Notes about the John Denver and Denver, Boise & Johnson songs
There was a short period of time starting on May 21, 1966 when many people in a folk music organization called The Queen City Balladeers were able to be around The Mitchell Trio, Denver Boise & Johnson, John Denver, and Michael Johnson for more than just concerts. It was the mutual love of folk music that enabled this remarkable time. The Queen City Balladeers are a Cincinnati, Ohio group of folk musicians who have been promoting the music and singing for over 40 years. It was all Balladeers and lots of wives, husbands, girlfriends, sisters, mothers and boyfriends who were able to be around these truly talented people. See this link for an article about that 5/21/66 concert and about the Mitchell Trio coming over to the Wise Owl after their concert: http://digitalprojects.libraries.uc.edu/newsrecord/1966/1966_05_26.pdf
Several years before he was well known, we knew John Denver as a wonderfully talented singer and guitar player who was very willing to spend hours with us, singing and playing. We came to know the other members of the group also and had many after-concert picking parties with all of them. We were in awe of Paul Prestopino and his multiple talents, we loved Michael Johnson’s voice and guitar playing, we marveled over Bob Hefferan’s superb French Jazz and we enjoyed the humor and talent of David Boise. But on top of it all were the songs. It was their fantastic songs that made me want to tape their concerts and parties. Admittedly, a selfish part of wanting to tape them was to learn the songs for ourselves. When I looked at the set lists of John Denver, Denver Boise & Johnson and Michael Johnson recently, I was amazed at the number of their songs we learned for our own folk groups. The Denison tape was made by a friend of mine who was there and I believe he probably made the original Wise Owl and Nowhere tapes. I’m still trying to track his tape-trove down, as there just may be more. The tape from the Bistro Inn is not as good quality as the others, but I’m just glad it was still ok. I’ve added, after the fact, recordings kindly sent to me by several JD enthusiasts and collectors. These are the Philadelphia Folk Festival in 1968 and the Skip Weshner recordings from 1970-71.
There was an unspoken trust between the Balladeers and John Denver where he knew that we would never do anything with these recordings. I only used these tapes to learn the songs, and for almost 40 years I’ve dragged these old tapes of mine from house to house. The last concerts of Denver, Boise & Johnson were mailed by John Denver to me and two other Balladeers in Cincinnati on reel-to-reel tape. The tape was a compilation of what John thought were the best songs from their last two concerts. We didn’t ask him to do that, he just did it as a gesture to fellow folk musicians and friends. He knew how much we loved their music.
Many of these songs have never been recorded and Denver, Boise & Johnson never made a commercial album. What you hear on this web site is how they were and what they did in 1968 and 1969. This material is John Denver in his pre-Far Out days, and in the pre-“Bluer Than Blue” days of Michael Johnson.
I hope you enjoy these songs as much as I do. If you have any questions about this treasure trove, email me at JohnMarlowe@CincinnatiDancingPigs.com. If anyone knows of anything incorrect in this document, let me know.
April 1, 2007, revised slightly January 8,
Picture by Mark Ahlstrom, courtesy of Carl Franzen,
author of "On The Road", taken 3/26/68 in Mark
Ahlstrom's house in St. Peter, MN (thanks Carl!)
The Mitchell Trio in my mother’s basement, with the Queen City Balladeers
Pictures taken by, and courtesy of Tom Phillips
Photo courtesy of Bob Hefferan, circa 1967
Left to right: Jacque Morgan, John Marlowe
Paul Prestopino, Nancy Lee, Bob Hefferan,
Denison University, Bandersnatch Coffeehouse – March 15, 1969
See this link for Jeffrey Pettegrew’s “Birth of the Bandersnatch” article: http://www.cincinnatidancingpigs.com/BirthOfTheBandersnatch.html
See this link for some of the words to the songs from this and the next 2 concerts, and thanks to Jason Xion Wang, who put them out there:
Intro at Bandersnatch – John Denver
John is introducing his “I Like To Deal With The Ladies”. The first three songs were “Ann, “It’s A Sin To Tell A Lie” and “Today”, the great Randy Sparks song, all sung without pause. These are the same songs he started with at the Wise Owl Coffeehouse in Cincinnati. John put on fairly long shows in 1969, with three full sets lasting over two hours. The Denison performance was three hours, not including his breaks between sets.
“Paul Prestopino…. where are you?”
From my memory, this is not the only time John expressed how he missed Paul Prestopino. I believe I can hear us Balladeers in the audience chiming along with him when he almost moaned this plaintive statement. Paul brought stability and a sense of musical professionalism to John and the Trio. The story John is conveying in this cut is most likely not true. I think it was his attempt to be humorous when he was talking about how he missed Paul Prestopino. But I do believe it’s true that Paul helped John many times with his music and 12 string tuning and that John thought of Paul often and not only when he was having trouble getting his instruments in tune.
See this web site for the impressive number of artists that Paul Prestopino has backed up and recorded with over the years. http://home.cogeco.ca/~mansion1/paulprestopino.html. Also, see the somewhat recent picture of Paul with Aerosmith’s Steven Tyler, here at http://www.recordplantremote.com/
Last Thing on My Mind – Tom Paxton
John plays his classical guitar on this legendary Tom Paxton song. John had a deep respect for Michael Johnson when he was in Denver, Boise & Johnson. Michael was and still is a fantastic classical guitarist and John’s admiration for Michael’s playing translated to his getting a classical guitar after the group broke up, in addition to his playing Michael’s songs in his solo act. (See http://www.mjblue.com for more on what Michael Johnson is still doing.) The Queen City Balladeers first heard this song performed by The Mitchell Trio at the University of Cincinnati on May 21, 1966, with the lead sung by Joe Frazier. I actually still do a D7th chord in some songs, exactly how I saw John doing it on this song at that concert. John, Denver Boise & Johnson, The Mitchell Trio and The Chad Mitchell Trio did many Tom Paxton songs.
Frankie and Johnny – Traditional American Folk Song
See http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Frankie_and_Johnny_(song) for the origins of this song. John may have gotten this version from Bob Gibson but it could have been anyone. As an example, Nancy Lee and Barb Marek, who played with us in 1966, got the song from Joe and Eddie, I believe.
Mr. Bojangles – Jerry Jeff Walker
The Trio and John probably got this song from Jerry Jeff Walker, but it was the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band who had the hit on their “Uncle Charlie & His Dog Teddy” album in 1976. I’ve got to admit that even though I loved the DB&J version of this song and it’s probably where the Balladeers learned it, that the Dirt Band (who we Jug-Bander’s admire a lot) really brought this song to life with their folk-rock version of it. I remember having the whimsical thought back then that the Denver, Boise & Johnson version of this song might have been the hit, had they stayed together.
“The 12-String Guitar”
This was just included to show John’s frustration with tuning. I originally thought that Dave Boise came up with the funny things to say about it, but, I listened to my bad tape of a 1967 Mitchell Trio concert and found that Mike Kobluk was doing them in 1967. So, it seems that these humorous 12-string jokes were passed along from The Mitchell Trio, to Denver, Boise & Johnson and to John’s solo performances. I believe John is actually asking us Balladeers which string is not in tune. His “oh shut up!” was probably in response to one of us saying “Spot weld it when it’s in tune!”.
That’s The Way It’s Gonna Be – Phil Ochs, from the LP “The Broadside Tapes 1”
This was previously recorded by The Mitchell Trio, the group in which John had taken Chad Mitchell’s place. John’s initial repertoire as a solo performer contained many songs from the set lists of The Mitchell Trio and Denver, Boise & Johnson. The Chad Mitchell Trio, The Mitchell Trio and DB&J always did a fair amount of Phil Och’s songs.
