Chuck McDermott- Road Tested

Chuck McDermott may be the only band member never to be fired by John Stewart.

John only hired great musicians so the firing was not due to anything related to musicianship.

Chuck brings stability and grace to every stage that he steps onto. He can write, play and play along with anyone from a touring pro to a first-time-on-stage player.

Chuck just released a new cd that he titled Road Tested. The cd is a group of songs that tell the story of a good man who could easily be Everyman. The songs stand on their own but the story is in the whole.

I’ve chosen one of my favorites to share here. I have to tell this story, though.

Last fall we were doing our annual Gathering in Scottsdale. Chuck sang this song onstage and when he came offstage I went up to him and said “I love that song but I can’t remember which one of John Stewart’s records that it was on.” Chuck smiled and said “I wrote it… Thanks, though!” If John HAD written it, it would have been one of his finest!

Chuck. Thanks for being a friend and thanks for sharing your talent with so many of us.

Here’s how to get a copy.

Fibbers-York- September 2000

This track brings a lot of memories. We had picked up John at the train station in York and spent the day doing radio interviews and wandering around York. John had a gig that night at a pub called Fibbers. It was possibly the hottest place I’ve ever been in where I was not allowed to disrobe. After the show John said that the shellac was bubbling up on his guitar.

I was doing video as well as audio and I think I may have lost 5 pounds during the gig despite numerous pints of beer.

John was touring to support Wires From the Bunker but he loved to do a few covers. This song, written by Billy Edd Wheeler, was one of his favorites.

Coal Tattoo.

Chuck McDermott

I struggled to find anything to add to the title on this post. Writing about Chuck is both easy and excruciatingly difficult. It’s complicated. When Chuck was young (very young) he fell in with a California bounder named John Stewart. They collaborated on songs, albums, tours and the best way to stay unindicted while on the road. John was a tough guy to be around. I never, ever heard him say one negative thing about Chuck.

Chuck grew up in the diplomatic circles of Washington, DC. His family were Kennedy friends and Chuck became friends with the younger Kennedys. Chuck went to Yale but was able to escape before the experience damaged him irrevocably.

Later in life he became involved in managing financial funds and developing markets that encouraged green investing and socially conscious programs.

After John’s passing he, Dave Batti, John Hoke, Dennis Kenmore, Bob Hawkins and Dave Crossland formed the John Stewart Band. They perform together a few times a year and bring new life to John’s songs.

Chuck has been releasing his own songs over the past few years. In 2019 he released Gin and Rosewater; a great mix of styles from Steve Earle to Little Feat. Comparisons really are odious and Chuck’s style is his own. But I always find some value in the ‘If You Like Blah Blah; You Will Like Hoo Haw”. If you like any of the great singer songwriters you’ll like Chuck McDermott.

Here’s his latest release. It’s on a EP and available soon.

And here’s Chuck’s website

The song is Here’s the Thing About America and, as I sit here watching CNN all I can do is nod along with the song.

Here’s the Thing About America

Jennings and Keller- Like No Other

This has been a hard time for many of us. People that I know as friends have died, many others have suffered losses in their families and hope has been a hard thing to come by.

Musicians are no different from anyone else in this regard.

We’ve all been denied personal contact but for those who rely on it for their living it’s been very hard. Financially, yes, but also spiritually.

Laurie Jennings and Dana Keller are road warrior musicians. They travel and play many shows each year. Many of them are in libraries and other public places where they can relate to their audiences on a more personal level. A few years ago I wrote about their song Mirror With a Memory from the CD of the same title.

Dana just sent me this song that they’ve just finished. I heard it for the first time just a few days ago and told Dana that it had caused me to think more closely about what the past few months have brought to me. I only dabble in self-awareness but this song made me go deeper. Aside from the lyrics; the music and Dana’s B-Bender Tele make it a great song.

I thank them for this song and the hope that they have and are sharing.

Here’s a link to their website. I highly recommend their music to you.

Stay Positive and Test Negative!

Laurie Jennings and Dana Keller- Like No Other

Henry Diltz and California Bloodlines

I can’t remember where I recorded this clip. It was either at the WFMA Lifetime Achievement Tribute to John or at the Fantasy Camp 9 Tribute.

Henry Diltz is a friend to everyone he ever met. Most people know his work as a photographer who did many iconic record covers. Not so many know him as a member of the Modern Folk Quartet and a superb banjo and harmonica player as well as a very good vocalist.

Here’s Henry with Chuck McDermott ( not John Hoke), Dave Batti and Dennis Kenmore doing California Bloodlines.


