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“Oh, pardon me, she said” as once again a failed background check prevented a good-paying job.

A non-violent drug conviction from 15 years ago, with the  original case begun 17 years ago in February 1998. Delivery of a controlled substance in February of 1998. I was selling drugs to support my drug habit. The Pasadena Police saved my life the day the set up the buy of Lysergic acid diethylamide (LSD). 357 units, carying a punishment of 5-99 years in Texas Prison. Through grace, the Honorable Judge Brian Rains in court 176 granted me 10 years probation.

My idea of “getting sober” meant I would not do cocaine, heroin or ecstacy any longer. I mean everyone drinks and or smokes dope, right? Riiight. So three years, two D.W.I.’s and a divorce later I was sentenced to 10 years TDC. I got sober after a while of being locked up and went to my first meeting on my daughter’s birthday in 2001. I did work with a mentor, a closed-mouth friend in prison and turned my life around. I made my first parole. I did NOT drink in Huntsville when I was released with 8 years and a few months “on paper.”

I waited three weeks because I held on to the notion that I could have a few beers and be cool.


The first time I had two drinks it was really six. I was going to wait until March 18, 201 to smoke dope again and whatdoyouknow… I was getting stoned a few months into my parole. I then relapsed on cocaine on night. Another night I got a hold of some X. The last drug (other than alcohol) was crystal meth. I hate meth. I was looking for cocaine, but I am a drug addict and I took what was available.

I left out that I’d lost my car the last day I got high. I woke up in a blackout, borrowed a car and a keyboard for a gig and proceeded to spend the gig money post haste. I woke up in the Height with a home full of Asian people I’d never recalled meeting. They saved my life. I got a ride to the Montrose and proceeded to try and hustle drinks at Mary’s.

Yes, that Mary’s.

The following day I took my last drink around noon on Friday, December 19th, 2003.

I was already enrolled in the University of Houston. I then was accepted into the Moores School of Music in 2004. I completed my bachelor’s degree in 2008. My master’s degree was done a short two years later in 2010. I then began the Doctor of Musical Arts degree.

I became Dr. Henry Alphonsus Darragh in December 2015.

I’ve been turned down for two jobs since then that I was verbally told I was hired for. You see, those jobs are making and teaching music with children. I have never harmed a child. I have a 17 year old daughter who we got custody of in 2010. We being my wife Melissa and I.

Thank God for her, as I’d likely be under a bridge if the Creator had not put her into my life 6 1/2 years ago.

How long until one’s time is served? I began voting promptly upon completing parole in March 2011. I did not celebrate getting off parole with a joint, I’m a square. Heck, I was an approved volunteer for TDCJ for years and went mostly to the Ramsey Unit for meetings. In 2009 I was awarded the Outstanding Volunteer of the Year Award, after Rudy V., a man whose legacy continues to bear fruit in the recovery scene.


So what must one do to be pardoned? Is it the Governor of Texas that I need to have on my side? What about President Obama, can he help me?

I did my time, I served my sentence. I want to be a full, 100% citizen.

Please Pardon me.

Fired (in 2010)


Almost Five years ago, a few weeks if not the week before Christmas, I was fired. Fired from a church. At the time, I was playing piano for the jazz service twice a month and playing keyboard for the contemporary service every week. The contemporary service was a lot of stress. However, the income helped support my family.

I had recently been married a few months prior and had also just gotten primary custody of my daughter who was 12 at the time. I was also in the first semester of my doctoral program at the University of Houston. Lots of positive change, but lots of stress. 

The last time I played music for that church was a Wednesday night rehearsal. It was the same day I was diagnosed by psychiatrist as having bipolar disorder. 

I had been having severe manic symptoms for a few months. I was overwhelmed to say the least and had an emotional breakdown during the rehearsal at church. I broke down crying because I was messing up on a song. A few days later I was fired. 

Funny, it was the first time that I was ever fired and that firing involved the group of people praying. I wonder if they prayed for God’s will in the decision to fire me? Basically, they were looking to cover their own asses in my opinion. 
We can’t have the service go wrong, right?

I have struggled with this resentment for years, and gone through periods where I let go of it and periods where I took the angst back. 

I don’t know at what time I went back to the church to attend the service that I had been fired from. I even read re-friended the worship leader on Facebook. (a friendship I may lose after posting this)

I am a Christian, and I do believe in Jesus. I believe that he died for me. I want to be very careful not to bash a church or bashing a pastor or bashing a worship leader. But was that the “Christian thing to do?”

No notice. No time to prepare for loss of income and.

I have questions: did the show compassion? Did they do anything to help me? Um… would Jesus have fired me? Ok, ok so Jesus isn’t in the business of running a big church. That’s a gig for people and people are callable. 

Was firing me a week before Christmas in someway a gift?

I can say this, I am very glad that I do not work there anymore. For what it’s worth, I’m grateful for the six months that I worked there. I’m still a member of the Methodist Church, albeit a different one in a different part of town. 