The Weight – The Band
Every folk singer in this era knew and played this song. At the Wise Owl concert, John dedicated this song to the son of one of the Balladeers in the audience.
Reason to Believe – Tim Hardin
Folk songs in the 60’s were almost universally known, meaning that you could travel from one part of the country to another and people knew the same songs. Tim Hardin’s song was in this category, as were many in John’s repertoire.
Marcie – Joni Mitchell
Like all folk singers back then, John had several Joni Mitchell songs in his repertoire. This song is from her “Song to a Seagull” album.
All The While - Myles Rudge and Ted Dicks
"All the While" was written by Myles Rudge and Ted Dicks as a novelty song for the British performer Bernard Cribbins. Cribbins recorded it under the title "Folk Song". It appears on Cribbins' albums "Carry On Cutler" and "The Very Best Of Bernard Cribbins”. Another recorded version was by the Modern Folk Quartet. The song (titled "And All the While”) appears on the MFQ album "Changes". This was released on vinyl in 1964 (Warner Bros. Record WS-1546). A Japanese CD of the album was released in 1990, but it is very rare and difficult to find (Japan, Warner Bros. Record WPCP-3423).
(Thanks to Jochen Michalak for the above research on this song)
“The song "All The While" is also released on a 2007 John Denver album called "John Denver In Concert" under the title of "Old English Folk Song" and it is available on Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/John-Denver-Concert-Australian/dp/B000WMGDA2 .” (compliments of Jason Xion Wang)
For Lovin’ Me – Gordon Lightfoot
There wasn’t a folksinger around in the 60’s who did not have at least one Gordon Lightfoot song tucked in their guitar case and John had two he did at these concerts.
“Frustrated with tuning…..”
In this cut, John’s about at his wits end with tuning his 12-string.
Cindy’s Crying – Tom Paxton
This is a Mitchell Trio song too, performed on their “Alive” album. I just wish I had the Denver, Boise & Johnson version on these tapes. It’s another beautiful Tom Paxton song and the touching words can be read here http://www.gentleannie2.com/cindyscrying.html, thanks to a heartfelt John Denver fan.
San Francisco Bay Blues – Jesse Fuller
A lot of folk singers in this era played this song, especially after Peter, Paul & Mary recorded it.
Wherefore and the Why – Gordon Lightfoot
This is a good, solid Gordon Lightfoot song which was learned by several groups and soloists in the Balladeers because John played it.
Abraham, Martin and John – Richard Holler, sung by “Dion”
In the context of 1969, the year these concerts were recorded, the deaths of Martin Luther King and John Kennedy were still fresh memories.
You Done Stompt on my Heart – Extended – Mason Williams
This version is our emulation of the Denver, Boise & Johnson style of doing this song. I can’t remember the details of how we happened to play with John on this song and it was a forgotten memory until I saw my handwritten set list in the tape box. Erich Zwertschek, a past member of the Cincinnati Dancing Pigs, is playing dobro on it, ala Paul Prestopino, and John and I are playing guitar. This song became one of our favorites from DB&J. The Balladeers heard the song at two parties with the trio where the group wasn’t sure of all the words nor who wrote it, which turned out to be Mason Williams. This song was on Mason’s famous “Them Poems” album. David Boise did the original DB&J funny intro to the song which John took almost verbatim from the group when he went solo. The Cincinnati Dancing Pigs still do this song, having learned (stolen!) it from DB&J. John recorded this song on his “Rhymes and Reasons” album and called it “You Dun Stomped On My Heart”.
See Jeff Pettegrew’s “History of the Bandersnatch” on the concert songs home page, for a very interesting story about this song and about himself and John Denver making up words for the song. http://www.cincinnatidancingpigs.com/BirthOfTheBandersnatch.html
“Country And Western Songs..”
The Balladeers as well as John and Michael and David, appreciated a funny titled or versed C&W song and John mentions that Erich Zwertschek knew “Dim Lights, Thick Smoke and Loud, Loud Music”. At least one of the songs he’s mentioning came from Mike Johnson. My earliest recollection of these kinds of songs was “Amelia Earhart”, which we all sang together at a party, and “We Need A Whole Lot More of Jesus, And A Lot Less Rock and Roll”, which The Cincinnati Dancing Pigs still do. In the same vein, the Dancing Pigs also do “Drop Kick Me Jesus, Through the Goal Posts of Life”. There are several websites listing some of them. Two of them I know of are http://www.downstream.sk.ca/country1.htm and http://www.countrysongtitles.com
Everybody’s Talkin’ – Fred Neil
This was a Denver, Boise & Johnson song originally. We heard their partial version at an after concert jam session where they were still learning it. The song was made famous by being the signature song in the 1969 movie “Midnight Cowboy” and was performed by Harry Nillson.
Suzanne – Leonard Cohen
What folk singer back then did not know at least the C-chord guitar part for this song?
The Game Is Over – Denver/Bourtayre/Bouchety
I’ve always thought that this is one of John’s best songs ever. John wrote this song to the music from the 1966 French movie “The Game Is Over”, which starred Jane Fonda. He played it for us at one of the after concert jam sessions, where at that time the movie was currently in theaters. The version on “Whose Garden Was This” never did seem right to me, with the tinkling bells in it. I wish I had a good version on tape where Paul Prestopino was backing up John and where John was playing a steel string guitar on this song, but my party tape versions are very poor quality. Before John’s death, Michael Johnson was also known to have pointed this song out as an example of one of John’s best at songwriting. The recording has a little interference on it but it’s on here because it’s unique. This version is more subdued than the other times we heard it and John using a classical guitar makes it even more so. It’s also performed almost at the end of this three hour concert.
The real question about this song is why did he write the words to the music from the movie? I actually watched this awful movie again recently, after 40 years, thinking I might find the song in the movie, but, it’s the melody only that’s in the movie. JD has no credits in the movie. I’m sure we Balladeers knew more about this song 40 years ago, but the memory is gone. If anyone knows the background story, let me know! I have to admit that in doing my research, I was a little disappointed to find out John only wrote the words to the song, which are great but, it’s not entirely his song.
Both Sides Now – Joni Mitchell
John learned this song from the Denver, Boise & Johnson version which had Michael Johnson doing lead on it. The DB&J version is wonderful and there’s a video that’s on Michael Johnson’s site of them doing the song at The Bitter End. See http://www.mjblue.com/clips/video/dbj1.html
“Closing thoughts about Denison….”
It’s been great to have met by email, the founders of the Denison Bandersnatch coffeehouse, especially Jeff Pettegrew, who has written a history of it on the concert songs home page. See http://www.cincinnatidancingpigs.com/BirthOfTheBandersnatch.html
Jeff has verified for me that folk singers from this era all knew the same songs, no matter what part of the country they were in. The Balladeers never met Jeff or his group of fellow folk singers, yet when Jeff recently sent me a list of his favorite songs from that time, I knew 99% of them, probably played 75% of them and they were my favorites too. This time in music was unique for that aspect. The only equivalent today might be with Bluegrass music.
Queen City Balladeers Wise Owl Coffeehouse – Saturday May 10, 1969
Note: The Balladeers still operate a coffeehouse in Cincinnati, having done so continuously since the early 60’s. Their web site is at http://www.qcballadeers.org. This organization is responsible for a large number of people playing folk songs. The Cincinnati Dancing Pigs still play at their coffeehouse occasionally, and at their long running Summer Concerts in Eden Park in Cincinnati.
