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Del Santo, Dan (1951–2001)

Tony Wilson Biography Entry

Guitarist and singer Dan Del Santo was born in New York in 1951 and came from a musical family that included a singing cowboy father and a blues-aficionado mother. He is acknowledged as the originator of the term "world beat." It was his World Beat show on Austin’s KUT radio station that made the term “world beat” a part of musical vernacular.

However, Del Santo played country and bluegrass when he first moved to Austin from his native New York in 1974 and is considered to have been part of the outlaw country scene before he organized his group, the Professors of Pleasure. Formed in the early 1980s, the Professors of Pleasure featured Del Santo’s deep voice and strong guitar work. Their music was influenced by Caribbean and Reggae music and African bands then touring America. Del Santo's music encompassed African, Cuban, and Reggae rhythms. The band toured Europe, Canada, and the Caribbean area and regularly appeared at the New Orleans Heritage and Jazz Fest. Del Santo also played with the accoustic group, the Djalma Garnier French Band, during his last year in Austin and drew large crowds to Grizwolds on South First Street. Members of his last Austin band included Keith Ferguson, DJalma Garnier, and Ponty Bone.

Dan Del Santo recorded a number of albums and singles for such labels as Pleasure, Rounder, and Flying Fish, between 1981 and 1992. These included That’s Life in the Big City, My Own Country, World Beat, White Feathers in the Coop, and Off Your Nyash. The British label Earthworks released his Strength To Strength album. Del Santo was featured on the Elektra compilation Ten From Texas (1984). He played on the Austin Lounge Lizards’ Employee of the Month CD (1998) and as a session guitarist on Eddie Kirkland’s The Complete Trix Recordings (1999).

In 1979 Dan Del Santo appeared on KRLU -TV’s Austin City Limits with Johnny Gimble. In 1983–84 and 1984–85 Dan Del Santo & His Professors of Pleasure won several Austin Music Awards for Best Performing Band in several categories. At the 1984–85 Austin Music Awards presentations, he won Number 3 Song of the Year with “World Beat”; Number 5 Best Single with “Merci, Baby, Merci”; and Number 2 Album of the Year for World Beat. He won the 1985–86 Austin Music Award for Number 4 Best EP Make It Right.

In 1992 Del Santo was arrested in Virginia and charged with conspiracy to distribute marijuana. Released on his own recognizance, he returned to Austin, but his musical career in the United States ended when he fled the country and settled in Oaxaca, Mexico, where he formed a new band, Perros del Sol. He continued to perform his original songs in Spanish. He later began calling himself "The Blues Demon" and performed regularly in an Italian restaurant.

Dan Del Santo died in Oaxaca, Mexico, on October 12, 2001. Suffering from severe back pains caused by injuries from two automobile accidents, as well as high blood pressure and diabetes, he was fifty years old when he succumbed to esophageal bleeding. At the time of his death, Dan Del Santo was survived by his ex-wife Ann Sherwood and their three children. In 2002 the Austin Music Awards inducted Dan Del Santo into their Hall of Fame.

All Music Guide (, accessed June 20, 2011. Austin Chronicle, November 9, 2001. Dan Del Santo, Unlock (, accessed June 20, 2011. Stan Gotlieb, “Remembering Dan: Another Drug Fugitive Bites the Dust,” Narco News 2001 (, accessed June 15, 2011.


  • Music
  • Genres (Ethnic)

The following, adapted from the Chicago Manual of Style, 15th edition, is the preferred citation for this entry.

Tony Wilson, “Del Santo, Dan,” Handbook of Texas Online, accessed June 14, 2021,

Published by the Texas State Historical Association.

July 11, 2014
October 18, 2015

This entry belongs to the following Handbook Special Projects: