The Old Troubadour

The Old Troubadour

The Old TroubadourThe Old Troubadour


Fuzzy Memories from days gone by...

  “Uncle Al's No Action Army”, Abby Hoffman and “ The Joint chiefs of Staff”

 Speaking of apples falling from the memory tree, I've got a great story to share with you about "Uncle Al's No Action Army", I've got to go have a cuppa' with some friends to jump start my writing juices. But I'll be back home soon and will get my primitive "Hunt and Peck" technique going on it. Here's a little tease.
It's about a trip we took to sing at Caffe' Lena in Saratoga Springs in Al's faded old "Stars and  Stripes" painted VW Beetle.

OK, I'm back in the saddle. A bit of preamble about the Band. When Al was putting the band  together He was living upstairs in "The Whipple Inn",as my old farm house in Stratton was called. I had an alter ego character named " Elwood R.Whipple that was trotted out for various foolishness from time to time.  The "Inn" part of the name came 'cause we some times had hikers off of the Appalachian trail which passed nearby, who stayed overnight in the hay mow of the barn. 'Round about this time [Being the late 1970's] Al talked three young fella's from Beantown into coming up to take a shot at musical fame and fortune up in the sparsely populated highlands of North Western Maine where moose probably out numbered people. Such success was not unheard of up there 'cause Al also partnered with Jud Strunk who had an International hit with his original song "I'll give you a daisy a day", 'Uncle Al and I ruminated about his “No Action Army' around the old cook stove in the kitchen of the Whipple Inn and for some strange reason it seemed like a good idea. Subsequently I was added to the stew. [Parenthetically, Al and I talked about the band last September, year of 2014, and here's a quote from that conversation.] "Hey Johnnie you remember that I kept the financial books on the Band. Well, I was rummaging around in some old papers and I came across our income records for the three months that we were together. We made 15.000 dollars and that was pretty darn good in those days".

The Band broke up but that's another story. Suffice it to say we had a blast but two of the Boston boys [Scooch the drummer and Jay Fulton our bass player] seemed to have an understandable case of missing Beantown..So Al and I and Tom Kosonen, an excellent mandolin player, re-formed as a trio with the new name "The Joint Chiefs of Staff."

Hence begins a new chapter.

We were headed out to Caffe' Lena in Saratoga Springs,NY for our first gig as a trio. We loaded up the patriotically painted VW with our instruments and enough mild intoxicants keep us happy as we traveled the backroads of Maine and New Hampshire' 'til we got to the thruway down the eastern side of Vermont. We were rollin' along towards White River Junction when we decided to pull over and take a walk into the beautiful Green Mountain forest to answer an urgent call  from mother nature. We finished our wildland meditation and were returning to the Star Spangled VW. when there to our wondering eyes did appear a Vermont State Police Cruiser parked behind the VW and a trooper eyeing it with interest. OMG, we all thought simultaneously, did we leave any items of interest in plain view in the back seat. "Good afternoon Officer" sez' Al  politely."License, registration and some identification" sez' the trooper. With that Al produced the requested documents while Tom alertly climbed into the back seat to get his "ID" and shuffle the items of interest under the front seat. The trooper was a young fella' and was handling the potential crime scene professionally but not unpleasantly. Then he threw us a little curve ball question,"Are you boy's aware that urinating in public is a punishable offense in Vermont. There's Rest Stops along the way to take care of those kinds of physical needs. We have women and children on this highway and also Official's of the State Fish and Game Dept frequently travel this route. What do you think they would say if they saw you urinating in their woods?". Which led me to wonder, do they issue warnings and tickets to all the wild critters as well?  The Trooper continued "OK boy's I'm just going to give you a verbal Warning this time" he paused for a moment, gazing at the VW's patriotic paint job, then asked in a kind of off the cuff' manner, "You Boy's don't have any contraband in there, do you?"  to which Alexander quickly and earnestly replied, "Oh no Sir, just Guitars and Banjo's" and the Trooper waved us on our way. The rest of the trip to the gig was uneventful although it took us most of the way across Vermont to get our heartbeats back to normal.

Caffe' Lena, Saratoga Springs, ZBS Records and more.
We arrived at Saratoga Springs with plenty of time to look around. Best known for it's race track, it's impressive turn of the century summer mansions for wealthy New Yorkers, Mineral springs, Skidmore College,an important Revolutionary War Battlefield near by. and of course Caffe' Lena, where Lena Spencer began offering a menu of  eclectic and Iconic folk musicians in  the early 1960's. Including some of the earliest performances of Bob Dylan, and a long, long list of important artists from then 'til now.
The Caffe' is a great room to sing in with good acoustics and a wonderful audience. The premier performance of the "Joint Chiefs of Staff" was a hit but the real surprise was still to come. I was a frequent performer at Lena's during the early years and was used to unusual events occurring in this most unusual coffee house but what came next after the show was quite unexpected. Lena came over as we were putting away our instruments and complimented us on a good performance.
She had a gentleman with her that she introduced as a representative of ZBS Records. I'd never heard of that label but he was very pleasant and wanted to tell us about an interesting project they had in the works that needed some music. It was to be a recording of a man who was wanted by the FBI and was underground at the time, that being the mid to late 1970's.  His name was,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,
.................................       Abby Hoffman.