See this link for the words to some of the songs from this concert, compliments of Jason Xion Wang
And, see this link with a small paragraph from the University of Cincinnati student newspaper announcing the Wise Owl and Nowhere concerts. Search for “Denver”: http://digitalprojects.libraries.uc.edu/newsrecord/1969/1969_05_09.pdf. I was surprised to find no review of these two concerts in subsequent issues.
Ann – Billy Ed Wheeler
This Billy Ed Wheeler song leads off two of the 1969 concerts that are on the website. Since John did not do “For Bobbi” at either of those concerts, it’s my opinion that he was doing this song for his wife Annie. I believe John may have gotten this version from The Kingston Trio album “Back In Town”, released in 1964, or from the Glen Campbell version. It was one of many Billy Ed Wheeler songs that The Kingston Trio did.
It’s a Sin To Tell a Lie – Billy Mayhew – 1935
The Cincinnati Dancing Pigs still do this song, having learned it in the era where Queen City Balladeers were around John a lot.
Today – Randy Sparks
This is a wonderful, classic folk song, although folk purists from that era disdained it as too commercial. The Balladeers at the Wise Owl are all singing the chorus after John’s prompting. Randy Sparks was of course, the founder of The New Christy Minstrels and many other groups, including one that Michael Johnson was in. John Denver also worked for Randy in his very early career. In one of the (6) interviews Randy gives on the Folk Alley site, Randy remembers when everyone in the New Christy Minstrels thought “Today” was a bad song after Randy had just written it and had them listen to it. Randy has a long memory for these kinds of things, especially since he was vindicated by the song being a huge hit for the Minstrels. These 6 Randy Sparks interview mp3’s are at http://www.folkalley.com/music/extras/randy-sparks/. The clip about his memories of the Minstrels thinking that “Today” was a piece of crap is here at http://18.104.22.168/folkalley/extras/randy_sparks/part5.mp3
Intro at Wise Owl – John Denver
This is pretty much the same intro he did at the Bandersnatch, except that John got a kick out of all the Queen City Balladeers singing along on “Today”, which was the song before this intro. And he mentions that the last time he was at our coffeehouse, David Boise had just joined The Mitchell Trio two years ago. The concert where Dave Boise first appeared with the Mitchell Trio was on 4/15/67 at the University of Cincinnati.
You Done Stompt on My Heart – Mason Williams (audience participation)
The Queen City Balladeers in the audience are singing the chorus in harmony to John’s “directions”. The Balladeers were able to learn this song among many others, because of having these recordings. Back then, we all enjoyed doing songs that John or his group had not recorded yet. The Denison version of this song did not have mostly Balladeers in the audience and therefore didn’t have the audience participation as on this version. That version does have two Balladeers playing and singing on the song, though.
Catch Another Butterfly – Mike Williams
See the extensive notes at the bottom in the Bistro Inn section for lots of information about this wonderful song, including an additional verse and Mike Williams’ recollections about writing the song.
Rhymes and Reasons – John Denver
This song was fairly new when John performed it at the Wise Owl and the Bandersnatch, and as he says, it was going to be the title song on his first album, his having gotten a recording contract with RCA.
What’s That I Hear – Phil Ochs
Here’s a web page with more information on Phil Ochs, another prolific folk song writer. http://web.cecs.pdx.edu/~trent/ochs/
You Certainly Have Got A Pretty Fantastic Bod – Michael Peter Smith (audience participation)
Again, Queen City Balladeers are singing the refrain to this song because everyone knew it from these recordings and because John set it up at the Nowhere Coffeehouse the night before. See Michael Smith’s website for more on this prolific and funny songwriter: http://www.artistsofnote.com/michael/index.html. John is playing his classical guitar on this and is emulating Michael Johnson from the DB&J version in my opinion. Even the ending riff is Michael Johnson’s. I don’t have verification of this, but my memories tell me that when the group broke up, John got the same brand classical guitar that Michael played with DB&J. John did have a deep respect for Michael’s abilities.
Intro to Civil War Trilogy
Either John did “Civil War Trilogy” and “Business” together, or in the case of the Nowhere Coffeehouse, “Two Little Boys” and “Last Night I Had The Strangest Dream”. They were his anti-war statement songs at this time.
Civil War Trilogy – Bob Gibson
This song is from the legendary album “Bob Gibson and Hamilton Camp at The Gate of Horn”.
Business Goes On As Usual – Fred Hellerman and Fran Minkoff
This was a Mitchell Trio song and it fit John’s growing though initially uncomfortable feeling anti-war sentiment. Anti-Vietnam war, that is. It was originally sung by Joe Frazier in the Mitchell Trio. It was interesting that John and Michael Johnson were both initially uncomfortable with “protest” songs back then. John seemed to eventually welcome this into his personality, though Michael was more comfortable not singing about causes in his later years.
What a Friend We Have In Congress – Pete Seeger
Pete Seeger is featured in a new film documentary released in 2007, called “Pete Seeger: The Power of Song”, that was on PBS, and which will be on DVD soon. It’s a highly recommended documentary to watch. John doesn’t say anything about him, but Pete Seeger is directly responsible for John and all other folk singers of the era.
Games People Play – Joe South
But You Know I Love You – Mike Settle and Pierre Delanoe
Port of Amsterdam – Jacque Brel
I don’t recall Michael Johnson ever doing this song, but it’s another indication of both of them being fascinated with Jacque Brel songs. This particular one could bring the house down for John.
Nowhere Coffeehouse – University of Cincinnati, Friday May 9, 1969
See this link for the words to some of the songs from this concert:
John played at this University of Cincinnati Student Union coffeehouse the night before the Wise Owl, which was also on the same campus. Most of us Balladeers were at both concerts and it was nice finding out I attended this concert on my birthday, which I had forgotten.
Two Little Boys – Theodore Morse/Edward Madden – 1902
John may have gotten his version from Australian folk singer Rolf Harris, who wrote “Tie Me Kangaroo Down, Sport”. This is apparently a fairly unique recording. When people download these songs off of my web site and republish them, they typically include the word “rare” for a song like this.
Last Night I Had The Strangest Dream – Ed McCurdy
I’m pretty sure just about every major folk singer of the era did this classic anti-war song, which John mistakenly mentions was almost 50 years old at the time he was singing it. Some of the artists who have recorded it were The Limeliters, Joan Baez, The Kingston Trio, Simon and Garfunkel, The Weavers and Pete Seeger. In doing some research on this song, indications are that it was really written in 1950 and it was Ed McCurdy’s most famous song. I wonder just how familiar John was with the original Chad Mitchell Trio material, as this song was on their 1962 album “The Chad Mitchell Trio At The Bitter End”. It’s just as possible I suppose that he knew the song because it was almost the anthem of anti-war songs back then. I wouldn’t be surprised to hear it being done again now, as we seem to be in somewhat of the same situation. Although, the Iraq war has unfortunately not made people as rabidly anti-war as they were in the Vietnam era when John was singing these songs. But then again, there’s no draft now in the U.S. either.
Farewell Party – Bob Gibson& Bob Connelley
This song was on John’s 1966 250 copy limited edition album, which was known to his friends as “The Christmas Album”. None of the Balladeers were fortunate enough to have gotten a copy of this, although we all knew about it and sure wanted one back then. Bob Gibson was one of the authors of this song and was a prolific and popular folk singer, but I’m not sure who Bob Connelly is/was. If you might like to listen to the other songs on JD’s 1966 solo album and see the album covers, look here:
California Dreaming – John Phillips/M. Gillian
What can a person say about The Mama’s and The Papas? John apparently admired them as much as any other folksinger of the time. This song has also had the word “rare” attached to it when someone put it on YouTube.
