DL called me from Manhattan, New York. He talks about his youth in a home with a mother addicted to prescription medications who probably wasn’t fit to adopt. When he moved out at 18, he followed his natural talent to climb his way into the music industry. However his suspicion that his birth mother was alive, contrary to what he was told, never left him.
In reunion, DL’s birth mother nearly backed out of meeting him as the guilt of his relinquishment washed over her decades after her decision. Thankfully DL’s sister made sure their reunion, and his reunion with his sisters, did happen. This is DL’s journey.
I walked into the living room and my brother in law sees me and his jaw drops to the floor because I look exactly like my mother and my mother was seated on the love seat. And I walked over to her, sat down, gave her a big hug and just whispered in her ear. I want you to know that I’m not mad. And she started crying and I started crying.
Who am I? Who am I? Who am I? Who am I? Who am I? Who am I? This is who am I really a podcast about adoptees that have located and connected with their biological family members. I’m Damon Davis and on today’s show is DL. He called me from Manhattan, New York DL talks about his youth in a home with a mother addicted to prescription medications who probably wasn’t fit to adopt. When he moved out at 18, he climbed his way into the music industry, but his suspicion that his birth mother was alive. Contrary to what he was told, never left him in reunion. His birth mother nearly backed out of meeting him as the guilt of his relinquishment washed overheard decades after her decision. Thankfully, DL sister made sure their reunion and his reunion with his sisters did happen. This is DL journey born in 1952, DL said adoption was just becoming a more popular option for family planning. Back then childless couples were just starting to turn to adoption as an opportunity to make a family. Some of them trying desperately to avoid scuttlebutt and derisive gossip from their peers. DL’s mother could not conceive. And the people around her were having children or talking about adopting. So his parents adopted him. He grew up in Vineland, New Jersey in between Atlantic city, New Jersey and Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. He was the only child in their home listen to the way he describes his mother’s choice to adopt a child.
My mother, uh, I don’t think was really prepared for adoption. Um, in the first place she had some serious psychological troubles and she was also carotid to prescription medication, um, namely amphetamines and barbiturates, which made her mood swings, uh, violent and sudden. Um, so she really would have been probably better off getting a dog.
What does that mean for you as a child who’s experiencing these youth? So, you know, as a kid, you don’t know that she’s cross addicted. You’ve this sounds like knowledge you’ve gained as an adult, but what did it feel?
No, I gained as a adolescent.
Okay. So what did, what was it like for you as a kid to experience these, these mood swings and the, and the, her addiction?
Well, I was protecting myself a whole lot, um, because she would turn on a dime. Um, it would just come out of nowhere and she would just go sort of mental and start screaming and hitting and, uh, you know, fairly, uh, psychologically and somewhat physically abusive.
[Mmhmm. And you were told around age eight that you were adopted, would that, how did that conversation go that to your recollection? And what did it mean to you for someone to say these, these words?
Uh, well, around age 8, you know, I realized that I didn’t look anything like either of my parents. So I went to my mom and I said, you know, what’s the DL. Um, and she said, well, uh, you are adopted, which means you are special in quotation marks. And also, um, your real mother died in childbirth and I’m like, I’m special. And what so that, you know, all of a sudden she’s telling me that I’m responsible for my mother’s demise and even eight years old, I could figure out what that meant. So, uh, but all the while she’s telling me this, I didn’t actually believe her or what I believe for I guess I know we sent the inside. I actually didn’t blame her. And I wanted to believe that my, uh, my birth mother was still alive. And, uh, and I carried that belief with me through my entire adolescence and early adulthood and my whole life. Um, always knowing in somewhere in my heart that she was still alive somewhere, and that I’d find her one day or that she may be looking for me. Uh, but one day I knew that we would actually meet
Even as a kid, DL didn’t believe that what he was told was true, but think about it. His mother had been such a volatile person. It wasn’t too much to imagine. She would make up a story to protect herself and close the issue down with DL. His sense was she wanted to immediately bring finality to the issue of him acknowledging another mother. His mother was competitive with others. So when the girls next door started taking piano lessons, she enrolled DL in piano lessons too. With the same teacher, he was an older gentlemen who played organ in the church. One town over DL, took lessons for several months and got very good, but he wasn’t reading the music at all.
