“I’d like to thank you all
for coming out tonight for
this tribute: if for no other
reason than to validate what
we’ve been doing up here
all these years.”
–John Hartford, at his own Mountain Stage tribute concert, February, 2000
What Hartford had “been doing all those years” was a unique mix of fiddle and banjo music, storytelling, contemporary songs with lyrics more like poetry than pop, oldtime string band music, bluegrass, a quick wit, and a personable stage presence that won audiences immediately. When John was up on stage people felt as if he was talking personally to them; and when he introduced his music it was clear he was sharing something very personal, something he loved deeply. One could not be anything but thoroughly entertained by John Hartford.
John’s many lives included work as a string band musician, a songwriter, a deejay, a towboat operator, a solo performer and entertainer, a steamboat pilot, a comedy writer, a scholar and historian of oldtime music, and a documentarian of great fiddle and banjo players and their styles.
John’s distinctive style came from his approach to song writing: he thought in very visual terms. He referred to his lyrics and poetry as “word movies.” In addition to being a fine wordsmith, he infused in his performing a great deal of his own personality and his main interests: riverboats, music, and people. What you got was pure John, whether he was singing about floating on a stream in a canoe or raising steam on a paddlewheeler, telling a story about the folks he grew up with, being just plain silly by imitating the sound of an old washing machine, or playing a tune by slapping his face with his mouth open.
Join us in celebrating and documenting the memory of a truly thoughtful and creative entertainer, one who brought together all that was good about oldtime string band music, folk music, songwriting, storycraft, showmanship, humor, history, river life and lore, dancing, and pure joy.