For Bobbi – John Denver
At least we now have a recording of John saying he wrote this song for a former girlfriend. I understand that Bobbie (and is it “Bobbi”, or “Bobbie”?) is still around and has been known to attend some fan functions. I wonder how a person would feel about having a love song named after them by someone who eventually became one of the most recognized voices in the world?
The Party Songs
Picture from the “Miami Student” newspaper, Miami University, Oxford, Ohio
October 8, 1968, for the 10/12/68 concert, where some of the party songs came from.
Courtesy of the Miami University Archives
I included the best songs from two parties with the Trio where I actually had a tape recorder running. There are several songs on these tapes where they were learning this song or the other before the group broke up. As examples, they were doing a wonderful version of the Chuck Berry song “Memphis”, and Mike Johnson had lead on “Little Green Apples”.
I believe John said that he had learned this song from Paul Prestopino. JD was an excellent picker back then. I’ve heard this song done only one time before by JD, and that’s at the beginning of a cut where he goes into “I Like To Deal With The Ladies” (thank you Roger Ooms). Paul Prestopino is playing wonderful backup to John’s fingerpicking on Dallas Rag. Last summer (2007) the Cincinnati Dancing Pigs were playing at the Louisville, Kentucky “Jug Band Jubilee”, and an old friend and I were sitting on a park bench reminiscing about JD and those times. Off in the distance, one of the groups started playing “Dallas Rag” on stage, and it sent chills down my spine. It was very coincidental and was the first time I had heard anyone do this song live since 1968. Recently, an avid Chinese fan, Jason Xion Wang, sent me a link to a video of John doing it in 1973 just as he did on my party tape:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Bi1Lnul_pXA. It’s wonderful seeing John playing the song.
Miss Annabelle Lee
Bugle Call Rag
If it weren’t for these recordings, I don’t know where other Bob Hefferan/Paul Prestopino recordings might be. Bob Hefferan’s French Jazz artistry is very apparent on these songs. I can’t remember if they did this in concert or not, but on “Sweet Sue”, Bob comes over to Paul’s guitar for the last verse and plays his lead part on Paul’s guitar at the same time Paul is playing backup, thus all the laughter you can hear. I can’t quite make out what snide comment JD is making, but it gets a laugh too. Paul and Bob did look pretty funny playing the same guitar.
One interesting note is that Bob Hefferan is now playing again after all these years. Bob is one of the two guitar players for the rarely performing and rejuvenated original Chad Mitchell Trio. Their other guitar player would be none other than Paul Prestopino himself. How good could it get to see one of their concerts? See their excellent website at: http://www.chadmitchelltrio.com/
The Mitchell Trio, courtesy of Diana & David Boise
John Denver, Mike Kobluk, David Boise
The Mitchell Trio, courtesy of Jeff Fields and the 1967/68 yearbook of
The State University of New York at New Paltz, for the 9/29/67 concert
The Mitchell Trio from the 5/21/66 concert, courtesy of the University of
Cincinnati student newspaper the “News Record”
Mike Kobluk, Joe Frazier, John Denver
You Done Stompt On My Heart – Mitchell Trio and DB&J early versions
It’s interesting to see the progression of this song from when they barely knew it in the Mitchell Trio days, to where it was the almost finished DB&J version at the Miami University party. At the Oxford, Ohio party, “Stompt” was the first of a round of funny C&W songs, and it was followed by myself mentioning “Egg Suckin’ Dog” (the great Johnny Cash song), Michael Johnson doing a little each of “If You Think You’ve Reached The Bottom, Just Look Down”, “Thank You Dear Jesus, For Victory In Korea”, and then everyone at the party doing “Amelia Earhart”. Erich Zwertschek knew the verses to “Amelia”, and is singing them. It’s interesting that Paul Prestopino was originally in the bluegrass group “The Greenbriar Boys” and that this group was where we all learned “Amelia Earhart”.
Love Is The Answer – John Denver, never recorded
It took me a while to research and then to realize that this was truly an unknown song written by John. I’ve talked with two excellent JD historians and both agree that this is a song that was never recorded anywhere as far as we know. You can find the song listed at least, on the Cherry Lane Publishing site as written by JD. It brings to mind conversations I’ve had with Jochen Michalak about the other JD songs sitting in vaults somewhere, waiting to be rediscovered and recorded by someone, anyone. Someone needs to take on a project of finding and recording these never-recorded John Denver songs.
As an FYI, Jochen Michalak belongs to a John Denver fan club in Germany that has been operating since 1981. This is a group of true fans, and I appreciate all the information Jochen, as one of the best JD historians around, has passed on to me. Their web site is at http://www.johndenverclub.org/
With The Wind On My Mind – John Denver, never recorded
I thought I’d post what I remember after
almost 40 years, of this song that JD never recorded. I
once had the sheet music to this song, which my friend Ken Loar
had gotten from Milt Okun himself on a visit to NYC around
1970. I had picked out the notes from the song, and had
memorized it all back then. Unfortunately, I’ve since
forgotten the last part of the 2nd verse and all of
the third verse. And, the sheet music disappeared long
ago. Since I’ve never actually heard this song, it will be
interesting one of these days when it finally comes out and
someone does it. I have no clue whether JD did it like
this or not. Unless someone has a recording of him doing
it somewhere, we’ll never really know. It’s in the Cherry
Lane vaults, it just needs to be found again.
Note, 10/28/12: I discovered the sheet music in my archives, i.e. in a box, and here it is, with much thanks to Ken Loar for getting it for me back then.
Denver, Boise & Johnson - First set
Last Two Concerts, November 18 and 22, 1968
Denver, Boise & Johnson with Paul Prestopino and Bob Hefferan, picture courtesy of Bob Hefferan, circa 1968
That's The Way It's Gonna Be – Phil Ochs
This was on the first Mitchell Trio album, with John as the new replacement for Chad Mitchell. Back in the 60’s everyone did a Phil Ochs song or two. See another video of DB&J doing this song exactly as they did it on this cut, on Michael Johnson’s web site at http://www.mjblue.com/clips/video/dbj3.html
The Draft Dodger Rag – Phil Ochs
The Draft was traumatic in those days, especially to those who had to go to Vietnam because of it. I remember going in for the physical because I had temporarily lost my student deferment (“2S”, if I recall) and I remember seeing many of my peers doing their bit to avoid the draft, such as acting feminine, or taking a mix of drugs the day of the physical, or like me, pointing out that I had flat feet, at which the Draft Board guy sneered and then promptly passed me on to the next station. I was sure that my flat feet would be good for a physical deferment. Others joined the Reserves to avoid Vietnam, and I remember one friend being ecstatic over getting into a Post Office Unit of the Reserves. I also had a pharmacy student friend who swore he knew the mix of drugs to take that would guarantee a rejection at the physical. Phil Ochs was extremely right on with this song and his verses reflect how it really was. I was one of the lucky ones who eventually got a good number in the Draft Lottery, but some of my friends were not so lucky and were drafted and shipped off to Vietnam. This song was originally done by The Chad Mitchell Trio. My first folk group did the song in 1965 and we had learned it from The Chad Mitchell Trio recording.
The student newspaper from May 26, 1966 at the University of Cincinnati had three articles on the Draft, one titled “Why I’m Here – Vietnam Viewpoint” and “More On The Draft And How To Appeal”, and another one titled “Dr. Parker Devises Student Draft Cards”. These were in the newspaper that reviewed The Mitchell Trio concert at U.C. on 5/21/66: http://digitalprojects.libraries.uc.edu/newsrecord/1966/1966_05_26.pdf. I attended at least one “Draft Dodging class” at U.C., and remember the paranoia being palpable that someone from the government was sitting there with us, taking notes and names.