Did they fire me because I have bipolar disorder? Did they fire me because I was emotional in rehearsal and that was the final straw? 

I must not leave out that I was called on the carpet once or twice before because I was struggling with organization.

Whatever the reason, this is an attempt at letting go once and for all. I will not name names and seek to fully forgive those who made that decision to fire someone with a recently diagnosed mental illness, one which they were aware of. 

I passed my comps!

Henry Darragh, doctoral candidate.

So. Much. Yes.

Thank you to those who prayed for me, listen to my fears, held my hand, and generally thought well for me in this stressful time. It is over. It is done. I passed!

Now on to the lecture recital and doctoral essay (7500 wds) about the classical influence on Bill Evans. 

I am scheduling a field trip to southern Louisiana college which is where Bill Evans went to undergraduate before becoming famous. There is a special collection and things that Bill donated to the school.


I have also been composing again. I am working on some big Ben charts and my dirty south suite for jazz orchestra. 

had a fun gig last night for the Honors College. was the evening’s entertainment.  

I feel like dancing…  

avoiding mania

I don’t want to go manic.

I have a mood disorder, Bipolar I, and generally have both a depressed and manic spell each month.

I go through this cycle often.

I absolutely welcome not being depressed anymore, as I came out of the darkness last Thursday. Subtly. But on Saturday, I saw my first flashes of “fast time” though. I immediately checked in with dudes in my support group, some in recovery and one who is clean/sober and also has bipolar. I made the commitment not to eat sugar or take caffeine, as suggested by one of my dudes. Sugar is like cocaine to the manic brain. Same for caffeine. Those are two of my last devices to cope with. Sugar especially when I have depression.

I’ve done well with that so far. I also started my walks again. Walking is good for both sides of the spectrum, of course. I walked for an hour yesterday. Today, 45 mins.

Here’s where it gets tricky: SLEEP. I went to bed Saturday around 10:30pm and made it a point to turn my wi-fi off to help fight my compulsion to be on my phone. I used my meditation app Simply Being and got some rest. Then I woke at 2:45am…

For the day.

I played my church job which I am super grateful for for many reasons. I avoided caffeinated coffee and the mmmmm lovely Shipley’s doughnuts at the church. After a father’s day gathering with the dad’s on my wife’s side of the family, I left to get home to work on a paper that’s due today. I wanted to work all day with no naps but that wasn’t going to be possible.

I am grateful I could nap for an hour. What I must keep in mind is that my illness is getting better. It really is better. When full-blown manic, sleep is quite elusive.

By 8pm, it felt like the middle of the night and I pushed through to write about and listed to Debussy’s Pagodes more. 

My goal was to sleep 10-6am then get up and work for the day. Instead, boom! I’m wide awake 3.5hrs later.

I’ve gotten some good progress and have to question why if I haven’t blogged in months am I doing so now?

It is because I’m frustrated and tired of this. I don’t want to have bipolar disorder. I just want to be cool. Maybe a little up, a little down, but not this shit. Depression is for the fucking birds and I can fight it, but I cannot seem to beat it. It’s as if I’m going to be depressed for at least 10 days out of the month. Ugh! And mania, well, although everything feels good, I often lose track of time, spend money I don’t have, and other painful things.

Having written that two things come to mind. It is getting better. I am on an incline where the spectrum of mental health is concerned. I have more tools to cope than when I was diagnosed with BP in 2010. So… I’ll keep taking my meds, I will check in with my doctors, I will carve out time to walk everyday, I’ll go to more meetings, I will stay connected, I will schedule meals (I forget to eat), I will meditate, and lastly, I will avoid caffeine and sugar.

I don’t have to go full blown manic, I can harness my superpowers for good.

I will write a good paper on my analysis of Debussy. It’s 4:25am and the world is quiet. Class isn’t until 2pm.

I don’t like this last “I will” statement… I will stay offline until this evening. #yikes

Thank you for reading this.

It was the real deal.

It was more blues than I could use.

Last night’s jazz jam at Cafe 4212 was a blues celebration during the first set.

The joint was PACKED. The regular house band was augmented by blues bassist, Dino, and blues guitarist Milton Hopkins, oooweee, man.

After the first set, the jazz jam commenced. Andre Hayward was in the house.

Henry and Andre at Cafe 4212's Monday night jazz jam B.B.King tribute

Henry and Andre at Cafe 4212’s Monday night jazz jam B.B.King tribute

Al Jones also came

Al Jones, Andre Hayward, and Henry Darragh trade on "Summertime"

Al Jones, Andre Hayward, and Henry Darragh trade on “Summertime”

Jelando Johnson was also in the house!               Jelando and Henry at 4212

Julian Vandiver sang “Fly Me to the Moon,” draped in a silver suit!

Tex Allen was in the house!

….and Alice “Tweed” Smith, the only female to sing with WAR did “The World is a Ghetto”

The food was pretty good too.

When I was on the O.L. Luther Unit (2001-2002) in Navasota, TX, I used to sing this every morning (4AM) on the way to work at the dog kennel. That was where they trained the dogs to learn how to track (inmates). I was never an actual “dog boy” who would go outside of the prison grounds to lay a track then fight the dogs. I was the office boy. Until I was fired and put on the yard squad.

Years later, when it came time to record a new cd, I wanted to do a few non-Standard covers and chose this one I learned from Brother Ray.

Erin Wright sat in on the session and provided the beautiful bass on this track which features Andre Hayward on trombone.

Enjoy it!


Our second sextet rehearsal was yesterday, this one was more challenging due to the reading of my new tune, “Gratitude.” Modal and mixed meter, it had some editing issues that… are best to come out in rehearsal and not on the bandstand! A little cleaning up of the way it is barred and it will be good.

We also dusted off “Busted” and “Latin Goes Ska, Goes Swing.” “Waiting for the End” is always a challenge and it’s sounding really good. We also rehearsed “I Should Care.” The tune is a laid-back swing that goes into double time. I wrote the arrangement background figures so they would work at double time too. Note to self: don’t count it off too fast on Sunday! Here’s the full track of “I Should Care” featuring Dennis Dotson.

The band is sounding great! Big thanks to Daleton Lee who subbed for Richard Cholakian.

5 days til the show!

HenryDarragh POSTER

See you there 😉


My amazing musical week:

Sunday: Kellye Gray​ live cd recording taping at Wire Road studios. Pamela York​, Sebastian Whittaker​, Andre Hayward​, Warren Sneed​, David Craig​

Tuesday: 1st rehearsal for my cd release party. Rich, DC subbing, Kenneth Easton​ (sub), Seth Paynter​, and Ed Lowe

Here’s my arrangement of “I Should Care,” featuring Dennis Dotson.

played trombone and sang at Art Fristoe jazz jam Tim Ruiz​, Wat Son​, Robert Ceballos​.

Wed : major brake job with Gken Ackerman (musician can hang)

Thursday: solo piano/vocals Standards gig at Alzheimer’s community
Tianna Hall​’s inaugural vocal jazz jam at Costa’s with Paul Douglas Chester​ (vox/bone), sang duets with Tianna and also Diane Landry​. Sang “Dream Boxes” for Dana Rogers​ . It’s a song I wrote for Debbie Deborah Dunlap​ when her mom died. (On Tell Her for Me)

then, off to Erin Fisher Wright​ and Alisha Pattillo​ ‘s jam at Dan Electro’s (bone/vox) with Glen Ackerman​ and Erin. I had the honor of playing in front of one of Stevie Wonder’s trumpeters and also layed a new CDs on him.

Friday: Stevie Wonder​

Saturday night KPFT: promoted cd release concert. thanks Soular Grooves and Brotha Jibril Yusef Abdul-Salaam​!

Today/Sunday: Houston Symphony​ Verdi Requiem at Jones Hall to see/listen to Melissa Ragsdale Darragh​ sing in the chorus.

and that, my friends, is how I spend my last Spring Break as a student.


As a pianist who sings I am often asked to do Elton Joel or Billy John songs.

I finally learned a Jilly Bowl song and I changed it. ALOT.HenryDarragh POSTER

Since I have two of the greatest OUT players in my group, I decided in the middle of “Just the Way You Are (except with different changes and no bridge)” we would go out. This is the last track off the new cd, Too Much Monday.


the love,


mental illness stigma

I have (same acronym) but Bi-Polar Disorder I. Stigma, stigma, stigma!!! Throughout history, many of our most creative artists had mental illness. It’s so misunderstood. “Why don’t you just not be depressed?” – “why don’t you just go to sleep!” Don’t be manic. Freak. 

I’m medicated and in therapy and also a recovering alcoholic/drug addict. The mental illness and substance abuse are absolutely related. 

I got into therapy because a sponsee called me drunk and with a shotgun. I told him to go to C.A.P.S. 

  which is UH’s psychiatric help deal. FREE to students. Because I told him to go, it saved his life. I found out it was free and started going myself. It the saved my life. I was 3 yrs sober at the time but waking up every day thinking “I want to die” upon awakening. I got into therapy. I got on Meds. I leveled out. I met me therapist, Dr. Santhi. still see her regularly (8 years later)

In 2010, I got primary custody of My daughter, started my doctorate, began a demanding, good-paying church job, and got engaged to be married and also married. The mania that I had experiencing at 16 restarted. Badly. VERY badly. Rage. Throwing shit. Almost relapsed. Got on a medicine (because I’d switched doctors) that almost killed me. Seroquel. 


Thankfully, I got off that shit. Changed back to Dr. Lee. Got on lithium and Abilify then slowly added bupropion. And now, years after that, I’m better than I’ve ever been. 

Fuck stigma. Fuck people that don’t try and understand mental illness. 

Depression is not a choice and SUICIDE IS NOT SELFISH.