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John Cowan Hartford (December 30, 1937 – June 4, 2001) was an American folk, country, and bluegrass composer and musician known for his mastery of the fiddle and banjo, as well as for his witty lyrics, unique vocal style, and extensive knowledge of Mississippi River
Mississippi River
lore. His most successful song is "Gentle on My Mind", which won three Grammy Awards
Grammy Awards
and was listed in "BMI's Top 100 Songs of the Century".[1][2] Hartford performed with a variety of ensembles throughout his career, and is perhaps best known for his solo performances where he would interchange the guitar, banjo, and fiddle from song to song. He also invented his own shuffle tap dance move, and clogged on an amplified piece of plywood while he played and sang.

Contents

1 Life 2 Newgrass 3 Steamboating 4 Final years and legacy 5 Works 6 In Popular Culture 7 Discography 8 References 9 External links

Life[edit] Harford (he would change his name to Hartford later in life at the behest of Chet Atkins)[3] was born on December 30, 1937 in New York City to parents Dr. Carl and Mary Harford. He spent his childhood in St. Louis, Missouri. There he was exposed to the influence that would shape much of his career and music—the Mississippi River. From the time he got his first job on the river, at age 16, Hartford was on, around, or singing about the river. His early musical influences came from the broadcasts of the Grand Ole Opry in Nashville, and included Earl Scruggs, nominal inventor of the three-finger bluegrass style of banjo playing. Hartford said often that the first time he heard Earl Scruggs
Earl Scruggs
pick the banjo changed his life. By age 13, Hartford was an accomplished old-time fiddler and banjo player, and he soon learned to play guitar and mandolin as well. Hartford formed his first bluegrass band while still in high school at John Burroughs School. After high school he enrolled at Washington University in St. Louis, completed 4 years of a commercial arts program and dropped out to focus on his music; however, he did later receive a degree in 1960. He immersed himself in the local music scene, working as a DJ, playing in bands, and occasionally recording singles for local labels. In 1965, he moved to Nashville, the center of the country music industry. In 1966, he signed with RCA Victor
RCA Victor
and produced his first album, Looks at Life, in the same year.[4] In 1967, Hartford's second album Earthwords & Music spawned his first major songwriting hit, "Gentle On My Mind". His recording of the song was only a modest success, but it caught the notice of Glen Campbell, who recorded his own version, which gave the song much wider publication. At the 1968 Grammys, the song netted four awards, two of which went to Hartford. It became one of the most widely recorded country songs of all time, and the royalties it brought in allowed Hartford great financial independence; Hartford would later say that the song bought his freedom.[5] As his popularity grew, he moved to the West Coast, where he became a regular on the Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour; other television appearances followed, as did recording appearances with several major country artists. Hartford played banjo and sang the vocal harmonies on the Guthrie Thomas song, "I'll be Lucky". He also played with The Byrds on their album Sweetheart of the Rodeo. His success on the Smothers Brothers series was enough that Hartford was offered the lead role in a TV detective series but he turned it down to move back to Nashville and concentrate on his music. He also was a regular on The Glen Campbell
Glen Campbell
Goodtime Hour[3] (the banjo picker who would stand up from his seat in the audience to begin the theme music) and The Johnny Cash Show. In live performances, John Hartford
John Hartford
was a true "one-man band"; he utilized not only a multitude of stringed instruments, but also a variety of props such as plywood squares and boards with sand and gravel on which to stomp, kick, and scrape to create natural and organic background noises. Newgrass[edit] Hartford recorded four more albums for RCA from 1968-1970: The Love Album, Housing Project, John Hartford, and Iron Mountain Depot. In 1971, he moved to Warner Bros. Records
Warner Bros. Records
where he was given more freedom to record in his untraditional style, fronting a band that included Vassar Clements, Tut Taylor, and Norman Blake. He recorded several extraordinary albums that set the tone of his later career, including the acclaimed Aereo-Plain
Aereo-Plain
and Morning Bugle. Sam Bush
Sam Bush
said, "Without Aereo-Plain
Aereo-Plain
(and the Aereo-Plain
Aereo-Plain
band), there would be no newgrass music."[5] He switched to the Flying Fish label several years later and continued to experiment with non-traditional country and bluegrass styles. Among his recordings were two albums in 1977 and 1980 with Doug and Rodney Dillard from The Dillards, with Sam Bush
Sam Bush
as a backing musician and featuring a diversity of songs that included "Boogie On Reggae Woman" and "Yakety Yak".[6] Hartford's Grammy-winning Mark Twang
Mark Twang
