Saturday, July 23, 2005

RIP John Herald

One of Woodstock's great musical voices, John Herald, dead at 65, apparently by his own hand. His group, the Greenbriar Boys, was one of the finest of the New Traditionalist bluegrass groups of the 60s. They memorably backed up Joan Baez on "Banks of the Ohio," and their own debut album on Vanguard spent a lot of time on my turntable. I particularly loved their rendition of "Amelia Earhart's Last Flight" and "We Need a Whole Lot More of Jesus (and a Lot Less Rock and Roll)." John also wrote "Stewball," based on a classic Leadbelly folk song, which was a big hit for Peter, Paul and Mary.

Here's his obit from the New York Times, and here is his page and the Greenbriar Boys page at AllMusic Guide.

4 comments:

james carter said...

I played bass with john in the 70's for about a year.
It was my introduction to bluegrass and john was a
great help to me.He'll be missed.
james carter

jana reed said...

I saw John for the first time at the Colony Cafe in Woodstock. It was just a few weeks before his death. I had never seen him perform before and I knew instantly that night that I had been missing a great performer. Not only a great performer, but to me John had an aura that was so uplifting I knew I wanted to find out where he was playing next and to be there. I feel blessed that I got to see him that one time. What a beautiful person! I love you John!

Anonymous said...

I was John's producer from '81-'91 and fell out of touch after I became a Chaplain. I just returned from service to learn of John's death and wish to remember him here as not only a great and under-appreciated talent, but as a gentle, humorous, deeply kind, intelligent and sensitive individual who cared passionately for the welfare of others and our natural environment. John had suffered a difficult childhood with the loss of his mother, and later suffered at what seemed small appreciation for his work when so many of his peers prospered. He was never bitter but ever hopeful and willing to share his gift with whomever would give him a listen. He was also a great 'fan' of the talent of others, happy to promote their work over his own, and always speaking kindly and gratefully of those who had mentored and befriended him along the way, like Pete Seeger, John Hammond, jr. and Bob Dylan. We shared many long conversations about our perplexing inabilities to find life partners and overcome personal loneliness, and about many other topics of mutual interest, from mushrooming to politics, art, Chinese food and mutual friends.One of my favorite memories of John was attending the first FARMAID together in Illinois, as guests of Mr.Dylan, where John was given red carpet treatment, and was so happy to be among his more famous peers, helping close the show side by side with Arlo Guthrie singing
"This land is your land'. This land of ours has lost a lovely soul with passing of John Herald..

Anonymous said...

I fell in love with John's voice and the sheer exuberance of his musical spirit while still in middle school, and wore deep ruts through multiple copies of Greenbriar Boys albums over the years. This first time I saw him in person with the GBs in a 3 song guest set at Madison's Union theatre at a Baez concert I was floored. Years later, in the mid 70's I was fronting a western band in a San Francisco club and was astonished to seee him wander in the door. I'd always kept a couple of his songs in the sets and was thrilled when he agreed to come up and do a couple of tunes. I think he was surprised when I hit the fiddle intro to "Alligator Man" which probably went into a 10 minute version with JH on guitar singing his heart out on lead."Long Lonely Day" followed. I didn't stay in the music world, leaving the next year for a medical career, but it is one of my very sweetest musical memories. Adios John. You were absolutely one-of-a-kind!
Lawrence Hammond