I never learned how to read because I’m severely dyslexic. Um, but I would make him, um, play the next week lesson for me before he left that day. And I’d practice it all, rehearse it all week, the way that I heard it. So it was playing by ear basically, and he’d come back the next week. And I play, I assume he say he say he made a couple of mistakes, but that’s really very good. Somehow my mother caught on that. I wasn’t reading and she fired him. He came back the next Saturday. Um, even though he was fired and he actually got down on one knee in front of my mother and begged her to let her, let him come back and teach me again, because he thought that I was something of a prodigy or something. Um, and she declined. So, um, that was it. So I was basically left to, you know, teach myself. And that’s what I did.
Since his mother was against paying someone to teach DL the piano. He taught himself. He said she was very frugal in some areas, but she would do things like decorate the living room and dining room in French provincial style, making the rooms so nice. No one could walk in them.
It was, it was like living in a museum. Um, um, I, I wasn’t allowed to put trash in my own trash bin. I had to walk it into the kitchen and all kinds of crazy rules. They were, there was a bathroom right next to my bedroom with a big tub and everything. And she had put velvet curtains, um, over the tub with little, little dress , uh, thing with tassels on the end, really like super fantasy looking. And no one could use that tub. So my father and I, and my mother had used this tiny little bathroom with a stall shower that was between their bedroom and the laundry room, just off the kitchen so that it was this all sorts of rules and confinement and ways to sort of keep the house looking pristine and basically untouchable
Regarding his father. DL said they didn’t really have a relationship. His dad was absent working on the road quite a bit as a salesman. They hardly spoke. And his father only spent quality time with DL. When his wife told him to. When DL was a teenager, he suspected his dad was seeing someone else because he kept coming home later and later, and his mother’s condition was spiraling out of control. One day in his early teens, DL got home from school to find he was in the house by himself. He went through the cupboards looking for snacks,
And I opened up the wrong cabinet and there was just vials and vials of drugs, um, all kinds of amphetamines. I mean, every amphetamine that you could think of by sentiment twenties, you know, black, black beauties, yellow jackets, uh, S controls, all kinds of stuff. And then there were all kinds of barbiturates amytal, Seconal, nembutal, Pentothal she even had queloz before anybody even knew what they were. Um, she had literally a cabinet. He had like a drugstore in their kitchen to be spiraling out of control. I think even worse. She had all these drugs at her disposal and she was pretty much, I would imagine impossible to DL with. I mean, she was for me. So I would imagine that she probably was for him too. And I know they were not having any loving moments, so to speak. I’m pretty sure of that. Um, I think for her, he was really her second or third choice as a husband. So it was just all like messed up from the very beginning. Basically, it was just a, just a really messed up relationship and it just continued to get more and more messed up.
DL is not the name he grew up with. He adopted that identity apart from the name he was given in adoption. It’s an interesting story that I’ll let DL explain. One other thing that I read in the article online was that you grew up with one name and that you changed your name and you split. Can you tell me a little bit about what are ultimately want to get to is when you decided that you wanted to search, but I sense that there’s an identity change happening for you prior or at the same time. So tell me a little bit about the, your transition out of your house or what have you.
Okay. Well, it’s a little bit of a, more of the backstory, but when I was about eight something else that she had mentioned in that conversation, when she told me that I was adopted, um, just sort of as a side note, she said, um, and I should’ve realized that this actually gave credence to my belief that my mother was still alive. Um, she said to me in passing your mother apparently always wanted your name to be David. So when I was named by them, uh, I was named Gary David. She didn’t want to name me David, because she didn’t want people to call me Dave. And of course the first thing people started doing when I was named Gary was always calling me Gar. So that didn’t really work. Um, but anyway, when she told me that I should have realized, well, how did she know that for one, how does she know that my mother wanted me to be named David?
And I found out later exactly how she did know, but I just resonated with that name. So I just kept that in the back of my head. And, um, after I graduated, uh, prep school, I, uh, I worked for a few months until early February. And then I moved to New York city on my own pretty much, um, on February 14th, 1971 Valentine’s day, I was just 18. So I knew I wanted to get into the music business, but I didn’t set about to change my name right away. But as I started to actually get into the music business, um, I eventually figured, okay, now I nip it in the bud do it now. And I started just sort of informally tell my friends and associates. I said, you know, don’t call me Gary anymore. My name is David. And by the way, my last name is Byron because I just liked the idea of, you know, Byron sort of sounded like Dylan to me.
