David Perry Lindley was born on March 21, 1944, in Los Angeles, the only child of John Lindley, a lawyer, and Margaret (Wells) Lindley. He grew up in San Marino, Calif., an upscale city near Pasadena, where his father, a musical connoisseur, filled the house with sounds from around the world, including masters of the Indian sitar and the Greek bouzouki.
Drawing on those influences, by age 6 David had become obsessed with all manner of stringed instruments. “I even opened up the upright piano in the playhouse out in back of my parents’ house to get at the strings,” he recalled in a 2008 interview with the musician Ben Harper for the magazine Fretboard Journal.
His parents were less than enthusiastic when he channeled his energies into bluegrass. “I played the five-string banjo in the closet,” he said in a recent video interview, “because it was very, very loud, and my mom and dad were a little disturbed by their son, the hillbilly musician.”
Regardless, he found success with the instrument in the Los Angeles area, winning the annual Topanga Banjo-Fiddle Contest five times. After graduating from La Salle High School in Pasadena, he played in a series of folk groups; in one of them, the Dry City Scat Band, he played alongside his fellow multi-instrumentalist Chris Darrow, later a member of Kaleidoscope.
Although Kaleidoscope failed to hit the commercial jackpot, it turned heads within the music industry. Tom Donahue, the influential San Francisco disc jockey, called it “one of the best groups in the country.” Jimmy Page of Led Zeppelin once called Kaleidoscope “my favorite band of all time, my ideal band; absolutely brilliant.”