John Stewart at 75

John Stewart

Today would have been John’s 75th birthday. I was thinking about him this morning, as I often do when I walk into my office. There’s a lot of his stuff in my office. I’m not sure he would have been much different today than he was in the years before he left us. Yes, he would have declined due to the horrible illness but I won’t let that define him for me. John was the perfect combination of cantankerous and great-hearted. Not knowing which one you were going to get kept you at the top of your game when you worked with him. He loved gadgets. He could be lazy or he could be ready to do things that normal people would avoid if they could. He could laugh with the best of them. His laugh was for the ages.

A movement is afoot to nominate John for the Songwriter’s Hall of Fame. It’s a more than worthy endeavor. Here’s where you can help.

Songwriter’s Hall of Fame

Back in 1981, John made some demos for CBS. Nothing came of it for many years until the late 90’s when John found the songs and some others and released Wires From the Bunker. On the demo cd was a song that I liked very much. I hope you enjoy it, too. Let’s all listen to a John Stewart song today. And let’s do it again tomorrow and every other day.


Another Trio Fantasy Camp and One More Handful of Great Music From My Friends

This year was the 15th edition of the Kingston Trio Fantasy Camp. It didn’t always have that name but the spirit was always that of the Kingston Trio. I’ve been involved in all 15 camps but only attended 12 of them. There have been so many constants at the Camps. Tom DeLisle’s wit, Dave Batti’s smile, the music that means so much to everyone. After this Camp we all agreed that it’s taken on a life of it’s own.

One of my favorite things about Camp is the music that goes along beside the Camper performances. This year was exceptional. I was gifted cd’s from ex-Campers Tom Sanders and Peter Nazaretian and Jeff Fessenden, current Camper Ed Callahan and the Man with the Banjo, Tom Lamb. In addition, my friend and Camper Tom O’Donnell, has a new cd on his website and there are so many great songs that I don’t know where to begin.

Tom Sanders is one of my favorite people. Honestly, I’d forgotten just how good he is at both guitar and vocals. Here he is singing one of the great John Stewart songs, Dreamers On the Rise.

Dreamers On the Rise

And then there was Lamb. The only  person I know who could have thrown John Stewart’s original Kingston Trio banjo into a fountain at the Scottsdale Plaza Resort and turned it into a great and funny story. Lamb’s talent is surpassed only by his wife Sue’s wonderfulness. Seriously, Lamb is only okay but Sue is top notch in every way. Tom can find songs that defy dignity and turn them into something great. Here’s Tom singing the great Alden Sawyer’s song I Like Drinking and Driving.

I Like Drinking and Driving

Peter Nazaretian and Jeff Fessenden have been friends and musical partners for over 50 years. Several of those years were spent wearing nylon jump suits and cavorting around like very strange looking Solid Gold dancers. They still re-live those golden days. Their new cd is called We’ve Fallen…But We Still Get Down. And they do! It was hard to pick one song to post but I finally decided on the great Eric Andersen song Close the Door Lightly When You Go. Peter and Jeff are wonderful singers on their own but something special when they sing together. Jeff is also a talented producer and engineer. He produced both this cd and the one from Ed Callahan.

Close The Door Lightly

Ed Callahan has a new cd called Gentle Nancy. The song was written by Tommy Makem and Tommy titled it Gentle Annie. Ed changed the title to Gentle Nancy to honor his wonderful wife Nancy who is, indeed, gentle as well as funny and warm of heart. We all love her. Here’s Ed.

Gentle Nancy

Tom O’Donnell has been my friend for many years and I am honored to say this. I’ve seen and heard him play at Camp and in pubs in Ireland and his talent and ability to connect with his audience is fantastic to see and hear. Here he is singing one of my favorite Mark Knopfler songs, Sailing to Philadelphia.

Tom’s music is available as a free download at his website:

and here’s Tom:

Sailing to Philadelphia

It was a great year. Can’t wait to see what comes my way in 2015.



Three Evangelines

Sharing a stage with John Stewart was not for the weak at heart. John could be generous onstage or he could be cranky. The two people who saw the most of this were Dave Batti and Chuck McDermott.

Yesterday, as I was listening to the two cd set recorded at the Floral Pavillion in Merseyside, England, I found this track that features Chuck on a song called Evangeline. It’s a very nice song and Chuck does a great job on it but the intro by John is Classic Stage Stewart. I think Chuck wrote this song and I don’t know if it was ever released on an album.