I was a big Dylan fan. And you know, I was also a fan of, of George Gordon, Byron as well. I was really into poetry at the time and still am. And I just wanted to be known as David Byron. And when I realized that there was another David Byron who lead singer of Uriah Heep, um, I realized I needed the middle name. And, um, the first job that I had in the city was working at colony records, which was a really big record store on Broadway. I only worked there about nine months. And then until I got my first staff writers job, but I work with this guy named Lee lands and he spelled it Lei, G H, which is sort of the Anglican way of spelling it. So I thought that guy said, Oh, Lee, yeah, that’s cool. I’ll be David Lee, Byron, and that’ll make me DL Byron. Oh, that’s even cooler. So that’s what I went with. Eventually I just became DL. Byron
DL said the manager of the first publisher who signed him into the music business was a wonderful woman whom he had shared his adoption story with. She offered to help him find his biological mother by connecting him with adoption agencies, but not knowing his birth mother’s last name presented a challenge. And there were no commercial DNA testing options back then, like there are now. So he was hitting lots of brick walls. After a few years, DL returned to Catholic charities in South Jersey. At the time they were maintaining sealed records, not assisting anyone with reunification services. He pretty much gave up on his search. Years later, he decided to reach out to Catholic charities. Again, he was in his late thirties, married and the environment for reunification had changed dramatically. Catholic charities had done a 180 an offer DL, a caseworker named Betty. She was a semi retired older woman who worked part time.
The pair chatted every couple of months about his case, updating DL about the family trees. She had investigated DL caught word that Betty had been transferred from Camden, New Jersey to Vineland. DL’s hometown, just one hour from the Jersey shore. He called her office to see if they could connect face to face. Since they had been speaking by phone for two years. Unfortunately, Betty, the social worker who was an avid golfer had suffered a broken ankle and was out for eight weeks. When DL called back eight weeks later, he left a message for Betty. She called him back the next day.
So I’m back in New York city at the time. And I had been up all night, writing, writing something, working on something. And it was about 11 in the morning. My wife had gone to work and the phone rings and it’s Betty, it’s her. And she said, uh, I said, hi, how are you? She said, hi, I get a pen, get a pad. And, and listen to me, write all this stuff down. And I want you to promise, never, ever tell anybody about what I’m doing right now, because I’m going out of the confines of my job. And I love my job. I don’t want to lose my job, but get a pen and pad and listen to me. I said, okay, okay. So I, I did all that and I’m okay, go ahead. And then she started telling me stuff, your mother’s name is Jean.
Just give me your whole, like her, her whole name, last name as well, her birth dates, a bunch of other information. And she said, you have, you have a sister who, uh, whose name she gave me, who was an attorney in cherry Hill, New Jersey. And here’s her work number? And I said, that’s it? And she said, that’s it. And if something worse had happened to me, then just breaking my ankle, no one would have ever, ever picked up your file. So please don’t tell anybody about this, how you really don’t want to lose. I said, I promise. I promise
DL realized in that moment he had the toughest cold call. He might ever have to make in his life feeling shaken by the whole thing. He called his wife at work and asked her to come home, strategizing how to get through to his biological sister at her office. He developed a ruse that he was an informant on a legal case that she might be working on. When the office receptionist answered the phone DL, asked to speak with his sister, Diane. When she asked, who was calling, he told the receptionist, he would like to remain anonymous as an informant and it worked.
Hello? This is Diane. I’m like, Oh man, uh, hi, Diane. My name is David Byron. Uh, hello, David is your mother’s name? Jean. Was she born on such and such a date? Uh, 1930. Yes. And then she said, who is this? And I said, I have every reason to believe that I’m your brother. And then came that sort of pregnant pause where she would either hang up or say something like, well, we know about you and we don’t want to have anything to do with you or whatever. And she fell it for a while. And then she said, go on.