We Didn't Know – Tom Paxton
This was also on a Mitchell Trio album, where Mike Kobluk had the lead. Tom Paxton was and is one of the most prolific and recorded folk song writers of all time. See his website at http://www.tompaxton.com. And, he’s still writing and singing. Listen to his somewhat recent “How Beautiful Upon The Mountain” sometime to see that Tom Paxton can still write ‘em, and write ‘em really well.
Intro of DB&J and Take Me To Tomorrow – John Denver
Take Me To Tomorrow – John Denver
This song was done by the group on their only official recording, a 45 that also included “The 68 Nixon”.
Intro to Both Sides Now – John Denver
Here’s the mention of DB&J being in Lamoni, Iowa, with references to local places like Grace’s Bar and The Conestoga Wagon.
Both Sides Now – Joni Mitchell
This is one of the most beautiful versions of this many times recorded song. Michael Johnson’s lead singing on it is superb, the harmonies are great and John’s harmony is almost ethereal. John’s 12 string background picking made it even better. This song is a good representation of Paul Prestopino playing his Martin D-28 as a bass guitar. Paul may have started doing this because there were too many guitars in the group with Michael Johnson’s addition. Want to see them on video doing the song exactly as on this recording? See http://www.mjblue.com/clips/video/dbj1.html
Intro To Toledo – John Denver
Saturday Night in Toledo Ohio – Randy Sparks
This song has a fascinating history. Randy Sparks, founder of The New Christy Minstrels, originally wrote the song and has a narrative online about it at: http://22.214.171.124/folkalley/extras/randy_sparks/part1.mp3. Michael Johnson was part of a Randy Sparks folk group and learned the song from Randy and George Blackwell while Michael was touring in Saigon, Vietnam with Randy. John Denver was originally part of Randy Sparks’ organization too. Michael brought the song to Denver, Boise & Johnson and John Denver subsequently made the song famous on his concert album after the group broke up. This was one of several Michael Johnson originated songs that John did after the breakup of Denver, Boise & Johnson. It would be great someday to hear how Randy Sparks did his own song. Randy somewhat atoned for the song years later and was made the official “Musical Ambassador” of Toledo with his song “I Want My Maumee”, which can be heard at: http://www.toledosattic.org/attic/att01/songs/maumee.html. Randy’s voice sounds just like we remember, from The New Christy Minstrels.
And, I don’t believe there are many people in the world who know these extra verses to the song, written by Randy. Here they are, and sing them in your mind….they fit, they were just not chosen by Michael Johnson and John Denver to be part of the song, for whatever reason, but probably because these verses made it too long:
There once was a ship that went down on Lake Erie
Not far from Toledo one day
I met one poor sailor who'd floated to town
He told me quite frankly he'd rather have drowned
So you bring the flowers and I'll give the eulogy
We'll, once and for all, do it right
We'll all shed a tear for Toledo, Ohio
It dies every Saturday Night
Compared to the splendor of lovely Toledo
Great standards of beauty grow pale
The voice of Caruso emerges a grunt
Elizabeth Taylor become Allen Funt
(Note: Allen Funt was famous for creating and doing “Candid Camera” the TV show)
Afterward to Toledo – John Denver
Some people are so old they remember the issue of Playboy he was talking about back then.
Coal Tattoo – Billy Ed Wheeler
David Boise is playing guitar on this song besides doing the lead. David also played guitar when Paul Prestopino was doing his Bluegrass banjo solos as part of their act. As far as we know, the Kingston Trio made this song famous and DB&J performing it was indicative of the fact that they were all “folk singers” in this era. I suspect that David Boise brought the song to the group. Not much has been heard about David Boise in years, except that he is still performing and playing bass in a C&W group. David apparently spent some time after the DB&J breakup, playing backup for Liza Minnelli. The Cincinnati Dancing Pigs do another Billy Ed Wheeler song called “Little Brown Building” and have met this fine singer and songwriter who has supplied a lot of hit records for other people. He wrote “High Flying Bird” which Judy Henske made famous for instance, among many, many others. He’s still performing. Some other songs he wrote are “The Coming Of The Roads”, “The Rev. Mr. Black”, and “Jackson”.
Mr. Bojangles – Jerry Jeff Walker
David Boise keeps the guitar on after “Coal Tattoo” for this song and is doing the initial lead 6 string steel guitar picking on it. John’s 12-string is heard in the background and Michael Johnson can be heard doing very nice picking also. It sounds like Paul Prestopino is doing muted banjo on the song.
Intro To Rhymney – David Boise/John Denver
David Boise had a good sense of humor and had inherited from Mike Kobluk the perfect things to say during John’s sometimes long periods of 12 string tuning. This is also John’s explanation of the song.
Bells of Rhymney – Pete Seeger, based on a poem by Idris Davies
This became John’s signature song as a great 12 string guitar player and singer. It was included on the first Mitchell Trio album. John mentioned in his autobiography that he learned it from Mike Crowley of the “Back Porch Majority” out in California when John was with the Randy Sparks organization. Thanks to Jochen Michalak for that info from the autobiography. It’s a shame that Mike Crowley died a few years ago. David Boise’s job was saying funny things about the 12 string when John was having trouble tuning it, which happened a lot. John started telling these jokes too when he went solo, with things like “The only difference between a 6 string guitar and a 12 string guitar, is an additional 6 strings”, or “The 12 string guitar was invented in the late 18th century by The Marquis De Sade”. Or, “In order to tune a 12 string guitar, you find the string out of tune and tune the other 11 to that one.” The Wise Owl and Denison concerts had long stretches of John’s 12 string guitar tuning. Certainly John Denver inspired many, many guitar players with this song.
It was pointed out to me by Jochen Michalak (thanks Jochen!) that this song was based on a poem by Welsh coal miner, Idris Davies, who was inspired by the hardships of himself and other miners. The poem was in Idris Davies’ 1938 book, Gwalia Deserta, and Pete Seeger found it in a book by Dylan Thomas in a chapter called “Welsh Poetry in the English Language”. http://www.bbc.co.uk/wales/southeast/sites/caerphilly/pages/bellsofrhymney.shtml. There’s more at this address too, http://www.celticlounge.com/news/templates/?a=17&z=0
Bandersnatch Intro to Old Folks – John Denver
This was a fairly new story for John introducing this song in his solo act. He played at the Bandersnatch in March, 1969 and mentions that the party for his grandparents-in-law was in February. I’m putting both of the coffeehouse intros for the song on the website because they’re very personal and slightly different, and chilling in some places, such as when he mentions that he can’t imagine being 50.
Wise Owl Intro to Old Folks – John Denver
It’s May of 1969, and John has refined his intro a bit for the song “Old Folks”. He does a much shortened intro with Denver, Boise & Johnson. One difference in the Wise Owl version was that John did Simon and Garfunkel’s “Bookends” before his intro, which was very appropriate. His telling of a picture given to the guests of honor at the party, with a reference to “Sock it to me”, dates the concert perfectly as being in the “Laugh-In” period of the 60’s.
Old Folks – Jacque Brel, from “Jacque Brel is Alive And Well and Living in Paris”
This is sung by Michael Johnson and John also performed the song after the breakup of the trio. John recorded this song on his third album and Michael on his first, “There Is A Breeze”. There’s a very interesting interview with Michael Johnson regarding his love of Jacque Brel songs and his performing in the play after the breakup of DB&J. Apparently Michael had gone to see the show and was very impressed, so much that he auditioned for the show and was in it for a year. The interview is at http://www.mjblue.com/bmanof.html. Search for “Brel” on this page. I was surprised to find out from the Skip Weshner 1970 interview that John apparently had not seen Jacque Brel by 1970.
