The John Stewart Band, Saturday, August 17, 2019
John Stewart was one of the most acclaimed American songwriters of the past century. He produced a body of work over five decades that spoke as much to the American spirit as the paintings of Wyeth or poetry of Whitman. John was one of the architects of folk music’s marriage with rock’n’roll, with his first solo album, 1968’s “California Bloodlines”, considered by many critics and artists to be the cornerstone of what we call today Americana Music.
John defined the term “prolific”, writing thousands of songs during his lifetime. In addition to his own recordings, his songs were covered by more than 200 artists, producing hits for Rosanne Cash, Anne Murray, Nanci Griffith, Joan Baez, The Monkees, and others.
John was beloved for the passion, character and wit of his live performances which showcased his narrator’s baritone, his unique and complex guitar style, and his uncanny humor and insights. John always surrounded himself with superb musicians, with whom he sculpted the soundscapes that brought his writing to life.
For the last several decades of his life, John was supported by a tight group of musicians from his native Southern California, who recorded on and sometimes produced his albums, toured and helped manage John’s Homecoming Records label. Their friendships with John were as deep as their musical connection.
John Stewart passed away much too soon on January 19, 2008, at the age of 68. Just 10 days later, John was scheduled to perform a concert in Scottsdale, Arizona. Six of his sidemen, then scattered across the country, loaded up their cars or boarded airplanes and headed to Arizona to fulfill that booking. They mounted the stage as “The John Stewart Band” and poured every thing they had into three hours of John’s music. They improvised arrangements on the fly, traded guitar solos, shared lead vocal duties – mourning but more importantly celebrating their departed mentor and friend. There were cheers – and tears. It was an evening of times remembered and new memories created.
That turned out to be only the first night these six musicians would come together to keep John Stewart’s songcraft alive. Stewart fans have enlisted them to perform across the country, where they have been joined on stage by fellow JS acolytes like Lindsey Buckingham of Fleetwood Mac, Timothy B. Schmit of the Eagles, Noel Paul Stookey of Peter, Paul and Mary, Rosanne Cash and others.
One of those nights took place in Prescott, Arizona. The John Stewart Band took to the stage and breathed fire, playfulness, and soul into dozens of John’s songs. It was only months later that they learned that “the tapes had been running”, and that there existed a multi-track digital recording of the entire evening.
Under the skilled hand of producer and JSB band member John Hoke, highlights of that evening are captured on this recording, “One Night In Prescott”. The recordings reflect the skill of the players, their fidelity to John’s artistry, and their original interpretations of some of their favorite songs from John’s vast catalog.
The members of the John Stewart Band are:
Dave Batti, bass and vocals: Dave played and recorded with John Stewart for 25 years until his John’s passing in 2008. During that time, he played on 24 releases with John and toured extensively throughout the U.S, the U.K. and Ireland. Dave also has run John's label, Homecoming Records, since its inception in 1984.
Dave Crossland, guitar and vocals: Growing up learning John's music from singing hippie babysitters when he was as a kid, Dave first met John opening for him at a folk club near Boston. Weeks later, John flew him to California to record on Darwin's Army. The album, produced by John Hoke, won "Pick of the Week" from Billboard Magazine. Dave's latest CD, Mother Country, reinterprets a collection of John's songs and last year was up for a Grammy nomination.
Bob Hawkins, guitar and vocals: An admirer of John's talents for many years, Bob arrived at the Johnny Stew party much later than the rest of the band. After a week of wood shedding a set of John's songs, Bob was introduced to him by Dave Batti in the summer of 2006 in the parking lot of the venerable McCabe's in Santa Monica, California, and moments later joined him onstage for their first gig together. Bob was in the studio with John working on a recording in the days and weeks before John's untimely passing.
John Hoke, guitar and vocals: A multi-instrumentalist and longtime John Stewart sideman, he co-produced John’s “Bullets in the Hourglass”, “The Day the River Sang” and “Darwin’s Army”. He played on many of John’s albums and toured extensively with John for twenty-five years.
Dennis Kenmore, drums and vocals: Beginning in 1981, Dennis worked with John in the studio, touring, and for a time, was John’s booking agent and tour manager. They shared a close and creative relationship which resulted in spirited studio performances as on “Punch the Big Guy,” and great improvisation moments on stage. John's legacy of style remains a powerful influence on Dennis' drumming to this day!
Chuck McDermott, guitar and vocals: Chuck worked closely with John during the early and mid 80’s. Chuck co-produced and carried the bulk of the harmony vocal duties on the album “Blondes”, and continued to play an important support role on The Last Campaign, Trancas and Punch the Big Guy. The live recording “Illinois Rain” captures the energy and range of Chuck and John’s performances as a duo.