John Hartford

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John Hartford, 2000

John Hartford (actually John Cowan Harford , born December 30, 1937 in New York City , † June 4, 2001 in Nashville , Tennessee ) was an American country singer and songwriter (the t in the name was founded in 1966 by Chet Atkins , vice boss of the RCA label, inserted).


Hartford, who grew up in St. Louis , played the banjo early on in local bluegrass groups . a. with Doug and Rodney Dillard ( The Dillards ), with whom he later recorded two albums Dillard-Hartford-Dillard (1977, 1980) and which took over some of his pieces into their repertoire.

After school and military service he worked as a radio disc jockey and began writing his own titles in 1965. Shortly afterwards he moved to Nashville , hosted a night program and tried to sell his plays during the day. In 1966 he got a record deal with RCA.

With John Hartford looks at Life he had his debut album in January 1967, which Earthwords and Music followed in July . With the title "Gentle On My Mind" taken from it, which was number 60 on the Billboard Country Charts, he was granted a quick commercial success. The cover version of Glen Campbell was not only a hit single, but then the title track of an equally very successful LP and brought Hartford two Grammys in 1968 .

Through his work as a studio musician in Nashville and with the Byrds for the Sweetheart of the Rodeo album (1968), he became part of the "progressive" country and bluegrass movement, which began to enrich the traditional form with electric instruments.

The income from "Gentle on My Mind" allowed him to take time off in 1972 and fulfill his childhood dream of becoming a helmsman on a Mississippi paddle steamer . In 1977, now back in the music business, he won the third Grammy with his album Mark Twang .

He worked for the preservation of traditional music for over a quarter of a century and, shortly before his early death from cancer, contributed to the soundtrack of the feature film O Brother, Where Art Thou? achieved another great success with his work to preserve original, traditional music against the US mainstream at the turn of the millennium.


Between 1967 and 1987 he made 22 LPs and another 16 CDs during his lifetime.

  • ackroads, Rivers & Memories: The Rare & Unreleased John Hartford (ed. 2019)

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