What’s the best way for a duo that’s been playing music together for five decades to celebrate that singular accomplishment? By playing music together.
That’s the plan for Mason Daring and Jeanie Stahl, who will mark the occasion of their 1973 meeting at a long-defunct Central Square coffeehouse (neither can recall the name of it) with a sold-out concert at the Me&Thee Coffeehouse in Marblehead Friday.
They recently sat together at Daring’s Marblehead home — Stahl lives two blocks away — to talk about what brought them to this point, from their nomadic childhoods to an upcoming recording project.
“My dad worked for GE, and our family moved all the time,” said Daring, 74, who was born in Ithaca, N.Y. “I went to Amherst College, then I was signed to Columbia Records with a band, but the band broke up just before our album. So, I decided to go to law school in Boston, at Suffolk. Once I got here, I sort of stayed here.”
“My parents were Holocaust survivors,” said Stahl, 72, who’s from Geneva. “Everybody in the family who survived made it to Geneva. My father wanted to bring up my sister and I in America, so we came to the States. Later, we lived in Brazil for a year, then came back, and moved to Princeton, N.J., which is where I grew up. Then I went to Wellesley College, and stayed in the Boston area.”
They met when Daring was in his first semester at Suffolk University Law School and Stahl was a senior at Wellesley. At the time, both were on the local coffeehouse circuit. A recollection of what actually happened during that first fateful encounter in Cambridge is clearer to Daring than Stahl.
“He was performing at this club,” she said. “I thought he was good. Then I auditioned and played a couple of songs during his break, and I guess he thought I was pretty good. But I don’t know what happened after that.”
“I remember it well,” Daring interjected. “She came up to me and said, ‘I have a chance to audition here, but I don’t have a guitar. Could I borrow your guitar?’ My first feeling was: Are you kidding me? I don’t lend my guitar to anybody. But she’s really good looking and she seems really nice. So, here! She got up and started playing, and I thought she was a pretty good guitar player. And then she started singing and I went, ‘Whoa! What’s that?’ So, we started talking. We said, ‘Do you want to rehearse?’ And we’re still rehearsing.”
They were asked: Was it a musical attraction or a physical attraction?
Stahl answered immediately. “It was musical, which has always been the base of our relationship.”
“We were together as a couple for a while,” added Daring. “But we realized we make much better friends.”
Their first gig together was at the Nameless Coffeehouse in Cambridge. Their first recording was the dreamy, wistful folk ballad “Marblehead Morning,” backed with “Gold Dust in Our Eyes” on a 45, both written by Daring. Regional radio play earned them some notice, local gigs morphed into hitting the road to play New York, Chicago, and parts of the Midwest, and they recorded two albums — “Heartbreak” and “Sweet Melodies in the Night.”
“We made a living doing that for six or seven years,” said Daring.
“I was going to say six or seven months,” countered Stahl, laughing. “ ‘Made a living’ is a stretch!”
In ensuing years, Daring and Stahl each married, and they each lost their partners, but their friendship and musical relationship remained strong, even when individual interests put their music as a performing duo on the backburner.
Daring practiced entertainment law. He also wrote, edited, and directed TV commercials; began composing music for film soundtracks, including 18 directed by John Sayles; founded the Daring Records label; and made a self-titled solo album.
Aside from recording three solo albums — all produced by Daring — Stahl sang in eight music videos for the “Masterpiece Theatre” production of “Love in a Cold Climate”; worked with her husband doing strategic planning for large-scale exhibits in museums all over the country; co-wrote the musical “On the Cover of Time” with Harriet Reisen; and is at work on a book — “A Heritage Unfolds” — that, she writes on her website, “follows our family to America and the debacle and redemption that ensued.”
Still, they played when they could. Though their concerts have been few and far between in recent decades, they look forward to each one. At Me&Thee, where they first performed in 1975, the plan is for Daring to play some solo songs, then for Stahl to do the same, follow those with a song together, then play the whole second set together. They’ll be accompanied by Richard Gates on bass, Billy Novick on clarinet, and Duke Levine on guitar.
They’re also in the midst of a recording project featuring the songs they’ll be doing in the concert. It’s scheduled to be released to streaming services.
Despite this being one of only two concerts this year — an earlier one was at Passim — Daring and Stahl are raring to go.
“When you only do two gigs a year, it takes longer and longer to get up to speed,” said Stahl. “But I think we’ve really done our homework this time. We started in August.”
“We rehearse even when we don’t have a gig,” said Daring. “Age takes a toll on voice and chops. But we’re still good. We’ll rise above the threshold. We’ve been playing together for 50 years. That doesn’t happen to people very often.”
Stahl jumped in.
“I wanted to say how great it’s been to work with Mason for 50 years. It’s incredible that we’ve been able to have different careers, that we’ve gone off on different paths, but we’ve always somehow continued to do some kind of music work together.”
“We really enjoy rehearsal, “Daring said. “We sit here and play, and look at each other, and go, ‘Man, this is fun!’ ”
Ed Symkus can be reached at email@example.com.