Intro to “Hort” – John Denver/David Boise
David, from Texas, had a great voice and sense of humor on this introduction of their Country and Western song. John took much of this routine for his solo act.
You Done Stompt on My Heart – Mason Williams
See notes from Denison and Wise Owl concerts above. I’ve included on the website, two short party versions of this song, where the guys didn’t quite know the song yet.
Intro To Jet Plane – Michael Johnson
Michael had as much respect for John’s songwriting as John had for Michael’s talent.
Leaving on a Jet Plane – John Denver
Oh, do I wish I still had the original sheet music from New York, where the original title was scratched out in favor of this new title. The original title, which was listed this way on John’s 1966 limited edition solo album, was “Babe, I Hate To Go”. The Queen City Balladeers were thrilled to have known this song by heart before it became famous through Peter, Paul and Mary. This brings to mind that we became aware of John Denver as “our kind of folksinger” because of hearing Peter, Paul and Mary do “For Baby” a few weeks prior to seeing the Mitchell Trio and John for the first time at the University of Cincinnati. When the song was introduced as “For Bobbi” and that it was written by John Denver, it was like a light bulb going off. It’s another John Denver song that we had to learn and did. None of us ever did the PP&M version. The trio came over to the Wise Owl that night of 5/21/66 and Paul played bluegrass with the Balladeer group “The Rabbit Hash Ramblers”. John and Bob Hefferan spent the next day sitting on the porch of the YMCA, where the Queen City Balladeer’s Wise Owl coffeehouse was located, playing one folk song after another with us.
Paul Prestopino is once again playing bass on
this song and using his nice old mellow Martin D-28.
Note, 10/30/12: I finally found the sheet music of this which came from New York via my friend Ken Loar. It's hard to see that the taped over label is covering "Babe, I Hate To Go", but at least the second sheet has the original title.
Love of The Common People – Ronnie Wilkins/John Hurley
This song was recorded on John’s first commercial album, “Rhymes and Reasons”. Michael Johnson does the lead on this song and it was a good set closer, intense and driving. I think it was Waylon Jennings’s version that made this song known. Personally, I prefer the DB&J version much more than the one on Rhymes and Reasons. Thanks to Jason Xion Wang for correcting me about the authors of this song.
Denver, Boise & Johnson - Second set
Last Two Concerts, November 18 and 22, 1968
Good to Be With You – Eric Andersen
Eric Andersen was a much emulated songwriter of that time and the Mitchell Trio did several of his songs, “Violets of Dawn” being another one. This song is from Eric’s “Avalanche” album.
John Birch Society – Michael Brown
This was a Chad Mitchell Trio song originally and made the group well known as daring and political. Note the lyrics changes in the song, some to keep it topical, and some that were personal. I think the group changed this song with every city they played in. Instead of “Westbrook Pegler” they say “Spiro Agnew” and John says “Well, GAC has agents that are flatly unashamed”, which I think refers to a booking agency that DB&J had problems with. Instead of “Norman Vincent Peale”, it’s “Dr. Spock”. And they say “And even old Eagleville is full of Bolsheviks”, referring to Eagleville, Iowa where they were playing. Michael Johnson says “Do you want President Higgins to be your commissar?”, and I suspect Higgins was the president of the college then. Instead of “Do you want Mrs. Krushchev in there with the DAR”, it’s “Do you want Mrs. Brezhnev in there with the DAR?”. I understand there was a Chad Mitchell Trio reunion in 2005, and I just wonder if they changed the song to “Do you want Mrs. Putin in there with the DAR”?
My friend Ken Loar reminded me recently that when he produced the Miami University DB&J show, John’s mother was there from the Wright-Patterson Air Force Base in Dayton. Ken mentioned that the group did the line from the “The John Birch Society”, “If your mommy is a commie then you gotta turn her in” for her after Ken introduced her to the audience. I seem to remember a nice laugh at that.
I was surprised to find that the original Chad Mitchell Trio now has a version of this song called “The George Bush Society”. I don’t know if this works, since I’m a Rhapsody subscriber anyway, but the link advertises this as “free”. Try it and let me know if it’s really free:
Circus – Michael Johnson, John Denver and Laurie Kuehn
I’m not sure who Laurie Kuehn is, but it’s possible this is really mostly a Michael Johnson/Laurie Kuehn song and that John Denver contributed little on it. The Kuehn’s may have been a family that Michael Johnson was close to. This is a quote from Mike Johnson (as he called himself in the late 60’s) in a Wise Owl concert in 1970 about the song, where he says: “I would say that half of this song was instigated by a 13 year old girl….. she had the ideas for the song”. John played “Circus” with a classical guitar at his initial solo concerts, ala Michael Johnson. He recorded this DB&J song on “Rhymes and Reasons”, his first commercial album. But this version is the original way it was written to be sung, with Michael Johnson doing lead and John Denver doing harmony. It was another song of theirs that we “had” to learn.
Victoria Dines Alone – Tom Paxton
There was a somewhat long intro to the song in concert, with John telling a story of a lonely looking girl he saw somewhere, and this intro is on the website.
My God I Appreciate Your Bod – Michael Peter Smith
This song was written by well-known Chicago songwriter Michael Peter Smith. Michael Johnson brought this song and so many other good songs to Denver, Boise & Johnson. Not included in the website yet is Michael Johnson’s DB&J version of Michael Smith’s “Wonderful World of Sex”. The Cincinnati Dancing Pigs have been doing “The Bod Song”, as we call this song, since the DB&J days. It was written in 1966 and was one of Michael Smith’s first songs. Part of the Cincinnati Dancing Pig’s “schtick” with this song, is bringing up one of the buxom/beautiful girls from the audience and singing it to her. There have been hundreds of “Bod Girls” since the group started doing this song, most of whom have enjoyed it, but some of whom have been mortified by the attention and/or the words. We’ve just recently started posting pictures of the monthly “Bod Girl” on the Pigs web site, in anticipation of a future “Bod Girl’s Calendar”. See this link for last month’s Bod Girl: http://www.cincinnatidancingpigs.com/see.html
Paul Prestopino - Flint Hill Special, David Boise 6 string guitar
Paul Prestopino - Eighth of January/Hop High Ladies
What can you say about Paul Prestopino? Not enough, certainly. He’s the ultimate finger picker, flat picker, bluegrass and frailing style banjo player, mandolin player, dobro player, bass player, autoharp and harmonica player, sound engineer, machine designer and nice guy. He played with the original Chad Mitchell Trio for years before John Denver joined the group. In a prior life, Paul played mandolin in the bluegrass group The Greenbriar Boys with the great John Herald and Bob Yellin. Paul Prestopino currently is the accompanist for Peter, Paul and Mary and the original Chad Mitchell Trio. These two songs showcase his talents which John and Michael and David appreciated a lot. At one after-concert party, Paul and Bob Hefferan put on a display of guitar wizardly by playing “Sweet Sue” on the same guitar, impressing all of us. Michael Johnson’s thoughts about Paul were that he was this very professional musician and the rest of them were just young dopes. Paul taught the Queen City Balladeers that you could save money by washing your guitar strings with steel wool, which brightened them up again and let you play them for a little bit longer. It was a wonderful tip for folk musicians who couldn’t afford new strings all the time, though it’s been years since I’ve done that.