Huh, Who, What, You don't mean, that's too bizarre, where,  when,, What the????????  REALLY? Then he began to fill in the cracks caused by this earth shaking  piece of information. ZBS really was a recording studio .It was, and maybe still is located on a farm between the Hudson River and the Hudson canal near Saratoga Springs. He described it as a communal community made up primarily of savvy music, recording and media drop outs, in the main from Philadelphia and  NYC.  He went on to say that they also operate an organic farm as well as the studio. On market days they take their produce to the big city market places. locally they sell to customers looking for the good stuff. In the studio they do compilations and previews of up coming releases for major studios. For example they had just finished a preview package for DJ distribution of a new recording by Jethro Tull titled "Aqualung". We were then invited to come out the next day to meet Abby and discuss it further. He added a cautionary note for us keep this information solely within the group as it was a delicate project due to Abby's situation at the time.

Tomorrow being Sunday we were headed back to Maine and as the commune was only a short distance off our route we decided to honor the invitation and check out this intriguing possibility. When we arrived we were greeted by the sight of well kept gardens and fields of crops. There was a large white farm house surrounded by similarly neat out buildings. I seem to vaguely remember one teepee. After all, it was a commune. There were goats for milking and chickens for eggs. All together a real good looking farm. They gave us the grand tour that ended in the recording studio. I'd been in major league operations in NYC like Columbia, Elektra and Vanguard. It was clear that this was a very professional set up.

About this time the studio lads, carrying some portable recording gear, showed up with Abby. It seems they had gone to the Albany Airport to get a recording of Abby making a paging request at the American Airlines counter. Shortly after that the loud speaker blared out, "Would Miss Bernadine Dohrn please come to the American Airlines desk,.Miss Bernadine Dohrn".[Bernadine Dohrn was also, like Abby, one of the “Chicago Seven” that the FBI was in pursuit of]. This was to be opening line of the record followed by Abby singing a very irreverent and out of tune version of the National Anthem accompanied by three not so innocent musical bystanders, "The Joint Chiefs of Staff".

A week with Abby

This was an interesting time loop, a trip that turned into a trip. We had no gigs scheduled for next week and meeting Abby was such a rush that we decided to sign on for the ride. It was a wild one, peppered with various mind altering experiences, the most intense ones were provided by Abby. He was a stream of consciousness raconteur as precise in his humor as Dick Gregory and Mort Sahl, two other wise and funnymen of that time. It was a crazy week, like riding a bucking saddle bronc of galloping words. The recording was made up of whatever happened in the studio sessions and excerpts from speeches Abby made before he was forced to go underground.Our musical responsibilities did not require artistic renditions of any thing specific other than lots of loud and friendly noise. Some of our vocals were pretty awful on purpose. There were moments when Al's mellow trombone tones and Tom's Banjo lit up the sound waves and overall our musical mayhem seemed to fit nicely with the general madness of the finished product.   Abby decided the name of the record would be "Wake up America" He said he wanted that to be the title 'cause "When My first child is born it will be named America. Then I can start every day by saying" 

                                 WAKE UP AMERICA

The week over, the job completed we headed North with jumbles of memories
bouncing around in our heads as the colorful old VW made it's way back to Maine.It was a quiet trip, no encounters with the authorities, that was a good thing, being that we were realizing we had just spent a week consorting with one of the most wanted men in America. The record of that week still exists. It's the only one that Abby made.
Google Abby Hoffman on the internet and some where out there in cyber space you'll find "Wake up America" If you do find it better buckle up before you listen, cause it's gonna' be a wild ride.

.Finite January 30.2015 in Grand Junction Colorado
Copyrighted work by John  Winn  AKA  Elwood R. Whipple

Email to Betsy Siggins Schmid  

 My first gig in Boston

Betsy; I was one of the Greenwich Village folkies and I knew a lot of the Boston performers. I sang at the "Golden Vanity" before it sank. The day of my first gig there [ the time was early 60's] a hellacious Nor' Easter dropped 2 feet of snow on NYC.. I had finished a gig at the Gaslight the night before and on this lovely NY morning everything was shut down. I had to hike from the lower east village through a blinding blizzard all the way across town to get to the west side and hopefully find a functioning subway to Penn Station  so I could catch my train to Boston. Back packs and shoulder slung gig bags were not in vogue in those days so this trip entailed draggin' a suitcase and hard shell guitar case along on that snowy stroll. When I finally reached the station the train to Boston was on a temporary hold. 6 hours later they finally got the tracks cleared enough to send the train on it's way. I arrived in Boston about 9:30 PM to find that the Blizzard had joined me on this journey bringing all it's stormy fury with it.I had subway directions to the station closest to the club. When I got there and lugged my luggage up the subway stairs I found myself on a street in a complete white out. As I stood there shivering, contemplating a shortened singing career due to hypothermia, a spectral figure appeared walking toward me through the blinding snow. Apparently this snowy ghost had a voice and began to speak "Are you John Winn?" "Yes I am" some what surprised but delighted to see another person in this completely vacant white landscape. "Well I'm the owner of the Golden vanity and Somehow I had a premonition to walk down to the subway stop to see if you some how got here" I had not called to announce any any specific time I'd get there so the news of my arrival must have been carried north by the storm and the snow delivered it. In truly coincidental form he got it.

