Schenectady Native and Guitarist David Malachowski Dies at 67

NEW YORK – Schenectady native David Malachowski, a noted guitarist who toured globally and served as Shania Twain’s music director among any other accomplishments, died of heart failure Thursday, September 29, in New York City. He was 67.

Longtime area writer Don Wilcock described him as “a gentle, humble soul whose creativity knew no bounds”. Wilcock wrote a column about him in 2016 for the Troy Record, which we republish below in honor of his memory.

David Malachowski
David Malachowski in 2012

David Malachowski Brings Woodstock Ethos to Haiti Benefit

“Dave, it’s not the ’70s anymore.”  

Dave Malachowski laughs in retrospect about his friend Jeff Golub’s reality check concerning a proposed CD. “I wanna do some country and bluegrass and blues and rock and roll, and folk,” he told Jeff.  

Golub, to the contrary, moves in the commercial rock guitar world, having done four albums and five world tours with Rod Stewart, and seven CDs and three world tours with Billy Squier. How did his bud Malachowski think he was going to sell a CD with all that stuff on it? 

“I realized marketing-wise what I was saying was near impossible,” says Malachowski who headlines a star-studded Haiti relief benefit tonight at the Palace Theatre in Albany with such regional favorites as jazz songstress Jill Hughes, hard rock’s Sirsy, rockabilly razor blades Slick Fitty and cover band The Audiostars. Malachowski’s group, The Woodstock Allstars, have enough fabled musicians to carry the show on their own. Their name offers the key to why they’re so good and to why Malachowski can get away with crisscrossing so many genres of music without destroying the bottom line of making just plain good music. 

The iconic title “Woodstock” alone means one thing to those who never get beyond the image of half a million hippies on dope. But to those who live in this community, Woodstock is an arts colony of friends and neighbors, old guard and young turks who live for and off the music. 

“We don’t play music to be famous and be pop stars and make a million dollars,” says Malachowski. “We play music to play the best music we can, and especially these days in the American Idol world and such that seems to be lost, but you have to dig a little deeper. (Woodstock music) is not at the top of the charts where it was in the past when people like The Band were doing well on the charts, but it still exists, and we’re trying to keep it going, I guess.” 

Of the eight always changing members of the Allstars, three were the backbone of country star Shania Twain’s band in the mid-’90s: bass player Graham Maby, drummer Gary Burke, and guitarist Malachowksi who put a band together for Twain and her manager husband Mutt Lange. Seemingly, Shania Twain was about as far from the Woodstock ethos as Hank Williams is from Led Zeppelin. “I mean, the goals were different,” says Malachowski with a chuckle. “We were playing the songs she had done like they were on the record. So solos were four measures as opposed to four minutes.” 

However, a look at the background of each of the three reveals strong Woodstock creds: Burke with Bob Dylan’s Rolling Thunder Tour in ’76, Rick Danko’s Band (and currently with Prof. Louie and the Crowmatix); Maby with Joan Baez, The Rick Danko Band and Natalie Merchant); and Dave Malachowski with Commander Cody, Savoy Brown Blues Band and local perennials Aged in The Hills. The common thread is Woodstock and the kind of friendship that gets nurtured in such a small town arts community that existed before – and after – the culture quake that was the Woodstock Festival. “(Shania Twain’s band) was more duplicating things, but that’s just a different world, and there’s fun things in that world as well,” says Malachowksi. 

Dave grew up in Rexford, went to school at Berklee in Boston and spent four years in Kentucky. Several years ago, he returned to the area to live in Albany, but moved to Woodstock when he fell in love with the scenery traveling down the Hudson to tour with Garth Hudson. “I just looked around and said, ‘This is absolutely beautiful. The mountains and snow were all around. My daughter had grown up and move out and I said, I can do this.’” 

In a press release for tonight’s benefit, the Woodstock Allstars claim they never have and never will rehearse and “just go where the moment leads them.” Their first show was two and a half years ago at the Lake George Blues Festival. All members have other gigs, but their performances together have been growing geometrically in number lately with two high profile gigs at the Iridium on Broadway, the same venue the late Les Paul performed in every Monday night. After the second show in one night in the Big Apple, Maby told Malachowski. “I’m actually startin’ to know this stuff.” 

For sale at the gig will be Malachowski’s excellent first EP entitled The Secret Life of Colonel David. The line drawing logo on the CD itself was drawn by Dave’s daughter Lindsay. It looks a lot like John Lennon’s self portraits with equally long hair.  

“So, now I can’t cut my hair,” he quips.  

Was he thinking of it? 

“No, ’cause now I live in Woodstock.”

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