I was at Stringband in Clifftop W V in August and a lady named Sheila Nichols stopped by a jam. A bunch of us were playing a few tunes behind the pottery sales tent. Shela had stopped to listen and knew somebody in the jam and they asked how the project was going. It was an interesting conversation. She is doing a documentary on John Hartford. I pass this email on the progress of her documentation of John Hartford's life on to you.
Here's the scoop...Marcy and I have finished our trailer...We are currently engaged in a national fund raiser to make this project complete....we are both Thousands and Thousands of dollars out of pocket in this effort but we need assistance...so, we are taking it to the public to help us with our goal of $15,000 on a website called KICKSTARTER....this is how it works...folks pledge what they are comfortable with...NOTHING IS TOO SMALL AND NOTHING IS TOO LARGE...all of which is tax deductible and it will only go on folks charge cards when the campaign is over in mid November ...if we make our goal...
This is me again. I am not much given to "hawking wares", but these two ladies have put a lot of time and money into this documentary. I think it's a worthwhile project. John was indeed a minor genius: riverboat owner/pilot, fiddle/ banjo player, playwrite/songwriter.
John Hartford landed to Hollywood about the same time the Dillard's, Rodney and Doug, went to Hollywood...the early 60's. The Dillard's landed a gig on the Andy Griffith Show as the Darling Boys, and John went to work with the Smothers Brothers and later, with Glenn Campbell. Glenn's hit Gentle on My Mind is only one of many songs John penned.
More than any of John's achievement, in my mind, was his interest and documentation of a great number of traditional fiddlers. He traveled far and wide meeting and playing with these fiddlers. Some of these fiddlers were know for their contributions with early bluegrass bands. Others were saw mill workers, farmers, coal miners, ne'er do wells, etc, but they all were extremely talented fiddlers.
Fiddlers of the old school are pretty much gone. I'm 70, and don't play the fiddle, but the fiddlers of my generation were deemed by the pundits as "revivalists", cause we weren't the real deal...we didn't learn our tunes from family and extended family, "we didn't have no roots".
The previous generation of fiddlers, Melvin Wine, comes to mine, embodied 150 years of tunes taught to them by grandfathers, uncles, aunts, fathers, and neighbors are just about all gone. John did us a HUGE favor by capturing these old guys on tape and film.
As with all musicians, I think his interpretation of the tunes on his last couple of Cd's were a little over the top, "rock and rolled". Hamilton Iron Works and Wild Hog in the Red Bush are very good listens. I still think he was in earnest when he brought these old fiddlers to mainstream America... the only way he knew how...pull out all the stops! John died before all his works was done. This Kickstarter is an attempt to document just what he did do.
Some will say that John Hartford was a commercial product. I say his talent was so great, he was always in the right place at the right time. He was able to capture and save for us to enjoy everything from steamboats to ole time fiddle music, and gave us a few good songs and a lot of giggles along the way.
Hope you can throw a few shekels toward this Kickstarter. It is, indeed, a worthwhile project.
Here's a link to the Shela's trailer : copy and paste is the only way I can get it to work.
http://www.kickstarter.com/projects/657235707/john-hartford-oh-yeah-documentary-of-his-life-and?ref=live or www.kickstart.com and type in John Hartford under music projects.