He escorted me a couple of blocks to the club and showed me to a tiny room with a cot where I could stow my gear and get some sleep. I was quite ready for some ZZZ's and was gone 'bout as soon as my head hit the pillow. I was in the middle of a dream about Igloos and icicles when I was rudely awakened by loud voices a lot of scuffling about. Opening the door to find what was the matter, what did I see but three of Boston's finest boys in blue rousting the club owner and his girl friend out of bed and handing them a warrant to search the premises.It seems they had received complaints that there were some hippy folk at this club who imbibed in illegal intoxicants. After opening all the doors and drawers, inspecting all the nooks and cranny's, diligently looking for secret hiding places and finding nothing incriminating they finally gave up and left. But as they went out the door one of the officers turned a said, "We didn't find any thing this time but we are going to keep a close eye on this place" With that pleasant bit of information they turned and disappeared like three blue ghosts into the storm.

Just another normal day in the life of a traveling troubadour. 

Email to Betsy Siggins Schmidt

  Another Trip to Boston 

Betsy: Thanks for adding me to you friend's list. I was one of the Greenwich Village crew in the early 60's and a regular performer at Gerde's, the Gaslight, Caffe' Lena in Saratoga Springs, the Ash Grove in LA and just about every coffee house in between. They were springin' up like mushrooms in those days. I really liked the cross pollination and friendly rivalry that existed between NYC and Boston.

Folks up in Boston had Eric Von Schmidt, Joan Baez, Tom Rush and the Charles River Valley Boys. While down in NYC we had Dave Van Ronk, Dylan, Judy Collins and the New Lost City Ramblers. 'Course there was a whole 'nother herd of musical mavericks on each side of the fence with enough talent to fill Club 47 and The Bitter End to overflowing many times over.

I sang in Boston once at the "Golden Vanity." 'Twas'nt a good fit for me and I never dry docked there again. The next time I was up that way it was at the invitation of Manny Greenhill who was, as I remember it from 50 some odd years ago, Joan Baez's manager. He had heard some good stuff about me from some old pilgrim who had taken a hankerin' to my troubadour style of singing. The meeting was to be held at Symphony hall. After a conversation about some ideas he had for me I was asked to give him a sample of my wares. I had already sung a couple of times in Town Hall and was one of the featured performers at Israel Young's Grand Hoot' in Carnegie Hall so I was comfortable in the setting. But when I started singing I was amazed at the clarity of the acoustics. I had a good young man's voice, sang on pitch and played well. Manny seemed pleased with what he heard and I could see why he wanted to hear me in Symphony Hall. If you sang good you would sound great, but if you blew it, well, that also would be very apparent.

He seemed to like what he heard and proceeded to tell what he had in mind for me. One of the artists he represented along with Joan was a troubadour named Serafin who performed in a costume of tights and all the fancy frills of an early English troubadour and he played a Lute. I was ok with the lute part 'cause some of my arrangements were direct translations from the lute tablature to guitar tuning's. Manny could see that I was uncomfortable with the tights thing so he modified the costume requirements to, "Maybe you could just wear a floppy hat.” I had an immediate vision of those chapeau's that were popular with Bohemian artists back then, sometimes with a big feather added for effect. I wasn't too keen about that either. And the fact that he wanted me to replace an established artist who did perform in full costume and who had recently died in a car crash on the way to a performance also felt a little awkward. So sadly it came to 'naught.

On the plus side of the agenda, I got to meet Joan and hear her sing at Club '47.I was right down front and it was magical.

     A poem for a friend
  by John Winn

A warm welcoming bed
   Get plenty of rest
A hot cup of tea 
   Hold it close to your breast
The aroma will warm you 
   With honey it's best
Think thoughts of next summer
   This winter won't last.

Merry Merry, Happy Happy
   To the New Year ahead
Kwanza, Hannukah et cetera
   The Christmas just passed
Back to the beginning
   "Get plenty of rest"

 Dedicated to Susan Winn
 On a day when she was feeling poorly

      A Poem For A New Day
John Winn

Now lookin' back through the tunnel of time
And the zigs and the zags
Of What might we find
A path through some forest 
The aroma of pine
A walk by the ocean with a friend by your side
When a city by night blinds your eyes with bright lights 
You remember the wind 'neath the blue prairie sky  
Or a song that you sang all the music you've heard
A corner we turned a soft spoken word
As we rest and old memories gather around we know love and joy
In the friendships we found
The knife cut of pain and the prices we paid
Could we turn back the clock
I think we should say
There's a new day a dawnin'
Let's go out and play

 Dedicated to a new friend, Emily Roderick Oprea
January 26, 2015

John Winn


Email to michael dolan

Michael: This is an email that I just sent to Noel Paul Stookey about how I met a mutual friend of ours back in the early days of my musical journey. As I was proofing it I remembered your last email and your encouragement. I'm going to hit 80 next month [dob 4-13-34] and I've got many stories in my crainial  filing cabinet just waiting to jump out and run around. The first part of the email mentions a recent tragedy in my life and though we have not met person to person I felt that you would understand. 

