John Winn’s musical career has spanned six decades, starting with formal voice training in college, and as a singer in the early days of folk music in New York City. Winn traveled with the Belafonte Singers, appeared on stages with Bob Dylan, Judy Collins, and Jose Feliciano, and performed in New York’s Carnegie Hall with many of the early folk artists.
Born in the small Mississippi river town of Canton, MO in 1934 and raised in Hannibal, MO, Winn grew up in the heart of the depression in a rural farm setting. A high school teacher identified his strong tenor voice and encouraged him to study voice at Culver Stockton College in Canton, MO. One bright fall day, like Mark Twain before him, he packed a bag and headed west.
In 1954, while serving in the US Army in Fort Carson, CO, he picked up a guitar and started a life-long love of the instrument. After the Army, Winn headed to Ski Tip Ranch near present day Keystone, CO. where he learned to teach skiing at Arapahoe Basin, played guitar and sang to guests at night by the huge stone fireplace in the lodge. He also began performing in coffeehouses and bars such as the Red Ram in Georgetown, CO, Mike’s Pub in Boulder, the Exodus and Café Les Tarot in Denver.
Musical friend and compatriot Judy Collins introduced John to her manager, Daniel Gordon, who was married to the folksinger Odetta. Dan and Odetta were impressed with John’s singing and encouraged him to go to New York City where they booked him into Folk City. He received a positive reception that encouraged him to plunge into music as a full-time career. The year was 1960, and Winn moved to New York just as the folk music scene was emerging on Bleeker Street in the Lower West Village. He played at coffeehouses such as the Gaslight, Folk City, and Café Lena in Saratoga Springs, New York. He was on national tour with the Belafonte Singers and performed at many of the early “hootenany’s” including appearances in Carnegie Hall and Town Hall in New York City.
Winn was in New York when Bob Dylan arrived on the folk scene, playing in many of the same coffeehouses. He spent a lot of time with Dylan, even taking a memorable road trip with Bob to Ann Arbor, MI to perform in one of the early folk concert venues.
A recording contract never materialized for Winn, and he missed the mountains. His love of skiing eventually pulled him north to the state of Maine, where the rural lifestyle better fit his background and personality. He performed summer stock theater and stayed in Maine for 16 years to teach skiing and build a life around the mountains he loves.
One rainy day in March 1982, with the powder snow turning to spring slush, Winn headed back to Colorado for good. He studied guitar with both Rene Heredia in Denver and Hector Garcia in Albuquerque, NM. In 1995, Winn moved to Grand Junction, CO, where he began writing music again, finding inspiration in the beauty of the mountains, canyons, and vistas of western Colorado.
He has since begun recording his lifetime of original music, and currently has released ten CDs, with several more on the way. He has appeared in concerts in Colorado at Roper Music Hall, the Western Colorado Botanical Gardens, the Fruita Fall Festival, Blue Sage Theater in Paonia, and Swallow Hill, Denver's folk music center. Through the wonders of the internet he has also reconnected with many of his old music friends, including Tom Paxton, Ramblin' Jack Elliott, and Noel (Paul) Stookey. He recently sang a duet with Tom Paxton onComedians and Angels, the title song on Tom's Grammy Award nominated CD, at a Swallow Hill concert, and opened for Ramblin' Jack Elliott at Steve's Guitars in Carbondale, CO.