Valenti was born Chester Powers in 1937 to ‘carny’ folk (they ran a tent called the ‘hootchie cootch’ – which was basically a strip show).
At 17 Powers ran away to join the US Air Force, and after his discharge, he pitched up in Greenwich Village, New York, in around 1960. Here he began playing regularly in a duo (with Fred Neil) at the Cafe Wha?.
Adopting the name he had previously used when playing in an Italian restaurant, Valenti started writing his own songs, including Get Together which became a Top 10 hit for The Youngbloods.
By 1965 he was playing around San Francisco with Quicksilver Messenger Service, but before the band signed a record deal he was busted for marijuana possession and, while awaiting trial, was busted again, resulting in a 1-to-10 year sentence.
There are conflicting accounts about how long he actually served, but he was seen at the first Human Be-In in San Fran in 1967 “running through the crowd, playing a flute, skipping in and out of groups of people like a minstrel from the middle ages thrown into modern America by a time warp,” according to Rolling Stone.
He was soon back in prison and, while he was incarcerated, Quicksilver Messenger Service recorded their first album, including his Dino’s Song on the LP. Once freed again he rejoined the band, and also recorded a solo album in LA in 1968 for Epic.
Valenti condemned the album as “too commercial and too clean” which made Epic furious. They decided to bury Valenti and his album. His name was even spelt incorrectly on the cover (as ‘Valente’) – allegedly as a deliberate act of vengeance. The album remains the only solo output from Valenti, and although he spoke excitedly with Rolling Stone in 1969 about recording another solo album, he never actually made it.
There was a brief attempt to form a band called The Outlaws with Quicksilver guitarist Gary Duncan, but in 1970 they both rejoined Quicksilver Messenger Service for Just For Love and What About Me, on which Valenti wrote under the pseudonym, Jesse Oris Farrow.
Quicksilver split, he returned to the carnival – running a horse tournament – and there were no further recordings. He died in Santa Rosa, California, on 16 November 1994. He was 51.