FVOH Concert Series
Big Names in the Little City
October 17 // 8:00pm
Tickets for the show are now available at the Vergennes Opera House, Classic Stitching on Main Street in Vergennes and through the Flynn Regional Box Office at 802-86FLYNN or www.flynntix.org. For more information please contact the Opera House at 802-877-6737.
Sponsored by: Country Home Products, VHB Pioneer, Jackman Fuels, Sensible World, Holiday Inn Express, S.L. Smith Fine Carpentry & Guitars.
Media Support Provided by: CLX The Album Station and The Point.
Perhaps no musician encapsulates the 1960’s music scene quite as fittingly as John Sebastian. With a career full of hits that span nearly half a century, the singer, harmonica player, jug band enthusiast and broad reaching songwriter will perform live in concert on the historic stage at the Vergennes Opera House on October 17th, 2009 at 8pm.
His group The Lovin' Spoonful played a major role in the mid-'60s rock revolution, but what leader, singer and songwriter Sebastian had in mind was actually a counter-revolution. "We were grateful to the Beatles for reminding us our rock & roll roots," John explains, "but we wanted to cut out the English middlemen, so to speak, and get down to making this new music as an 'American' band." This the Lovin' Spoonful did like nobody before or since, putting their first seven singles into the Top 10. This was unprecedented, and utterly unthinkable at the height of Beatlemania. At first they'd taken older material from blues, country, folk and jug band sources - what we now term "roots music" - and made it sound modern. Then, in a series of original songs composed and sung by John Sebastian, they did the reverse, creating thoroughly modern music that sounded like it contained the entire history of American music.
You know the songs by heart: "Do You Believe In Magic?" "You Didn't Have To Be So Nice." "Daydream." "Younger Girl." "Did You Ever Have To Make Up Your Mind?" "Summer In The City." "Rain On The Roof." "Nashville Cats." "Six O'Clock." "Darling Be Home Soon." "Younger Generation." These songs did more than simply answer the British invasion, they carried the musical tradition into the future.
After leaving the group he founded, he bore witness to another turn of the musical zeitgeist with his performances at massive festivals like Woodstock and its English equivalent the Isle of Wight. He had been involved in music for films (most notably Francis Ford Coppola's "You're A Big Boy Now" and Woody Allen's "What's Up Tiger Lily") and Broadway, but when producers of a TV show called "Welcome Back Kotter" commissioned a theme song in 1976, Sebastian's "Welcome Back" became a chart-topping solo record.
Throughout the '70s and '80s he continued to record and tour, pleasing old fans and winning new ones. There's no telling how many aspiring musicians have been nurtured by his instruction books for harmonica and guitar, but he aimed to inspire an even younger audience with the publication in 1993 of the delightful children's book "JB's Harmonica." The '90s also saw John return to the group format with the J-Band, a contemporary celebration of his jug band heritage. The acclaim the group received was gratifying, but bittersweet. The group's albums contain some of the last recorded performances of blues pioneer Yank Rachell and washtub/jug virtuoso Fritz Richmond.
Thankfully John's induction into the Rock 'n' Roll Hall of Fame in 2000 hasn't slowed him down. Whether the stage is at Carnegie Hall or a folk festival in some far-flung locale, John is still out there spreading his gospel of American roots music. He is the subject of the PBS special "Do You Believe In Magic: The Music of John Sebastian," and recorded a new album of duets with David Grisman in 2007. With the 2009’s 40th anniversary of Woodstock, John’s memorable performance on the festival stage was revisited and heralded as emblematic of the 1960’s and the music scene of the times. He has also lent his music in support of social, environmental and animal rights causes. Recently he joined a delegation of songwriters (including Lamont Dozier, Allen and Marilyn Bergman, and Mike Stoller) in Washington, DC to campaign on behalf of the National Music Publisher's Association.
Perhaps because it has been the product of heart and soul and history, the oldest song in the Sebastian catalog is as fresh and vital as the song he's about to write tomorrow. That's why you still hear his music everywhere - in movies, on television, in cover versions and samples - and why it's always welcome. John is also a welcome media presence; his commentary, insights and anecdotes and stories are regularly featured in print, radio, TV and film documentary projects.
John Sebastian is not only a master musician, writer and performer, he remains one of the best ambassadors American music has ever had.