Here’s Chuck McDermott singing

Evangeline-Chuck McDermott

While I was researching the song, looking for it’s history, I found another Evangeline. In fact, I found two. Same song but very, very different versions. John loved to tinker with his songs. Sometimes inadvertently but most often because it made them more interesting to him. Some, like Daydream Believer, Pirates and Mother Country, remained intact. Others became fair game for his artistic pleasure.

Here is Evangeline from the Rough Sketches album, recorded in 1995:


and here’s the same song from the Bandera album. I believe that the Bandera album featured a group of Scottish musicians who called themselves Lies, Damned Lies. John met them through his great friend Andy Fergus who brought about the recording of Bandera, recorded in 1997:



One of the great things about seeing and hearing John onstage and live was that you couldn’t always be certain what he was going to do or how he was going to do it. Just ask Dave Batti the next time you see him.

John and Chuck at Merseyside-1984

In just a few weeks it will be time to start the drive west to the 15th annual Kingston Trio Fantasy Camp. It wasn’t always called the Kingston Trio Fantasy Camp. The first nine years we were just the Trio Fantasy Camp. Bob Shane owned the Kingston Trio name and he preferred (and rightly so) that we not use the group’s name.

John loved the days that we spent at the Camp. He loved Arizona and he particularly loved Phoenix.

And one of the highlights of Camp is to be able to hear the John Stewart Band play. This year they’ll be back for the umpteenth time. Dave Batti, Chuck McDermott, John Hoke, Dennis Kenmore, Dave Crossland and the great Bob Hawkins.

Here’s John and Chuck from a 1984, concert in Merseyside, England. It’s a long one, 9:38, and a great medley of California Bloodlines, Armstrong and Cheyenne. John and Chuck. Ringing guitars and great harmony.

If you can make it to Scottsdale for the gig I can guarantee a mighty time.

Click the link to hear the song.

John and chuck

The Kingston Trio-Chilly Winds

My previous post featured the set by John Stewart and the World’s Largest Folk Band. On Friday night, during the Tribute to John, the Kingston Trio consisting of Bob Shane, George Grove and Bobby Haworth performed. I’ve said it before; I was never a fan of the Kingston Trio. I didn’t know the music and it had little appeal to me. That night the Trio did Hard Ain’t It Hard and one of my all-time favorite songs- Chilly Winds. Bob’s voice was terrific and George’s playing was stellar.

Here they are- The Kingston Trio singing Chilly Winds.

chilly winds

Johnny Stew- 1/19/2008

Every year on this date I listen to some of the live recordings that I have of John Stewart. Some of the recordings are solo and some are with Dave Batti. Others are with Buffy and a few are with Henry Diltz or Tom DeLisle.

I usually wind up feeling pretty morose and missing John even more by the end of the evening.

This year I decided to turn it around 180 degrees. Let a little joy into the room.

In the spring of 2001, the World Folk Music Association honored John with a Lifetime Achievement Award. On Friday night he was honored with performances by Rosanne Cash, Nancy Griffith, Noel Paul Stookey, The Kingston Trio and many others including his band mates from the ‘world’s loudest folk band’ era. It was a great evening.

On Saturday night Dick Cerri asked John if he and the band wanted to do a few songs. Big mistake. John gathered up Buffy,  Pete and Maura Kennedy, Dave Batti, John Hoke, Chuck McDermott, Dennis Kenmore, Henry Diltz and Dave Crossland. What followed was a 25 minute jam session that, as John said to me as he was leaving the stage ‘left ’em bleeding from the ears’.

This puppy is 25 minutes long and it might take a short time to load but it’s well worth hearing.

John- we’re still running with this thing you started and we still remember you.

Johnny Stew

Happy Birthday Stewart

You’ve been on my mind all day. DeLisle, Dave and I miss you. I know that Chuck does, too. And Buffy and all of the kids, of course. You were the topic of alot of stories last week at Camp. DeLisle told most of them and I’d have given alot to hear your laugh.


I think this might have been the last song that I emailed you. It was recorded at the Floral Pavillion in Merseyside, England in 1984.  You and ‘the young lad’ Chuck McDermott. I think Buffy was on the tour, too, but this song is just you and Chuck. It’s a song that I’ve always loved but not one that everyone knows.


Hey Stewart? Happy Birthday.