Paul Prestopino (mandolin), Bob Yellin (banjo), John Herald (guitar)
Picture from http://www.cvil.wustl.edu/~gary/Lee/bio-folknik.html
Yellow Cat - Steve Fromholz
This was another song Michael Johnson brought to the group. On a party tape I recorded, John Denver can be heard saying “This is one of the greatest songs you’ll ever hear”. The words seem a little rearranged from the Steve Fromholz original, whose lyrics can be downloaded at: http://www.stevenfromholz.com/SongsandLyrics.html. John recorded this song on his first album, “Rhymes and Reasons”. This song was also done by John on the Nowhere Coffeehouse tape, and I know JD purists will want to shoot me over this, but his solo version is truly awful in my humble opinion, and especially on the Rhymes and Reasons album, when compared to the way Michael Johnson did it with DB&J.
One interesting piece of information is that Steven Fromholz was named “Poet Laureate of Texas” on April 19, 2007.
The ‘68 Nixon (This Year’s Model) – June Tauber Reizner Perse
This was on the only commercial recording released by Denver, Boise & Johnson and it was on a 45 along with “Take Me To Tomorrow” on the other side. We suspect there are other recordings out there somewhere, demos, practice in a studio…. Something else has ‘gotta be out there. “Paul Prestopino, where are you??”, as John Denver asked at Denison. John identifies the timeframe this was sung, because the date of the very last DB&J concert was 11/22/68, and he says after the song “Well gang, we got ourselves a new president”. And, speaking of “gang”, which John said a lot back then, I don’t think I hear one “far out” on these tapes. (smile).
6/2/08 – Correction. Roger Ooms informs me that there is one “Far Out” on the tapes. That would be in the line
“And your favorite jazz musician is far-out Lawrence Welk….” in the “Bod Song”. Picky-picky….. (smile)
And, here’s a picture of the ’45:
Turning Point/Blowin' in the Wind medley – Martha Holmes/Bob Dylan
It’s a guess that the trio got this song from Nina Simon, who apparently called it “Turning Point”, as opposed to “Little Brown Girl”, or “Mom Can She Come Over”. Thanks to Roger Ooms for the research on this song. It makes sense that the song came from Nina Simone, since the next song was done by her too.
I Wish I Knew How It Would Feel To Be Free - Billy Taylor & Dick Dallas
This song was one of the best that DB&J did and one of the Queen City Balladeers favorite John Denver, Michael Johnson, David Boise and Paul Prestopino songs. See the Michael Johnson web site clip of DB&J doing this song: http://www.mjblue.com/clips/video/dbj2.html. It’s possible they got the song from Nina Simone’s version, but John Denver and the trio’s rendition of it is far and above the better one. This is also another good demonstration of Paul Prestopino playing bass backup on his old Martin D-28. This is yet another DB&J song that John recorded on “Rhymes and Reasons”.
Denver, Boise & Johnson – Bistro Inn, Columbus Ohio
Note: I don’t believe The Bistro Inn is still in business in Columbus, Ohio
What This Country Really Needs Is, Another Movie Star – June (Tauber) Reizner (Perse)
I wish I knew more about who June Reizner was. Thanks to Jaxon Xion Wang, who said he heard her last name was “Perse”, I found an obituary for her, indicating she died in 1978, that she was a composer, and that she wrote for the Allan King Comedy show. This is a clever song, and I understand she had written “Barry’s Boys”, “The ’68 Nixon”, and “Alabama Mother” too. With any movie or TV star running for office, Fred Thompson being the example in the 2008 Presidential election, this song would be appropriate to sing again, with updated lyrics of course.
Red Velvet – Ian Tyson
This song was written and recorded at the height of the Folk Music Scare of the 60’s. Ian and Sylvia were one of the most favorite and emulated groups of The Queen City Balladeers and were one of the satirical folk group prototypes for the movie “A Mighty Wind”. There was nothing like an Ian and Sylvia recording with John Herald and Ian playing their Martin guitars on them. I still think that the early Ian and Sylvia recordings had the best sounding acoustic guitars on them. “Red Velvet” came from Ian and Sylvia’s album “Early Morning Rain”, which also had “Darcy Farrow” on it. I wish I knew Dave Boise’s history before he joined the Trio, but I’m guessing this was either one of his favorite songs, and/or one he did before the Trio. I found the words and chords for “Red Velvet” on the Internet, and it makes me think I may go back and try and retrieve words and chords for all these songs on here that I can.
I Like To Deal With The Ladies – John Denver
See notes above
Everybody’s Talkin’ – Harry Nillson
This is a beautiful Trio version of this song, which we first heard DB&J doing at a party.
If You Had Me In Shackles – Tom Paxton
Thanks to Jason Xion Wang for finally sleuthing out the title of this song and who wrote it.. I’ve put the Philadelphia Folk Festival version of DB&J doing this song on the web site, since my taped version on the website is not complete. The song was not recorded by Denver, Boise & Johnson, or The Mitchell Trio, or anyone as far as Jason knows. Here’s a link to Jason’s transcription of the lyrics: http://lyricwiki.org/Chad_Mitchell_Trio:If_You_Had_Me_In_Shackles
For Bobbi – John Denver
Unfortunately this is not a good recording at all of this song. I liked the song the from very first time I heard it because it’s a good, distinctive sounding 3-chord song (regardless of how much PP&M screwed it up), and because of Paul Prestopino’s Carter Family style of Martin guitar picking on it.
Your Friendly, Liberal Neighborhood Ku Klux Klan – Bernie Cross
This is from The Mitchell Trio album “Violets of Dawn” and now I’m wondering who “Bernie Cross” is? Anyone know? (but thanks to Jochen Michalak for the first name)
Get Together – Chet Powers
This is a Youngbloods song and was on the Mitchell Trio album “That’s The Way It’s Gonna Be”. Back in that era, we probably ignored the Youngbloods hit but learned the song after we heard JD and crew doing it.
Leyenda – Mike Johnson
FYI, in 1968, Michael Johnson went by “Mike”. Thanks to Roger Ooms for finding out this mystery song. Roger explains it like this:
“Hey John, I’m on a roll! Michael Johnson's Classical Guitar Solo now has a name! My daughter (the flute player) has played duets with a classical guitar player. Here is his answer when I sent him the song:
The piece is Leyenda by Tarrega. What an easy question. Do you have anything harder for me?
Francisco Tarrenga is considered the father of classical guitar......according to Wikipedia, the authoritative source for all things on the net.......well sometimes.”
Business Goes On As Usual - Fred Hellerman and Fran Minkoff
Catch Another Butterfly – Mike Williams – 1966
** See the YouTube video of John doing this wonderful song with The Muppets: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dkTvwHCeB-I, and thanks to Jason Xion Wang for putting it out there again
I think it’s reasonable that this song was performed at the last two concerts of Denver, Boise & Johnson and that John Denver left it off of the compilation tape. This is yet another song brought to DB&J by Michael Johnson and one that John recorded on his first album, “Rhymes and Reasons”. When the Balladeers first heard this song we all wanted to learn it immediately, and we did. It’s a great, great song and Michael Johnson’s distinctive classical guitar part on it was emulated by John when he went solo and by all of us who learned it.
The story is complete now, as much as it can be, of Mike Williams and this wonderful song of his, “Catch Another Butterfly”. Thanks to Mike for writing me back and filling in some holes about this song and about yourself. Mike says he wrote this song in September of 1966 and sang it on the day he wrote it, to Paul and Amy Johnson. “Johnson”, you say? Paul Johnson is Mike/Michael Johnson’s brother. Amy Johnson is also known as Crow Johnson, a famous singer/songwriter and as the one for whom the “Crow’s Nest” at the Kerrville Folk Festival is named. Michael Johnson has also recorded a number of Crow’s songs.