The story starts at the 4th paragraph of this email. I think I might write a book or a collection of vignette's. Your thoughts?  Coincidentally I must report to you that I was born 21 miles away from Hannibal MO and grew up as Sam Clemens did in that little Mississippi river town.

                  The Fergwadoca Frodica Story

The email to Noel Paul Stookey

Noel: I have a great story about meeting Karl Herreshoff. I believe that you produced a recording of the Paul Winter Consort when he was in the group

Sad news first. My son Erik passed away in Portland Me.last month He had been here in Colorado for the last ten years but unfortunately contracted Pancreatic cancer and wanted to pass some of what little time he had left with his mother in Maine which he also felt was home.. Losing a child is a sorrow that has no name. I've written a musical tribute to him that I may share eventually..

Meanwhile Susan and I have been reminiscing about our early years together in the village and somehow Karl's name came up.  

Back in 1958 I was living on a mountain top above Santa Fe NM. I was working as a blasters assistant blowing up rocks and grooming trails at the ski basin. Once every two weeks or so I would go down to the city and buy supplies. I had a little Vespa 500 auto and when I got to the plaza one day I saw a similar tiny car parked there which was a Fiat Bianchina, neither of which were common transportation in those times especially in the wild west.

 The owner was a slender interesting looking young man who was wearing a green wool military style great coat. We talked about the cars for a bit and I noticed that he had a strange accent, sort of a cross  between French and Pakistani. He introduced himself as Fergwadica Frodaca and said he was on his way to Mexico as a military attache' to the Indian consulate for duty there, but his true love was music.

We invited him up to the mountain to share a pot of beans I had left simmering on the stove and after we had eaten he pulled a battered guitar case out of his little car, took out a classical guitar a proceeded to play some magnificent Bach. At that time I was just strummin' along on songs like "I Ride an old Paint" and "Streets of Laredo" with an old Gene Autry Stella.  But that nylon string sound was so beautiful that next time I was down the mountain I bought a G10 Goya and a Learn how to play the classical book was included. When this mysterious person drove away the next morning I saw that he had CA license plates which deepened the mystery. 

Shortly after he headed out I was down town again and met up with a very interesting couple who were artists from San Francisco and I was describing the unusual young man that we had recently met. They said something about my description reminded them of their daughter's boy friend in every way except the name and the accent. Then they asked what kind of a car was he driving. When I said it was a Fiat Bianchina they laughed and said "That's Karl Herreshoff and he's a great classical guitarist."

Fast forward to a couple of years later In the village. I was sitting in the 
"Kettle of Fish" when a music friend came rushing in with the news that there was a really good guitarist in the coffee house across the the street that I just had to meet. You might remember the carrier of this news as he was the gentleman  who played Bach 2 part inventions on two different Recorders at the same time. So  I went on over to meet this "Really good guitarist" and there sat "Fergwadica Frodaca"

I said " Hello Karl" and he said "Well hello John"  We sat and talked about music saying nothing about our prior meeting. Then he played a piece of music by John Dowland titled "My Lady Hunsdon's Puffe"and I responded by singing and playing "Come again Sweet Love" also by John Dowland. This  raised his eyebrow's a bit 'cause he only knew me from before as just a beginner strummer' . I told him that he was my inspiration and thanked him for turning me on to nylon strings which had a much sweeter sound and were easier on the fingers than the baling wire they put on those old Stella's.

 We never spoke of our first meeting until a year or so later when I asked him about it. He said he just felt like cooking up a story for these country folks. Sounds a lot like another friend of ours, name of Bob Dylan,eh'?

 As Paul Harvey would say "Now that's the rest of the story" Some of it anyway and as your friend and fellow pre war baby I would like to announce that I'm about to turn 80, dob 4-13-1934 Today they would ask "Which War?" So sad that humanity as a whole has not figured out that continual military conflict, poisoning the planet, religious difference's, abuse of women and children [and on and on and on] is not the way to  treat each other and this blessed planet we call home

It's About Writing

 Here's some of my thoughts on how to flesh it out to make it a  story. I have this movie running in my head when I start writing a story. A large part of the plot is built around descriptions of what I see there and what was said.  How Judy and the Mudflaps felt about the gigs .How did you feel about the atmosphere off the shows and your involvement in getting a lot of it together. More about the weird costume ideas of the "managerial offers" Who were these people. What were you thinking about on the train ride back to your day job, relieved, relaxed, was the scenery nice, was it good to get it done and behind. Was it nice to get home. Any funny things like someone tripping and almost falling walking out on stage. What were the venues like What was Tom Brokaw and Ms.Pauley's reaction to Judy and the band, How did the band feel, were they apprehensive before and were they psyched by the experience's, Etc,etc,etc. 

The last paragraph of the email that I'm replying to is a really good description of the story in a nutshell. You just need a bigger nutshell or more nuts like that final paragraph to make it into a story. If, in fact, you want to and/or you have enough time in your busy day of running the farm and feeding the birds to do so. You've got a great gift of gab. You just need to give it a chance to grow by putting it on paper.

 notes on Judys story

I wasn't implying that I thought the notes were any thing other than notes. I was just giving you my idea of how I write and wondering what further secrets are hiding in under your busy bonnet just waiting to tell Judy Roderick's story to the world. Fr'instance,  the Mudflaps courtesy towel dispensary for sweaty dancers sounds like a scene from a Monty Python Movie about the curious customs of the wild folk up Montana way. Perhaps about how they cut a rug at the barn dance's 'round about Havre.