The Raven

click the blue link to hear the song

On the Road With John Stewart

Today was day three of the drive from Yellow Springs to Scottsdale. The Kingston Trio Music Camp is a joyous time for everyone who knew John Stewart and his music. Driving west has been even more interesting to me this year because I seem to hear his songs around every corner. I hear Missouri Birds as we were making the seemingly never-ending drive from Rolla to Springfield and then I hear Cowboy in the Distance when we went through Joplin. It was so loud that I had to leave Dave Batti a voice mail to tell hm where I was. He picked up the reference right away, of course. I don’t know if John had any songs that referenced Oklahoma but I did hear a pretty passable version of 24 Hours From Tulsa that I think he would have appreciated. Then through the panhandle of Texas and into New Mexico where we passed near Roswell, one of his favorite places being the UFO fan that he was. Called DeLisle and yakked at him. Telling Stewart stories until the reception went away. They’ll be continued at 2am out by the pool. Then San Jon where the Dogs of San Jon still bark in the night. And up the hill to 7100 feet and a freight train coming toward us shining his light on the cool New Mexico rain. Gimme a break. It was close enough.

Tomorrow we cross the rest of New Mexico. Hit Holbrook, Arizona, and head down the Bee Line Highway for Scottsdale.  There are going to be old friends and new friends waiting for us or arriving soon. We’ll all sit by the pool and laugh and talk about Johnny Moonlight and how we owe our  friendship to his talent.

I’ll leave you with this song. I don’t know if I’ve ever published it and so what if I did. It’s good enough to hear again. The story is that it was written after John met Roseane Cash’s nanny. She was a farm girl from Missouri in New York City and this is how John came to:

Cowboy In The Distance

Click on the blue link to hear the song.

One of My Favorite Local Heroes

He also happens to be one of my favorite people. His name is Garry Ball and he was a friend of Kris’s before I met him. That means I’ve known him close to 30 years and maybe a bit longer. Garry plays guitar and writes songs. He also gave guitar lessons for years but I think I may have cured him of that desire. Actually, I took lessons from him for several years and it was more of a therapy session for both of us than a teaching/learning experience. We’d sit and talk music; he’d show me exactly what I was doing wrong, then he’d show me again a few minutes later, then he’d give up. But we had a great time! And I got to hear him play and sing his songs.We also both love guitars. I added it up a few minutes ago and I’ve bought four from him (Martin D41, Goodall RCJ, Collings Om3, Gibson AJ) and he’s bought two from me (Martin D15, Crafters of Tennessee TNFT Resonator) We both have all of them except the Gibson which neither one of us liked very much.

Garry is serious about this stuff. He’s been to the Swannanoa Gathering and studied with the best of the singer-songwriters. He’s befriended and been befriended by many of the finest. He recently released his first full length cd, Frozen Smile, and I took a copy with me on our trip to Ireland. It got regular play time for the whole month. I knew a few of the songs but was impressed with all of them. They’re well-crafted and beautifully performed.scans201

This is one of my favorite tracks from the cd. It’s a song that he originally wrote with the idea of presenting it to  the producers of the TV program Justified.

Click the link below to hear Garry sing

I Am Justified

You can order the cd, Frozen Smile,  from Garry by emailing him at

The cost is $12 including shipping.

Remember, support your own local heroes. They’re the front lines of music.

Cold Missouri Waters

Those who know me know that I don’t do Public Displays of Religion. What other people do is whatever gets them through the night and is no business of mine. This is a Private Moment but one that I will share. If it helps anyone, I’m pleased. If it embarrasses anyone, I’m sorry. If it offends anyone, that’s not my problem.

There have been very few times in my life when something has hit me so hard that it was hard to put out of my thoughts. The recent tragedy in Yarnell, Arizona has become one of them.

The  19 lives lost and the many other lives that have been shattered by the events have led me to a place I don’t often go.

This song, which I first heard performed by Tom O’Donnell at the Kingston Trio Fantasy Camp last year, was so disturbing to me when I first heard him do it that I couldn’t listen to it on his most recent cd. It was written by the Canadian singer-songwriter James Keelaghan and tells the story of the Mann Gulch Fire in Montana in 1949. The story is told by the survivor of the disaster that took the lives of 13 firefighters. Only 3 survived the fire including the narrator in  the song, Wag Dodge.

I’m looking for hope and it’s in short supply where I am right now. Oddly enough, this song has helped me deal with the disaster. I didn’t know any of the men or their families but it’s been a long time, possibly since September 11, 2001, that I’ve been this affected by a tragedy.

Here’s Tom singing

cold missouri waters