Then I started to just babble and I was just trying to like run up the mouth. And we talked for about 45 minutes. She gave me her home number. She said, call me tonight. I think, Aw, this is a lot better than I expected. I called her that night. And we spoke for about an hour. I called her the next night and another hour again. And she said to me, in one of those conversations, you know, I always suspected that my mother had sort of a skeleton in the closet, but I can never, ever figure out what it was. But I always knew there was like a big family secret
On Tuesday of that week, after a few conversations between them DL got the courage to ask Diane if she wanted to meet up, he was planning to be at his beach house that weekend. And Diane was in cherry Hill, New Jersey, not too far away. Diane said she liked to think about it. She decided she was going to go to their mother’s house the next night, carry some family photos with her and see if she could flush out the story that her mother kept hidden inside her Diane and her mother sat down for dinner and discussed the old family photos they each had brought out to share.
She opened up the one page of, of my, my mother’s book. And there was a picture of my mother as a young girl with all these other young girls standing in front of this big white sort of building, um, out in sort of like the pine Barrens, somewhere out in the woods with two nuns on either side of these, this group of girls. Uh, so my, my sister said, uh, where’s this? And my mother said, Oh, this is the place my mother used to send me when she thought she couldn’t take care of me. And then my mother went up and got into the bathroom. And as she did that, my sister took the photograph out of the sleeve of the photo album. And it said, freehold, New Jersey on the back, I was born in Trenton. Apparently that’s what it says in my record of birth.
Freehold is like almost right next to Trenton. So, um, and that was something that I had said to my sister, Diane in the earlier conversations, I think I was born in Trenton or maybe somewhere near there. So that’s sort of justified in her head. So she came out, my mother came out of the bathroom and sat down and Diane said, you know, mom, I’ve got this guy that’s been calling me. And he claims to be my brother. And apparently she sat back in her chair and got a little weepy. And she said, well, he probably is, and that was it for her. Uh, she, she had, you know, she totally believed that the whole scenario. And, uh, we spoke the next day and I said, please, you know, drive her down Saturday and we’ll all meet you and your husband. Who’s also an attorney. Um, we’ll all meet and, you know, have lunch or something.
So, um, Saturday rolled around and, um, she went to pick up her mom and her mom, all of a sudden was gonna back out because she was crying. As she saying that she wasn’t worthy. And she was suffering, terrible, terrible guilt for having given me up. Somehow Diane talked her into actually going through with it and getting into the car and they’re driving down. And, uh, my brother-in-law, as I said is also an attorney all the way down is who’s driving is saying this guy’s up to no good. I smell something bad. He looks he’s after our money. He’s, he’s, you know, he’s not real. And, um, they get to our house and my wife lets them in, and I’m just getting out of the shower. My hair still wet. I walk into the living room and my brother was sees me and his jaw drops to the floor because I look exactly like my mother and, um, my mother was seated on the love seat. And I walked over to her, sat down, gave her a big hug and just whispered in her ear. I want you to know that I’m not mad. And she started crying and I started crying and that was it. We had lunch. Um, we played some board games. I played some songs for them on guitar. We walked to the beach, they said they were going to go. I said, no, let’s go. Let’s go get a bite for dinner. And we went and went dinner together. They stayed all day. And into the evening
During their conversations before the reunion, Diane shared that DL had seven sisters. Of course he was astonished to learn that he had so many siblings during the reunion with his mother and sister DL wanted to share some pictures of himself, but he didn’t have any recent photos. Only the cover photos from a recent CD. He had just put out, he brought a stack of CDs out for his mother to share with her daughters the next morning, DL birth mother called a big family meeting at Diane’s house where all of the sisters showed up,
She basically put my CD in front of all of them at the dining room table. And my oldest sister, Donna, I said, well, why are you giving me a CD? I don’t have a CD player. And at the same time, one of the, uh, younger little kids walked by and goes, Oh, look, that guy looks just like grandma.