My English teacher was Miss Marion Fette. She was a tall lanky gal with prematurely gray hair who had a way of  making English class exciting. She could even make diagramming sentences interesting.  And growing up in Hannibal, being surrounded by Mark Twain this and Tom and Becky that, was a constant reminder of the mystery and the history of that little city on the banks of the mighty Mississippi. I don't know if  I was a very good student but I sure liked Miss Fette's teaching.

I spent many days on the River and among some other Tom and Huck kind of things that we did, I was a guide at Mark Twain cave..In 1946 Parade magazine came to town and I was picked out to be their example of a modern Tom Sawyer. The article was about how we mostly did  the same things that Sam Clemens wrote about. And do them we did. My mother kept a copy of the article and I still have it.  

So, like Old Man River, the stories roll on.

Email to Miles Porter
regarding an article he is
writing about yours truly

                 Answers to Questions From A Fellow  Writer

Don't know about the picture you sent us but we have some great shot's from our 30th anniversary ski trip to Crested Butte last December 7th. Some were of us skiing, one where we were doing dual tele turns and one pic of the happy couple posed before a beautiful mountain backdrop. We can ship them over tonight or sooner if possible. Here are some answers to your list of questions.

I was born 4 13 34 at home {'Twas the way in those days} In the tiny river town of Canton MO 21 miles north of Hannibal MO. where I mostly grew up. Kris was born in Chicago, 5 10 50 and started skiing at age of two.

I started skiing down a cow pasture hill in Hannibal when I was 12.  The one thing I remember most from that first run after I had gone down hill about fifty feet, was, "This is a lot more fun than basketball."

Here's how I got to Colorado. I was in my 2nd year in College I was sitting in a zoology class and decided I needed mountains and snow more than  knowledge of the life of a paramecium. I walked out of that class room, packed a bag and stuck out my thumb. Three days later I was seeing the snow covered Rocky's for the first time. 

 A brief detour occurred when I was in the Army where I was stationed at Fort Carson. After my discharge in '54 I I went to work for Max and Edna Dercum at Ski Tip Ranch as a dishwasher. I also sang old folk songs for the guests in the evening.

I got good enough skiing that I began teaching beginner lessons at A-Basin that winter.

Where else did I teach? You can cover a lot of territory from 1954 until 2015. About 61 years as I count 'em. Here's the list. A-Basin as a start, Winter Park CO, Sugarloaf ME. Waterville Valley NH, Wildcat Mountain NH. Telluride CO, Sunday River, ME.  Back to Winter Park,  then Keystone CO, Powderhorn CO. And my last three years were spent happily in my early 70's teaching Tele back at A-Basin.

I still work out daily and ski a couple of days a week. Mainly at Powderhorn with a few trips tossed in to Loveland and others for seasoning, I've dialed my workouts back to brisk walks and bike rides that I call my " Tours de Neighborhood." My knee's are pretty used up, stairs are difficult, but smooth tele turns on groomers are still fun. As I used to tell my students, " Learn to turn and gravity will be your friend."

In 1995 Kris and I drifted downriver until we found a warmer place. Grand Junction filled the bill for us. Good biking and hiking, Powderhorn is a nice ski area, good medical facilities and a growing Arts and music scene. There are some hot days in the summer and some cold spells each winter but overall it's a pretty nice place to live.

Kris has worked for the city for almost 20 years. She now manages the Visitor Center at the Horizon Drive exit off of I-70. One of her major responsibilities is coordinating a staff of 90 senior volunteers. She will be retiring May 15th of this year.

My tennis teaching career is over. Hard courts and bad knees are not a good mix and I want to keep whats left for skiing. I was a USPTA certified instructor over quite a few years. It was a good fit with skiing. I taught tennis as Sugarloaf Mountain resort in ME, Waterville Valley NH, Colorado Mountain College, for the Frisco Town Rec. Dept. and Copper Mountain.

For info on my music career best source would be my website. I still practice daily and do occasional small concerts. My octogenarian voice is holding up OK , but the high notes aren't so high and the low notes aren't so low any more. My current project is a new cd titled "I Ain't Dead Yet." All originals, and a new video that will be posted soon on youtube of a song I learned from Bobby Dylan back in 1962. There are several youtube links on the video page including a trilogy of songs I've written about skiing, soon to be a quadrilogy with the inclusion of a fourth song titled "Skiers Prayer" which has some video of me telemarking on my 80th BD. The website is

The vehicle that was used when  Bobby  Dylan and I took a wild trip to sing at a folk festival in Michigan was, as I can best remember, a 1958 Plymouth sedan. The car belonged to a friend of my girl friend and she volunteered to drive us to the concert. This was a good deal until she and Bobby decided not to like each other. Finally, at a rest stop on the Pennsylvania Turnpike, I bought some toys for each of us and said, "Now let's all be good kids, stop fighting, and play with our toys" That quieted it down for most of the rest of the trip.

This story will be part of a book I'm now writing about my experiences in Folk music, Mountain living , sports etc. You have my permission to cherry pick a quote or two.

