Now in his 80s, troubadour John Winn started his journey in Hannibal, MO, home of Mark Twain. He has led an incredible life that included a career as an operatic tenor, a folk musician in Greenwich Village, a performer at Carnegie Hall, and as a friend and confidant to people such as Bob Dylan, Judy Collins, Mary Travers, and Dave Van Ronk. John tells tales of his days as a troubadour in the early Greenwich Village folk music scene that have never been told before. These stories from the late 1950s and early 1960s are a revealing look into the folk music scene of the time. John was a major part of that scene, and he was present when Bob Dylan arrived and changed the musical landscape with his talent and personality. One of his stories involves a week spent recording music with Abby Hoffman while Abby was on the lam from the FBI. After his time in the Village, John spent 17 years in the mountains of northern Maine pursuing his other passion besides music—skiing. Through it all, he has documented his life with original songs, poetry, and video that capture his love of music, mountains, and skiing. This memoir contains links which will allow you to hear much of his original music, watch videos of his performances, and view videos featuring original songs about skiing that capture John telemark skiing at his favorite resorts.
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. 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. 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. 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. John returned to western Colorado in 1982, and has since begun recording his lifetime of original music. He currently has released ten CDs of his own original songs. 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. Now in his 80s, John is still writing and recording music and creating music videos, but his performances are limited to close friends and family.
This book of lyrics is a small collection of the hundreds of original songs he has written on subjects ranging from love to war, nature, the environment, and our relationships with God, the earth, and other human beings. John has a loyal group of fans that follow his postings of YouTube videos produced by Jon James of The Shedd Studio in Grand Junction, Colorado. They have posted thoughtful, heartfelt comments about his songs, and John has included some of those comments in this book.
John writes and performs in the troubadour tradition, which began in France in the 11th Century. Self-accompanied singers, usually playing a guitar or lute, traveled the highways and byways of medieval Europe singing songs of chivalry and love. The tradition quickly spread to Italy and Spain, then to the British Isles and on to America, where it found a home in the songs of the Appalachian Mountains.
While no longer performing concerts, John's YouTube videos have reached a worldwide audience of appreciative listeners. He wanted to share more information on his music for those who have not listened to his words closely. He hopes you will find his music and words strike a chord within you.