Mike Williams relates that from his memory, Michael Johnson was passing by Austin, TX on his way to Minneapolis and to joining the group Denver, Boise & Johnson, when he stopped by Paul and Amy Johnson’s place. They taught him “Catch Another Butterfly”. Michael drove north and taught the song to the Trio. Of course, we all know that John Denver and Michael Johnson took up the song when they went solo.
I was amazed to find out that Mike Williams and Steve Fromholz (of “Yellow Cat” fame) were in a duet in the spring of 1968, called “Frummox”. Mike and Steve were playing at a place called “Gigi’s Lounge” in Denver, when Steve got a call on the bar phone from Cherry Lane Publishing Company and was asked the question “Is it ok if John Denver records Steve’s “Yellow Cat” and Mike’s “Catch Another Butterfly” on his first album? The two Frummox gentlemen said “Yep, it was ok”. The rest is musical history. Thank you Mike for letting me and anyone else who reads this, know about your song. Mike has let me know that I can share not only his recollections of this wonderful song, but the words too, which contain an extra verse that not many people know. Some of us Balladeers knew this extra verse because Mike Johnson happened to do it in 1970 on a tape from the Wise Owl coffeehouse.
Mike Williams’ thoughts about “Catch Another Butterfly”, written 9/4/2007:
John, I wrote "Catch Another Butterfly" on a sunny afternoon sitting under a tree outside the student union on the UT campus in Austin. There likely was a passing butterfly. Or maybe I was just feeling nostalgic. I was 22, an absurd age to be so reflective. Autobiographical? Yeah, I enjoyed catching butterflies as a kid, and surely experienced all the details in the song (except no son).
The writing was quick, maybe an hour. There's a saying among songwriters who are in the first rush of a write and see the whole vision and all that's left is to work out the details: "This song is finished. Now all I gotta do is finish it." In that sense, "Catch Another Butterfly" took only a few minutes to write. Also, the melody came fast, and it had two qualities that songwriters crave: runs and jumps. The cascading runs, balanced with the little ups and downs, make this a memorable melody, a fun melody to sing.
Did I know it was a good song? It felt good, coming out -- as a songwriter, that's a feeling I've learned to trust. And when I sang it for friends, their reaction was wonderful. I didn't really have a sense, back then, of how the song would hold up over the years. Only the passage of time, and word coming in from folks like you, have proved the song's reach.
VERSE: DO YOU REMEMBER DAYS NOT SO MANY YEARS AGO
WHEN THE WORLD WAS RUN BY PEOPLE TWICE YOUR SIZE
AND THE DAYS WERE FULL OF LAUGHTER AND THE NIGHTS WERE FULL OF STARS
AND WHEN YOU GOT TIRED, YOU COULD CLOSE YOUR EYES
VERSE: YES, THE STARS WERE THERE FOR WISHING AND THE WIND WAS THERE FOR KITES
AND THE MORNING SUN WAS THERE FOR RISE AND SHINE
AND EVEN IF THE SNIFFLES KEPT YOU HOME FROM SCHOOL IN BED
YOU COULDN'T HARDLY STAY THERE AFTER NINE
CHORUS: AND I WONDER, HAS THE SMELL OF MORNING FADED
WHAT HAPPENED TO THE ROBIN’S SONG THAT SPARKLED IN THE SKY
WHERE DID ALL THE WATER GO THAT TUMBLED DOWN THE STREAM
AND WILL I EVER CATCH ANOTHER BUTTERFLY
VERSE: DO YOU REMEMBER CAMPOUTS RIGHT IN YOUR OWN BACK YARD
AND WONDERING HOW AIRPLANES CAN FLY
AND THE HOURS SPENT JUST PLAYING WITH A FUNNY ROCK YOU FOUND
WITH ITS CRYSTAL SPECKS AS BLUE AS ALL THE SKY
VERSE: YES, THE DAYS WERE EACH A TREASURE AS THEY BLENDED INTO YEARS
THE MEMORIES COME BACK SO SHARP AND PLAIN
AND WHILE WE WERE ENJOYING THOSE MOMENTS, DID WE MOURN
THAT TODAY WOULD NEVER COME THIS WAY AGAIN
CHORUS: AND I WONDER, HAS THE SMELL OF MORNING FADED
WHAT HAPPENED TO THE ROBIN’S SONG THAT SPARKLED IN THE SKY
WHERE DID ALL THE WATER GO THAT TUMBLED DOWN THE STREAM
AND WILL I EVER CATCH ANOTHER BUTTERFLY
VERSE: AND NOW I WATCH MY SON. he’s PLAYING WITH HIS TOYS
HE'S HAPPY, AND I GIVE HIM ALL I CAN
BUT I CAN'T HELP FEELING JUST A LITTLE TINGLE-Y INSIDE
WHEN I HEAR HIM SAY HE WANTS TO BE A MAN
CHORUS: AND I WONDER, HAS THE SMELL OF MORNING FADED
WHAT HAPPENED TO THE ROBIN’S SONG THAT SPARKLED IN THE SKY
WHERE DID ALL THE WATER GO THAT TUMBLED DOWN THE STREAM
AND WILL I EVER CATCH ANOTHER BUTTERFLY
Foggy Mountain Breakdown/Cripple Creek – Paul Prestopino
Cripple Creek is an example of where Paul switched between frailing style banjo playing and the normal Scruggs style 5-string banjo picking. And of course, Foggy Mountain Breakdown is THE classic Earl Scruggs bluegrass tune, made massively famous by being in the movie “Bonnie and Clyde”.
Sticky Summer Weather – John Denver
This was always one of my favorite John Denver songs.
End of Bistro Section
Wonderful World of Sex – Michael Peter Smith – not included
This song was definitely performed at the same concerts that made up the last DB&J concert recordings. For some reason John decided to leave the song out of the DB&J last concerts compilation tape. It was introduced to DB&J by Michael Johnson. How do I know John left the song out? Michael Johnson’s follow-up line to the song, “Sex is just nature’s way of saying Hi” was on the tape. Unfortunately, this song was also missing from the Bistro Inn tape, even though I had originally written that it was on it. The only other recording I’ve heard of this song was done by Steve Goodman and in my opinion Michael Johnson’s version was better. Here’s a link to the lyrics on Michael Smith’s website: http://www.artistsofnote.com/michael/lyrics/w-w-sex.shtml
April 1, 2007
Credits and thanks:
The biggest credit goes to Cindy McArthur, who assisted me in so many ways, starting with pulling a lot of the songs off of the reel-to-reel tapes. She also helped with the web site page for the songs, with editing and correcting, and with researching the material. Cindy is THE source of all Michael Johnson information. Thank you, Cindy, for all your help.
Cindy McArthur, Chuck Munro, John Denver, Michael Johnson, Paul Prestopino, Bob Hefferan, David Boise, Diana Boise, Jochen Michalak, Roger Ooms, Alfie Temple, Jason Xion Wang, Mike Williams, Michael Peter Smith, The Queen City Balladeers, The Miami University Archives, Tom Phillips, Mike Zwertschek, Erich Zwertschek, Michael Zwertschek, Jr., Joanne Zwertschek, Jack Lohman, Barb Bristol, Harry Sparks, Jeffrey Pettegrew and the Bandersnatch Managers, The Cincinnati Dancing Pigs, Ken Loar, Bill Schuerman, Nancy Lee, Barb Marek, Frank Blau, Randy Sparks, Dave Myers, Martin Guitars, Steven Fromholz, The University of Cincinnati, Barbara Hoehn, Jeff Fields, Billy Jacobs, Jim Glish, Mark Spiegel