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.
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.
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:
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.
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.
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.
As some of you may know, I’ve been a minor key in the music business for quite a few years. It started out when I met John Stewart and progressed through about ten years of our lives and then onward to the present day. Working with John was a great experience and led to many laughs and more than a few anxieties. It gave me so much in my life that I would never have experienced if I hadn’t known him. The greatest gift, right there alongside the songs, was the gift of people who I met through his music. In 1999, John, Michelle Stevens and a few others came up with the idea of the Trio Fantasy Camp. I was involved in the first Camp though I didn’t attend. I’ve been to most of them since that time. This year is number 14. Through the Camp I’ve met some friends who will be friends for a lifetime including my best friend in the world, Pedro. And so many others. Some of them Campers, some of them my co-workers and some of the the Bloodliners who come to the Camp every year.
Fortunately for me, these friends also play music and they carry the flame of playing John’s songs and keeping his music alive. Every year I come home from Camp with music from many different people like Ed Callahan, Kate Snow, Tom Lamb, Fred and John August and Tom O’Donnell.
Tom O’Donnell has just released his latest CD so I’m getting a jump on hearing his music this year. Tom has put up a brand new website and the cd is available for a free download. Just go here:
and music button at the top of the page. His newest release is called Old Friends. Click the picture and you will go to the songs. You can preview them on the player box on the right or click the titles on the left to go the the download area. I love Tom’s voice and his selection of songs is terrific. I had the pleasure of hearing him sing Cold Missouri Waters in my suite at Camp last year and it was mesmerizing.
Here is one of my all time favorite John Stewart songs. Jeff MacDonald is singing lead with Tom providing harmony.
and here is Tom singing a great song called Down Old Bailey Road written by our friend Fred Grittner. Tom and Fred, in previous lives, were attorneys who had the grace to retire and concentrate on making music:
There was a time that John Stewart shared a booking agent and, maybe a manager, with Tom Waits. John and Tom were friends and there are some great stories about this friendship.
John was aware that he was sometimes influenced by people that he knew and listened to and, at a certain point in his career he stopped listening to music done by his peers. One of the albums that sat on the shelf for many years was known as The Piano Album. The history behind it is long and nasty and I won’t go into it here. Tom DeLisle wrote some great liner notes for the cd that was released after John’s passing. The cover is also one of my favorite John Stewart pictures; shot by the great photographer (and human) Henry Diltz.
John and I discussed releasing the cd for many years but never quite agreed to do it. He had bad memories of dealing with the record companies during this period and I believe that was the major reason for his reluctance. After his passing, I dusted off the project and took it to Buffy for approval and she agreed that it needed to be heard.
Here is one song from the album. One of my favorites called New Orleans.