features Hartford playing solo, reminiscent of his live solo performances playing the fiddle, guitar, banjo, and amplified plywood for tapping his feet. At the same time, he developed a stage show which toured in various forms from the mid-1970s until shortly before his death.[3] Hartford changed recording labels several more times during his career; in 1991, he inaugurated his own Small Dog a'Barkin' label. Later in the 1990s, he switched again to Rounder Records. He recorded a number of idiosyncratic records on Rounder, many of which harkened back to earlier forms of folk and country music. Among them was the 1999 album Retrograss
Retrograss
recorded with Mike Seeger and David Grisman, with bluegrass versions of "(Sittin' on) the Dock of the Bay", "Maybellene", "When I'm Sixty-Four", and "Maggie's Farm". He recorded several songs for the soundtrack to the movie O Brother, Where Art Thou, winning another Grammy for his performance. He made his final tour in 2001 with the Down from the Mountain
Down from the Mountain
tour that grew out of that movie and its accompanying album. While performing in Texas in April that year, he found that he could no longer control his hands due to non-Hodgkin Lymphoma, and his career was finished. Hartford is considered a co-founder of the newgrass movement, although he remained deeply attached to traditional music, as well. His last band and last few albums reflect his love for pre-bluegrass old-time music. In an interview with Don Swain, he described his love for the rare and nearly forgotten fiddle tunes of the Appalachians and Missouri foothills. Steamboating[edit] The culture of the Mississippi River
Mississippi River
and its steamboats captivated Hartford from an early age. He said that it would have been his life's work "but music got in the way", so he intertwined them whenever possible. In the 70s, Hartford earned his steamboat pilot's license, which he used to keep close to the river he loved; for many years, he worked as a pilot on the steamboat Julia Belle Swain
Julia Belle Swain
during the summers. He also worked as a towboat pilot on the Mississippi, Illinois, and Tennessee rivers. During his later years, he came back to the river every summer. "Working as a pilot is a labor of love", he said. "After a while, it becomes a metaphor for a whole lot of things, and I find for some mysterious reason that if I stay in touch with it, things seem to work out all right". His home in Madison, Tennessee, was situated on a bend of the Cumberland River
River
and built to simulate the view from a steamboat deck. He used to talk to the boat captains by radio as their barges crawled along the river. That bend of the Cumberland River, known as "Hartford's Bend" or " John Hartford
John Hartford
Point,"[7] is denoted on official navigational charts with the " John Hartford
John Hartford
Light".[8] An accomplished fiddler and banjo player, Hartford was simultaneously an innovative voice on the country scene and a reminder of a vanished era. Along with his own compositions, such as Long Hot Summer Days and Kentucky Pool, Hartford was a repository of old river songs, calls, and stories. Hartford was also the author of Steamboat in a Cornfield, a children's book that recounts the true story of the Ohio River steamboat The Virginia and its beaching in a cornfield. Final years and legacy[edit] From the 1980s onwards, Hartford had Non-Hodgkin lymphoma. He died of the disease at Centennial Medical Center in Nashville, Tennessee
Nashville, Tennessee
on June 4, 2001 at age 63.[9] He and Brandon Ray Kirk co-authored a biography of blind fiddler Ed Haley. Hartford's album The Speed of the Old Longbow is a collection of Haley's tunes. Hartford also provided narration for the Ken Burns' documentary series Baseball[10] and The Civil War.[11] Hartford was given a star on the St. Louis Walk of Fame[12] in honor of his work. He also was given a posthumous Presidents Award by the Americana Music Association
Americana Music Association
in September 2005.[13] The annual John Hartford Memorial Festival[14] is held at the Bill Monroe Music Park & Campground[15] near Beanblossom, Indiana. Works[edit] Hartford recorded more than 30 albums, ranging across a broad spectrum of styles—from the traditional country of his early RCA recordings, to the new and experimental sound of his early newgrass recordings, to the traditional folk style to which he often returned later in his life. Hartford's albums also vary widely in formality, from the stately and orderly Annual Waltz to the rougher and less cut recordings that typified many of his later albums. Aereo-Plain
Aereo-Plain
and Morning Bugle
Morning Bugle
are often considered to be Hartford's most influential work, coming as they did at the very beginning of a period in which artists such as Hartford and the New Grass Revival, led by Sam Bush, would create a new form of country music, blending their country backgrounds with influences from a number of other sources. His later years saw a number of live albums, as well as recordings that explored the repertoire of old-time folk music. He sketched the cover art for some of his mid-career albums, drawing with both hands simultaneously. In Popular Culture[edit] His song This Eve of Parting from the 1968 album The Love Album was featured in the 2017 movie Lady Bird, portions being heard at two different points in the film. Discography[edit] Main article: John Hartford
John Hartford
discography References[edit]