I've included one photo from Crested Butte taken on our 30th wedding anniversary trip in early December. Tomorrow Kris will send you three more. They are on her computer at work. Please remove the Crested Butte logo if you will.

Thanks for your interest in this old guy's life and say hi to Mary from both of us.

email from Terri Thal re; the preceding article. Terri was married to Dave Van Ronk who was known by his fellow folkies as “The Mayor of MacDougal Street. Terri was also Dylan's first Manager

Terri Thal
February 16 at 8:47am

Here's a letter I wrote to Miles Porter, who wrote an article about John in the "Summit Daily" last week.

Miles Porter -

How nice to see an article about John Winn. In the early 1960s, John was one of the few folksingers in Greenwich Village who had a marvelous voice and one of the fewer who both had a good voice and played guitar well.

I loved listening to John--and now, to his CDs. He's never just imitated older recordings of folksongs--he interprets them and gives them meaning. A song about someone who died is a story to think about; an anecdote about a current event was reportage, analysis and might contain a low-key, non-badgering, wry political lesson.

John also was (and still is) a warm, giving person whom it was fun to be with. I'm delighted to see his role in the music world acknowledged.

Terri Thal
(manager of folksingers in the 1960s)

to milesfporteriv

Email to Miles Porter
More Steps On This Journey Down The Elder Halls Of Life

Miles: Another quick hit. I finished filling out the spaces to get the Dylan story to it's full book form. So feel free to use any or all of the trip with the girls to the festival. You might consider using it as an example of the type of stories that will be in the book. Anything I wrote in my answers is fair journalistic fodder. They were good questions and I really wanted to give you good answers.

Kristin finally got this stubborn old goat into the computer age so I could start writing these story's down. I've begun to realize that I have quite stockpile of wide ranging experiences to call from for material and the questions you posited helped get me a little further down the road.

I have always loved poetry and song writing but I'm finding every day how much fun it is to play in the pastures of prose. I still start my day with a good guitar and singing practice session 'cause like my love of skiing I cherish these gifts.. I'm just not trying to squash the lemon every day. I'm giving it a long gentle squeeze so I can continue tasting it's bitter sweetness as I continue this journey down the Elder Halls of Life

email to Darrell Babbidge

Darrell: I got the sad news, not to long ago, that Iris was drifting away. I'm sending you a poem that I wrote for her on 4 16 13. when she seemed to fully engaged with life.

During our trans-Atlantic conversations she would often speak of her lack of any musical ability. I wanted to describe to her what beautiful music her voice made when she simply spoke..

A Poem for Iris

Iris, what a lovely name
And what a sweet sound to the ear 
Like a brook in the highlands 
Singing from rock to shore
On it's watery way
Through the heather to the sea

John Winn

                     A Middle of the Night Call from a Song 
Waiting to be Written 

Occasionally it's nice to hear a human voice on the line rather than the clickety clack of a key board. The sound shadows and textures of voice to voice communication add an extra-dimensional nuance to conversation. It's possible to fill words with meaning while putting them down mechanically, that's what I'm engaged in here, but I see email and vocal connections as separate art forms. I do appreciate the luxury of time to observe what's going down while writing. And since I'm a very slow typist there's plenty of time available to reflect on each sentence and smooth and shape the images. Speaking verbally requires more thinking on your feet and that is a very different challenge 'cause it's hard to re-write words spoken once they're already out of your mouth. Here's a tale about taking a trip on the talkin' train rather than riding the email express.

From our early years as fledgling folk singers back in the 1950's in Colorado Judy Collins and I have been friends. It's a bond forged of many commonalities. We both love the art of singing, we've both benefited from the discipline of classical training yet found release from it's strictures in the freedom of folk music. We shared performing at several of the same venues in the Denver and Boulder area. We did our Mountain time, including one summer where she sang up in Central City at the Gilded Garter while I held forth at The Mine Shaft just down the hill in Black Hawk.

Professional management appeared on the scene when both of us auditioned for Odetta and her then husband Danny Gordon. They liked what they heard and booked us on our first gig's in NYC in Greenwich Village at Gerde's Folk city. It was a choice place to get a toehold in the burgeoning Folk Scene. After several appearances both of us were promoted to top bill status, with our own individual show. The first time each of us appeared at that exalted elevation and although the shows were on separate nights, we were again presented with similarities. Two youngsters who were newcomers to New York were part of each our opening acts. For Judy,it was a 12 year old gentleman named Arlo Guthrie.  For me,waiting in the wings was a young man from Puerto Rico. His name was Jose' Feliciano.

As if fate said we've had enough of that commonality stuff, other than performing together on an LP celebrating the 50th year anniversary of the founding of the International Garment Workers Union, our paths began to diverge into parallel journeys. Hers to the heights of world wide fame which she has so gracefully attained. As for me, I eventually grabbed my guitar and my ski's and fled the concrete canyons of NYC for the heights and snowy peaks of mountains, better views and cleaner air. Armed with the knowledge that there warn't much hikin'and skiin' available on Manhattan Island, or if I was seated in a plane, train or tour bus. I realized I could play and sing anywhere. I'm now in my eighties and still following this path. 