So, um, that’s when they all found out that, you know, this had happened and she’d kept a secret all these years. And then Diane called me, it was maybe 10 in the morning, the phone rang in ocean city. And she said, well, uh, they all know, and they all want to meet you. Do you feel like driving to cherry Hill? And I said, uh, I’ll be there in an hour. Of course I couldn’t drive. I was like way too nervous. My wife Leslie had to drive, but, um, we pulled up to Diane’s house. My, my eldest sister, Donna, the one who didn’t have the CD player was standing in the road crying. I mean, as we pulled up to the, I mean, I don’t know. She was like waiting for me, I guess, in the street. And once I got there, the door at the front door of the house opened and all my sisters started like piling out of the house, you know, arms waving and flailing. And, and we all like just came together as a group and hugged and kissed and introduced each other and then laughed and then hugged and kissed some more. And eventually we’ll all into the house. And I sorted this sort of the process of getting to know each other. Um, it was, uh, it lasted for hours that day and it was an amazing, it was an amazing, amazing day.
I can only imagine you went from being an only to having seven, seven siblings. That’s just unreal. Wow. What did you see in your mother when you saw her for the first time? Cause everybody else can see your face on her, her face on you. What did you see?
Um, I, I saw, I saw the resemblance, of course I had a million questions for her. Not all of which she can answer, like who was my father? And apparently my father was like a one night stand. And all she could remember about the guy was that he was a Northern Italian and she thought he had moved to California and never, never saw him again. And he never knew that, you know, she was pregnant. She told me that her, that she herself was born out of wedlock and that the guy who sired her, the man who sired her, um, was the guy who owned the music store in Vineland, which is where I bought my first guitar
Shut up. Are you serious?
So I bought my first guitar from my biological grandfather.
Oh my God. That is crazy.
Yeah. So it’s all in the book.
That’s unbelievable, man. I just got a chill. Like that is really unbelievable.
Yeah. There’s more, but you know, um, the book is full of stuff like this. Um, it’s, it’s a whole lot of coincidence, coincidence and weird, weird stuff.
His autobiography is called shadows of the night named after a song DL wrote in the early 1980s for Grammy award winning artist, Pat Bennettar. He decided to write his book after his birth mother passed away in 2015, he says his story was just too incredible not to write down. So he took the time to document his journey. I asked DL to tell me a little bit about his book and what he wanted people to get from reading his story.
Basically it’s a book about never giving up because I never gave up on myself being able to give my gifts of music. And I never gave up on finding my mother. And, uh, it’s, you know, I hope that people, when they read it and find it inspirational because it’s, it’s more than just about, you know, being signed by Clive Davis and all these famous people in the music business and all that stuff that I did. And, and, you know, the adventures and misadventures and achievements and, and, you know, downfalls and, you know, it’s, it’s, it’s more than all that. It’s, it’s a life lesson. And that’s what I’m hoping people will take away from it.
DL said that song writing is very different than book writing and it wasn’t until he got really into documenting his story, that he realized how challenging it can be to piece together his rich life of what I can imagine are fascinating stories. It took him three years to put it all together, looking at his paternal history. I asked him if he had tried to find his biological father,
No, I haven’t. And I haven’t even tried to go up my grandfather’s tree, which would be easy for me to do because they’re all in my hometown. Um, I figure at this point I’ve already hit the lottery, you know, um, that’s enough. I don’t have to mess up anybody else’s life, but somebody saying, Hey, you know, we’re related. You know, um, I just, I figured this, you know, I got, I got just what I needed.
DL says his relationship with his sisters is good. They came together and got really close and he feels like their reunion really brought everyone together. Of course there are some of the classic challenges that happen with disagreements between siblings. And there are some rifts, but those issues don’t have anything to do with DL emergence. It’s just family drama that we all have to DL with. I asked about DL’s adopted mother and whether he kept in touch with her at all, and whether he had shared any element of his journey with her DL closes with that story. And one of the highlights of his career as the writer of a Grammy award winning song.
No, she, she passed away the, uh, September after I moved to New York. So she passed away just a few months after I moved to New York city.
Is that right? Wow.
She died of a massive heart attack. Um, well, if you take enough amphetamines, that’s probably what’s going to happen. But, uh, she, yeah, she just like kind of heart exploded pretty much. Oh my gosh. Yeah. Wow.
What an amazing story. This is incredible. The book is called shadows of the night
Right after the song. Okay.
Yeah, I’m gonna, I’m gonna seek out the song. I listened to it a long time ago when, uh, when I first got your application, but I’m going to seek out the song again. Cause I want to listen to your work and, and Pat Bennettara’s expression of it. It sounds like it’s so cool.