^ "BMI Announces Top 100 Songs of the Century". bmi.com. Broadcast Music. Retrieved 9 February 2017.  ^ "'Gentle on My Mind' Writer John Hartford
John Hartford
Dies". mtv.com. MTV News. Retrieved 9 February 2017.  ^ a b c Manheim, James. "Biography of John Hartford". AllMusic Guide. Retrieved September 20, 2009.  ^ Samuelson, Dave (2012). McCall, Michael; Rumble, John; Kingsbury, Paul, eds. The Encyclopedia of Country Music. New York: Oxford University Press. p. 215. ISBN 978-0195395631.  ^ a b Hartford's biography Archived 2006-02-06 at the Wayback Machine. from his official site. ^ Dillard/Hartford/Dillard: Glitter Grass/Permanent Wave, Rounder Records. ^ Dansby, Andrew. June 5, 2001. John Hartford
John Hartford
Dead After Cancer Battle. Rolling Stone Magazine. ^ US Army Corps of Engineers. 2013. Cumberland River
River
navigation charts: Smithland, Kentucky to Celina, Tennessee. Chart No. 27. ^ Strauss, Neil (6 June 2001). "John Hartford, Composer Of Country Hits, Dies at 63". The New York Times.  ^ "Baseball. Film Credits - PBS". Retrieved 2016-06-11.  ^ "Series and Website Credits - The Civil War - PBS". Retrieved 2016-06-11.  ^ St. Louis Walk of Fame. " St. Louis Walk of Fame
St. Louis Walk of Fame
Inductees". stlouiswalkoffame.org. Retrieved 25 April 2013.  ^ Americana Music awards page. Archived 2007-10-12 at the Wayback Machine. Retrieved October 2009. ^ John Hartford
John Hartford
Memorial Festival Retrieved May 2015. ^ Bill Monroe Music Park & Campground Retrieved May 2015.

External links[edit]

Official website www.johnhartford.org – Fan site John Hartford discography at Discogs John Hartford
John Hartford
on IMDb John Hartford
John Hartford
at Find a Grave

Awards

Preceded by Carter Family AMA Presidents Award 2005 Succeeded by Mickey Newbury

v t e

John Hartford

Solo albums

Looks at Life
Looks at Life
(1967) Earthwords & Music (1968) The Love Album (1968) Housing Project (1968) John Hartford
John Hartford
(1969) Iron Mountain Depot
Iron Mountain Depot
(1970) Aereo-Plain
Aereo-Plain
(1971) Morning Bugle
Morning Bugle
(1972) Mark Twang
Mark Twang
(1976) Nobody Knows What You Do (1976) All in the Name of Love (1977) Headin' Down Into the Mystery Below (1978) You and Me at Home (1980) Catalogue (1981) Gum Tree Canoe (1984) Annual Waltz (1986) Down on the River (1989) Cadillac Rag (1991) Goin' Back to Dixie (1992) The Walls We Bounce Off Of (1994) No End of Love (1996) Wild Hog in the Red Brush (1996) The Speed of the Old Long Bow (1998) Good Old Boys (1999) Hamilton Ironworks (2001) Steam Powered Aereo-Takes
Steam Powered Aereo-Takes
(2002)

Collaborations

Glitter Grass from the Nashwood Hollyville Strings (1977) Slumberin' on the Cumberland (1979) Permanent Wave (1980) Vassar Clements, John Hartford, Dave Holland (1985) Hartford & Hartford (1991) Old Sport (1994) The Fun of Open Discussion (1995) The Bullies Have All Gone to Rest (1998) Retrograss
Retrograss
(1999)

Live albums

Live at College Station Pennsylvania (1995) Live from Mountain Stage (2000)

Compilation albums

Gentle On My Mind and Other Originals
Gentle On My Mind and Other Originals
(1968) Me Oh My (1982) A John Hartford
John Hartford
Collection (1987) RCA Country Legends: John Hartford
John Hartford
(2001) Natural to be Gone 1967-1970 (2002) Good'le Days: Essential Recordings (2009)

v t e

Bluegrass music

Typical instruments

Acoustic guitar Banjo Dobro Fiddle

technique

Mandolin

technique

Upright bass

Stylistic origins

Blues Country music Folk music Old-time music

Sub- and fusion genres

Traditional bluegrass Progressive bluegrass Bluegrass gospel Czech bluegrass

Notable festivals

High Sierra Music Festival Festival of the Bluegrass Merlefest Podunk Bluegrass Festival Telluride Bluegrass Festival Tottenham Bluegrass Festival List of bluegrass music festivals

Notable performers

List of bluegrass musicians List of bluegrass bands List of bluegrass mandolinists

Other

International Bluegrass Music Museum International Bluegrass Music Association International Bluegrass Music Hall of Fame Bluegrass Unlimited magazine Central Canadian Bluegrass Awards International Bluegrass Music Awards