More Stories

Part 2


      A Song for Judy  

Judy and I have remained in touch and kept our friendship fresh and alive with a few visits through the years, phone calls and now by using that cyber-space scoundrel called email. About a year ago we were having a pleasant phone conversation one afternoon and she remarked that she'd been missing Colorado lately.  That was followed by comments on how she had lived in the same apartment on the upper West side of Manhattan for 40 years. Because of her very busy touring schedule what free time she has is at home in NYC where she can relax and get to see her many city friends. At the end of our call she said “I guess I'm just a New York City girl now”.   

That phrase took a seat on my mental hard drive and waited to be called out for review.    That night, after my vespers, I was slumbering soundly when something knocked on the inside of my head and said “Let me out.” Eye's instantly wide open I looked at the time and and saw that it was 1:38 AM. Then the phrase: “She's a Colorado Lady in Her New York city Clothes.” popped up. I knew I was not going to get back to lullaby land, so I got up and started writing the song. By 4 AM I was finished with the lyrics. Went to work on the melody and guitar parts and by 8AM I had a song entitled “Colorado Lady,” as they say in show biz, “In the Can.”   

I waited until Noon before calling Judy. She picked up and answered with the pleasant and energetic “Hello” that I always look forward to hearing. I told her that I had awakened in the middle of the night with a phrase running around in my upper chambers. “I was thinking of how you said you were missing Colorado but now you were a New York City girl.” “What do you think of this phrase? She's a Colorado Lady in Her New York city clothes.” She replied in that marvelous speaking voice that is a kissing cousin to the beautiful voice she sings with and said “That's great. You should write a song about that!”  

              And I said “Judy, I already have.”  

here are the lyrics to the song.   

Colorado Lady Copyright 6-13-2012 John Winn  

Verse: She's a Colorado Lady in her NYC clothes With a voice as clear as windchimes As pure as mountain snow Singin' songs of "Clowns a' comin'” in A trip that she would take With her father she would go to France And dance beside the Seine  

Chorus: Like Baby Doe before her She knew those mountain ways Like Lady Silverheels and Molly Brown  Back in the mining days  

The cabin in the meadow Bakin' bread on the old wood stove As night revealed it's star lit stairs Beyond the Alpenglow  

Verse: Now she lives in NYC with the NYC sounds A 'rumblin round the echo's Of the memories she's found As she rides the rocky rapids Of time passing through each day As it slowly turns life older And the moments slip away  

Chorus: Through troubled years she's found her way Out of that stormy night Each footstep following the path That leads us back to light  

And the Colorado Lady In her NYC clothes Still see's the mountains in her mind Where ever she may go Instrumental break  

Verse: With her eyes as blue as Columbines She see's the golden glow As the Aspen leaves in Autumn Fall before the Winter snow   

And the Colorado Lady in her NYC dress Will come back to her mountains When her spirit needs to rest She will fly above the valleys Like the eagles on the wind And she'll be singin' Rocky Mountain songs She'll be back home again  

Ending: And she will fly    (whispered) across the prairies     She will fly     (whispered) to Colorado She will fly     (whispered) back to her mountains She will fly   

Repeat She will fly 4x  

The name of the album is “Tracks in the Snow”.you can find it on cdbady, Amazon, Itunes, spotify and several other internet source.  

Email to Susan           

              Quick Hitter #1  

Susan:Yes, a few strokes feel good. Especially from folks who think your music is worth listening to, or  words you wrote are worthy of being read, or they view a piece your of art in a gallery favorably. They should be appreciated. Not to do so would be to demean the willingness of the appreciator to step out of the party line for something a bit different.  I don't see it as admiration as much as validation that the messages are being received by a few folks who've got their ears {and eyes} on. Since I chose sobriety September 27th 1978 I also chose to live by the mantra of rule 13. Never take yourself too seriously.  John Christie told me about that rule at the same time he was congratulating me for winning a song writing contest back in '78. I'll keep that carpenters level handy just in case I need to level my head.  

Peace and Love  

                              A quatrain  

A new poem written at 7;30 AM 2 19 15. The pen was in my hands and the words came from a secret place. That vast celestial pasture of words, thoughts and time. I won't give it a name. It's just there in our minds.                       

     The Songs Seasons Sing  

From the white winds of winter Come the flowers of spring Then the deep greens of summer Dress the meadows and trees  

The brilliance of autumn Crimson gold falling leaves Time is now never ending Roses sleep rivers freeze  

Morning sun starlit skies These are gifts changes bring All the words in our memories  Are the songs seasons sing.    

Then the story goes on Other thoughts came along As the chrysalis opens  And a new song is born  

There's the sound of the winter wind Blowin' cold through the trees Empty arms reaching out  for the first signs of spring                 

                 {instrumental} Summer thunder and lightnin' Givin' life to the streams Runnin' down from high mountains It's the song summer sings  

Then a new verse begins As the summer song ends Symphonies of bright colors Sweeping over the land  

And the evenings are chillin' As the dark days begin But the circle's unbroken Spring will be back again  

Yes the evenings are chillin' As the dark days begin Still the circle's unbroken Spring will be back again  

email to me 2 23 15  


   This Singin' Thing  

                           episode one  

6th grade music class  

I arrived at my 80ts and moved into that unknown space called the future that once seemed way to far away to bother worrying about. With the high and low notes of a young voice slowly fading away I'm now seeking shelter in the relative safety of the middle voice. In my musings about the shrinking range of age I recall what my high school choir director once said to me when I was showing off a newly acquired high note. He said “That's very nice John, but never neglect your middle register. Whatever you surround it with, above and below, that is where the vast majority of notes you will sing in your life time will be.” True words then, even truer now.  

