H. Peligro poses for a behind-the-scenes photo at First Avenue nightclub in Minneapolis, Minnesota on November 16, 1988.

The Red Hot Chili Peppers (LR) Anthony Kiedis, John Froshiant, Michael “Flea” Balzari, D.H. Pellegro pose for a behind-the-scenes photo at their First Avenue nightclub in Minneapolis, Minnesota on November 16, 1988.

Jim Steinfeldt/Getty Images

Later in his life, Peligro played guitar and sang in his own band, Peligro, as well as performing with Nailbomb and Jungle Studs. Before his death, it was announced that he would star in Los Angeles Punk Off! The 2023 science fiction comedy “Free LSD”, as BrooklynVegan first mentioned.

“Dear friend, brother, I miss you so much,” Flea wrote in tribute to Peligro on Instagram. “I’m broke today, a river of tears, but my whole life I will cherish every second. The first time I saw you play with DK’s in ’81, you blew me away. …You are the most accurate rock music, and a crucial part of rhcp history.”

East Bai Ray too Reshared The band’s original statement on Twitter with a brief addition: “I’m sad.”

Dave Lombardo, drummer and co-founder of the popular thrash metal band, wrote that Pelegro’s frantic and hard-nosed style on Dead Kennedys’ early albums influenced the way he played in his own band.

“Sending my deepest condolences to his family, bandmates, and everyone affected by this sudden, tragic loss,” chirp. “Rest in peace.”

Lol Tolhurst, a founding member and former drummer of The Cure, shared a photo of Pellegro, who described him as “a beautiful man and a wonderful drummer.”

John Worster, drummer for the rock band Superchunk in the ’90s, shared a video of the Dead Kennedys playing in San Francisco circa 1984 on Twitter.

“DH Peligro left the building,” Wurster Wrote. “One of the absolute greats.”

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