Amy Goddard’s Tribute

In 2008, not many months after John Stewart walked on ahead of us, Amy Goddard wrote a song that somehow made its way to the Bloodliner community. Amy is a longtime appreciator of John’s music and a talented musician. The song became well known and Amy became a friend to many of us. Stewart’s music has long been a part of her repertoire in her live shows and on her cd’s.

Just a few weeks ago she released a new cd that is either John’s songs or songs that she wrote to honor John. So many people joined in on the chorus on these songs. George Grove, Rick Dougherty, Jerry Siggins, Chuck McDermott, Tom O’Donnell, Tom Craig, Del Lausa, Denise Ilmanen, Sharon Walt, Steve Cottrell, and Kate Snow just to name a bunch of them.

My copy arrived today. I haven’t listened to much of John’s music in the past few years. I have so many great memories that the jukebox is always running in my mind, though.

Thanks Amy, for doing this.

Here are a few songs that I’d like you to hear. The first is the song that Amy wrote in 2008. The second is my all time favorite John Stewart song. John could be a little critical about others doing his songs but I think he’s nodding his head right now and smiling just a bit.

Cabaret and North Ontario

In 1971, Gordon Lightfoot released an album titled Summer Side of Life. One of the tracks on the album, Cabaret, became one of my favorite songs. It was not a ‘typical’ Lightfoot song as it had an ethereal feel with horns and strings and written in a very melodic style. Midway through the song, though, you hear a deep sigh, a door slam and the tempo and feel of the song changes to a different level. I like the first part but I LOVE the second part. Lightfoot fans refer to the second half of the song as North Ontario.

Some time ago I mentioned how much I loved the song. My friend Fred Grittner casually mentioned that he had been singing North Ontario for years. I’ve never been shy about asking for music from my friends so I immediately jumped on him to record it. Which he did.

I love his version. Today they’re releasing music on LP’s. This one should be released on eight track. This is a truck driver song. The feel of the road, the syncopation and the steel guitar all bring the road to North Ontario to my mind.

Here’s Fred Grittner.

Jennings and Keller – Mirror With a Memory

Dana Keller and I go back quite a few years. We met through photography and have remained friends through music. Dana and Laurie Jennings Oudin are musicians and road warriors. They winter in Florida and travel the western US in the summer. They travel in  a motor home and do gigs in RV parks, public libraries, coffee houses and private homes. Besides being stellar musicians they are also talented writers who draw on their life experiences for their songs. Laurie  has written several songs about her experiences in teaching music at a women’s prison. Many of Dana’s songs have photographic references.

Earlier today I was talking with an old friend about photographs that showed what we were like over 40 years ago. Her comment was that they were a powerful record of who and what we had been.

In the late 1800’s the photographer Jacob Riis referred to daguerreotypes as a “Mirror With a Memory.  Dana took the phrase and made a great song from it. Which you can hear now:


Here’s the link to Dana and Laurie’s website. If they are anywhere near you I highly recommend that you hear them play. They are two of the best of us.

Jennings and Keller


The Bloodliners and the Liner Notes CD

[/audio]Back in the late 90’s John Stewart’s internet group, the Bloodliners, released a tribute cd of John’s songs that were performed by the Bloodliners. As I recall, it was Michelle Stevens idea. Mark Cashman, who is no longer with us, produced the cd. There are eighteen tracks and I think they need to be heard again.

So, here they are. Some of the names will be familiar; Jeff McDonald, Bill Heilmann, John August Lee, Mike Butters, Spencer Lewis. Others are gone from us; Steven Donaghey and Mark Cashman. And John.



Spencer Lewis has been a friend for many years. Many of John Stewart’s east coast fans know Spencer but he hasn’t been to the West Coast for quite some time. Spencer lives in Vermont and if Vermont had a Musical Poet Laureate it would be Spencer. His recorded works are complex song poems featuring him on guitar and fiddle and friends on keyboards and bass.

A few years ago he released a great cd called Open Road. Open Road had a little different sound than his other cd’s. I was really happy when he told me that he would be covering John’s song, The Chosen, on the new work. I’m not sure that one was ever covered and, in fact, I don’t think John performed it live very often.

What brings me to think about Spencer today? My friend Rick Godwin and I  are trying very hard to bring Spencer to the Americana Folk Music Camp in 2018. Spencer is a great teacher as well as a superb musician and we’re hoping to get him, his guitar and his fiddle into the Hospitality Suites and into the various music rooms.

You can listen to The Chosen here:

And you can visit Spencer’s website here:

Spencer Lewis Music