Here's a brief preamble to how I found out that I could sing. We were living in a small country town back in the forties where they still taught music and art as part of the regular curriculum. Along with the the three ”R's” and recess I enjoyed the process of discovery that school presented. I was in the 6ththgrade and my voice had just begun to change. I don't remember which side of the line I was on but I really liked music class 'cause singing felt good and I had a crush on my music teacher. She was both very nice and very cute. I think that was where I first felt the flames of adolescent boyhood being fanned by my juvenile ardor for her.  

One day she announced in class that we were going to perform in an Easter pageant and she needed someone to sing a solo in the program. She started at the front row and worked her way alphabetically through the class until she got to the “W's” in the back row where I sat terrified shaking in my sneakers. She seemed to still be  looking for something. And there I set trembling at what was about to happen. The moment arrived as she said, “Johnny Winn, let me hear you sing that song.” Taking a step into the fearsome jaw's of the music, I opened my mouth and let 'er go. After I'd finished there was a brief silence 'til she said, “Hmm. That's what I thought.”   

Then the bell rang and she dismissed the class. I walked out into the hall wondering if she liked my singing or was she glad she finally found out who was screwing up the choir. As I made my way home after school I was besieged by anguish at the possibility that this lady that I idolized hadn't like what she heard.  

The next day I was brim full of apprehension as I entered the music classroom. As we all took our seats, class began with this announcement from our teacher. “Thank you all for singing so nicely yesterday.” Followed by, “Johnny Winn, I've chosen you to sing the solo.”   

I didn't have the words at that time to describe what I felt when I heard her say that. I now would call it a combination of elation in hearing that I wasn't the kid messing up the music, and that she liked my voice. Followed by a feeling of terror that I was going to “Sing solo in public.”   

As scared as I was, It was quite a thrill. Afterwards lots of folks told me they enjoyed the program and my solo.  But more importantly at the time, my beloved teacher liked my singing.  


   This Singin' Thing                            episode two  

Movin' back to Hannibal  

A short preamble about how I got to that music class where I first learned about singing. We had moved from Hannibal at the beginning of WW11. We grasshoppered around from small town to smaller town 'til we found our little house on the Eastern Illinois prairie. It was well equipped for country livin' with a big red barn surrounded by acres of fields lined with hedgerows and a walnut grove.  We had three milk cows, raised a few hogs and there was a chicken coop full of laying hens. A short hike about a quarter mile to the north there was a small river that was loaded with catfish. It was a paradise for growin' up.  

Until I was picked for that 6th grade solo the only vocal skills that I thought I possessed was a musical way of callin' hogs. A few golden throated cry's  of  “Sooweee,Sooweee'” was music to the ears of those hungry critters and brought them running to the feeding trough. That I could sing for people had never occurred to me. But when I hitched my voice up to words and a melody they seemed to like it right fine.  

Then one day my dad announced that we were moving yet again. Cutting ties with our little farmstead was difficult but Hannibal was where this journey had begun so it wasn't as much of an unknown as our other moves. Packing up was something that we had done often but it always stirred up a stew pot of mixed emotions, and lost in this leavin' was some of the joy that I found in my first experience as a singer.  

As we traveled across the Illinois farmlands I began to look ahead rather than behind. When we  finally arrived at the mighty Mississippi, seeing the bluffs rising above the river and the light house on Cardiff Hill brought welcoming memories. The switch was thrown from a feeling of arriving at a destination to one of finally being back home.  

Living on Hannibal time wasn't as much of a change as I expected. It was still the sleepy little river town where Sam Clemens grew up. The first year we lived about five blocks up hill from the river front. Just down hill a couple of blocks was Mark Twain's boyhood home. It was open to the public as a museum and still is. When you entered you were surrounded by the atmosphere of the river boat days  

Singing was not a part of  that first summer but sharing all the “Tom and Huck”  adventures was a brim full bucket of fun. My girlfriend and I got lost in Mark Twain cave and I thought I saw the ghost of Indian Joe. We fished and swam in Bear creek and ran jumping from rock to rock along the shore. Then one day we got a call from the local YMCA that there was a reporter from Parade magazine who was in town to write an article about the “Tom, Huck and Becky's of today. He was looking for their modern counterparts. He picked Charlie Hall as Huck Finn, my girlfriend Dianne Fisher as Becky Thatcher and I was to be the modern Tom Sawyer. The writers name was Ernest La France and he spent a week in July 1948 taking pictures and writing notes about all the mischief we got into. As he observed in the article he wrote, we did 'bout the same things as the kids liked to do back in Mark Twain's day.  

The article was published in Parade July 11, 1948 and we got letters from all over  America and many other countries asking what it felt like to live in Mark Twain's home town. I had few words back then to describe what a privilege it was to grow up in Hannibal,MO. The best descriptions to be found are in the writings of Mark Twain. There you will find many, many fine words