It won a Grammy. That was, so that was pretty good.
Yeah. A Grammy award. I mean, that’s, that’s a super career highlight, man. Well, well done. That’s so awesome. Yeah. Good for you. I don’t know. I total sidebar, but my wife is a, she works for the recording industry association, the RIAA who certified Google platinum sales. And, uh, one of her great career benefits is attending the Grammys on an annual basis. So we will be out there. I don’t know if you go anymore, but we’ll be out there because shake your hand if you’re in town.
Uh, well, you know, a funny story before you go, uh, when shadows was released, it was all over the radio and it was like climbing the charts. I think it was already top five. And uh, I called my attorney and I said, you know, the Grammy’s are coming up. Is it nominated because no, I don’t think so. I haven’t heard anything. I started calling up other people that I knew in the industry and like, no, I haven’t heard anything. So I said to my girlfriend at the time I was really kind of pissed. I said, you know, I’m not going to watch the Grammys this year. Let’s just go out for dinner. And she goes, no, no, you it’s your industry. You have to watch the Grammys. Let’s stay home and watch. I said, all right. So we ordered in Chinese food and we sat there and watched them. And then her category came up. It was best female rock local for 1982. I think it was. And all of a sudden she won and they pan the camera pants to an empty seat. And the, the MC said, uh, uh, mr. Bennetara’s is on the road. She won’t be able to actually, except in person. I was like, are you kidding me? I could have flown to LA and accepted the award as the writer and made her chase me down for, for the, for the fricking trophy.
Oh my gosh. Are you serious?
Yeah. I was like screaming at the TV standing there.
That’s unreal. Unreal.
So anyway, I’ll leave it on that, on that note.
Oh, David that’s too bad, man. That was a moment lost. I’m so sorry to hear that. That’s all right. Cool. Well, thank you so much for taking time to share your story, man. I really appreciate it. And I hope that people will find inspiration in the perseverance that you’ve expressed in your story, the book shadows of the night. DL. Thank you so much for your time and our appreciate it all the best to you.
Okay. No problem. Damon.
Thank you. Bye bye.
Hey, it’s me DL. Story of overcoming severe dyslexia and across addicted mother to achieve musical notoriety is really amazing while it must have been tough to be in New York on his own at 18, his perseverance to reach back to Catholic charities throughout the years, and finally get detailed information from Betty was awesome. I love to hear about people doing the right thing for someone else when no one else is looking. And that’s exactly what Betty did for DL. I don’t know about you, but I could totally imagine the scene where his birth mother spread the CDs out on the kitchen table. When DL nephew passed by and recognized his face as the same as his grandma’s kids, they’re the best. Like I said, DL’s book is called shadows of the night named for the song. You’re hearing take some time to check out his or some other adoptee autobiographies online or at a retailer near you. I’m Damon Davis. And I hope you’ll find something in DL’s journey that inspires you, validates your feelings about wanting to search or motivates you to have the strength along your journey to learn who am I really
No show down, but our time we’ll surely come. The hungry horse hearing makes this loss with the barrel of a gun]. We’re running through the shadows of the night. So come and take my hand we’ll be alright. If I have to stand and breathe, the fight I will win in the end.
If you would like to share your adoption journey and your attempt to connect with your biological family, please visit who am I really podcast.com/share. You can follow the show at facebook.com/waireally or follow on Twitter at waireally. If the show is meaningful to you, you can support me with a contribution to keep it going on. patrion.com/waireally please subscribe to who am I really on? Apple podcasts, Google play, or wherever you get your podcasts. It would mean so much to me. If you took a moment to leave a five star rating there, those ratings can help others to find the podcast too. And if you’re interested, you can check out the story of my adoption journey. Who am I really and adopt the memoir on amazon.com on Kindle or as an audio book on audible. I hope you’ll add my story to your reading list.
No, you got a naked stand. Sometimes it takes guts to, live in this world. We’re running through the shadowsof the night . So come and take my hand we will be alright and if I have to stand and breath the fight I will win in the end. So baby, take my hand, you’ll be alright Surrender all your dreams to me tonight They’ll come true in the end. thanks very much.