Category Portal

v t e

Grammy Award for Album of the Year

1959–1979

The Music from Peter Gunn
The Music from Peter Gunn
Henry Mancini
Henry Mancini
(1959) Come Dance with Me! – Frank Sinatra
Frank Sinatra
(1960) The Button-Down Mind of Bob Newhart
The Button-Down Mind of Bob Newhart
Bob Newhart
Bob Newhart
(1961) Judy at Carnegie Hall
Judy at Carnegie Hall
Judy Garland
Judy Garland
(1962) The First Family – Vaughn Meader
Vaughn Meader
(1963) The Barbra Streisand Album
The Barbra Streisand Album
Barbra Streisand
Barbra Streisand
(1964) Getz/Gilberto
Getz/Gilberto
– Stan Getz, João Gilberto
João Gilberto
(1965) September of My Years Frank Sinatra
Frank Sinatra
(1966) A Man and His Music Frank Sinatra
Frank Sinatra
(1967) Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band
Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band
The Beatles
The Beatles
(1968) By the Time I Get to Phoenix – Glen Campbell
Glen Campbell
(1969) Blood, Sweat & Tears – Blood, Sweat & Tears (1970) Bridge over Troubled Water
Bridge over Troubled Water
– Simon & Garfunkel (1971) Tapestry – Carole King
Carole King
(1972) The Concert for Bangladesh – Various (1973) Innervisions
Innervisions
Stevie Wonder
Stevie Wonder
(1974) Fulfillingness' First Finale
Fulfillingness' First Finale
Stevie Wonder
Stevie Wonder
(1975) Still Crazy After All These Years
Still Crazy After All These Years
Paul Simon
Paul Simon
(1976) Songs in the Key of Life
Songs in the Key of Life
Stevie Wonder
Stevie Wonder
(1977) Rumours – Fleetwood Mac
Fleetwood Mac
(1978) Saturday Night Fever – Bee Gees/Various (1979)

1980–2000

52nd Street – Billy Joel
Billy Joel
(1980) Christopher Cross
Christopher Cross
Christopher Cross
Christopher Cross
(1981) Double Fantasy
Double Fantasy
John Lennon
John Lennon
and Yoko Ono
Yoko Ono
(1982) Toto IV
Toto IV
– Toto (1983) Thriller – Michael Jackson
Michael Jackson
(1984) Can't Slow Down – Lionel Richie
Lionel Richie
(1985) No Jacket Required
No Jacket Required
Phil Collins
Phil Collins
(1986) Graceland – Paul Simon
Paul Simon
(1987) The Joshua Tree
The Joshua Tree
– U2 (1988) Faith – George Michael
George Michael
(1989) Nick of Time – Bonnie Raitt
Bonnie Raitt
(1990) Back on the Block
Back on the Block
Quincy Jones
Quincy Jones
and various artists (1991) Unforgettable... with Love Natalie Cole
Natalie Cole
(1992) Unplugged – Eric Clapton
Eric Clapton
(1993) The Bodyguard – Whitney Houston
Whitney Houston
(1994) MTV Unplugged – Tony Bennett
Tony Bennett
(1995) Jagged Little Pill
Jagged Little Pill
Alanis Morissette
Alanis Morissette
(1996) Falling into You
Falling into You
Celine Dion
Celine Dion
(1997) Time Out of Mind – Bob Dylan
Bob Dylan
(1998) The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill
The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill
Lauryn Hill
Lauryn Hill
(1999) Supernatural – Santana (2000)

2001–present

Two Against Nature
Two Against Nature
Steely Dan
Steely Dan
(2001) O Brother, Where Art Thou? Soundtrack (2002) Come Away with Me
Come Away with Me
Norah Jones
Norah Jones
(2003) Speakerboxxx/The Love Below
Speakerboxxx/The Love Below
Outkast
Outkast
(2004) Genius Loves Company
Genius Loves Company
Ray Charles
Ray Charles
and various artists (2005) How to Dismantle an Atomic Bomb
How to Dismantle an Atomic Bomb
– U2 (2006) Taking the Long Way
Taking the Long Way
Dixie Chicks
Dixie Chicks
(2007) River: The Joni Letters – Herbie Hancock
Herbie Hancock
(2008) Raising Sand
Raising Sand
Robert Plant
Robert Plant
& Alison Krauss
Alison Krauss
(2009) Fearless – Taylor Swift
Taylor Swift
(2010) The Suburbs
The Suburbs
Arcade Fire
Arcade Fire
(2011) 21 – Adele
Adele
(2012) Babel – Mumford & Sons (2013) Random Access Memories
Random Access Memories
Daft Punk
Daft Punk
(2014) Morning Phase
Morning Phase
Beck
Beck
(2015) 1989 – Taylor Swift
Taylor Swift
(2016) 25 – Adele
Adele
(2017) 24K Magic – Bruno Mars
Bruno Mars
(2018)

Authority control

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