Once-semi-local Kingston Trio member dies

January 26 Update: WINA radio journalist Chris Callahan says he recalls that Stewart and family dwelt during that era in Buckingham, near the Yogaville ashram that drew them to Central Virginia.
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Around 1991, about a year before I bought it, I attended a concert at the Jefferson Theater by John Stewart, the former Kingston Trio member who was said to live at least part-time in Central Virginia. Stewart died last weekend at a hospital near his California home at the age of 68.

Although the screaming success of the Beatles and other British invaders dimmed some of folk music's light in the mid-1960s, plenty of fans still remember both the Trio and Stewart, who was a member of the group in 1962 when they scored one of their biggest hits, "Where Have All the Flowers Gone?"

Stewart left the Trio in 1967 for a successful career as a songwriter, penning works for such artists as Joan Baez and Albemarle County's Mary Chapin Carpenter; and he's the one who wrote the Monkees' classic "Daydream Believer," which soared to #1 on the Billboard "Hot 100."

That night at the Jefferson 16 or 17 years ago, Stewart performed many of his most famous songs, including his own biggest hit as recording artist, "Gold," an atmospheric rocker from 1979 with backing vocals by Stevie Nicks. It starts like this:

When the lights go down in a California town/
People are in for the evening/
I jump into my car and I throw in my guitar/
My heart beatin' time with my breathin'
Drivin' over Kanan, singin' to my soul/
There's people out there turnin' music into gold...

I got in touch today with Peter Ryan, who produced Stewart's Charlottesville concert, but he couldn't recall whether Stewart was an actual resident or simply a long-term visitor to our area. Folk music does seem to live here, however. Besides the many acts streaming through Gravity Lounge, the Paramount announced today that venerable folkie Arlo Guthrie will perform there on Saturday, February 9.

One of Stewart's more recent successes was "Runaway Train," which Roseanne Cash took to the top of the country charts in 1988. On Stewart's own website, a friend says that Stewart, who died January 19, had recently been diagnosed with early-stage Alzheimer's, but was felled by a stroke or brain aneurysm.

A video of Stewart performing "Gold" can be seen below:

2 comments

I enjoyed his music without ever really knowing that it was he who penned it. When I was young the Kingston Trio was a favorite of mine. I played their albums often. I didn't know he worked on so many good songs over the years. I hope he enjoyed his times here in Albemarle County and Charlottesville.

A shining flame gone from us, but into the Light He walks ... John was a brilliant wordsmith and contributed so much pleasure to so many ... He'll be missed ... so glad that He and His loved ones missed out on the devastating effects of Alzhiemers ... You lived a full and wonderous life John, and then it was time to continue the journey away from us ... Thank-You