The Writers

The Songwriters

Gordon Lightfoot
After a musical childhood and youth, Gordon Lightfoot rose to prominence as a writer of folk songs in his late twenties after spending time in California and being strongly influenced by the songs of Pete Seeger, Ian and Sylvia Tyson, and The Weavers. Songs like “Early Mornin’ Rain”, “For Lovin’ Me”, and “Ribbon of Darkness” were picked up and recorded by numerous popular artists of that period including, Ian and Sylvia Tyson, Peter, Paul & Mary, Chad and Jeremy, Marty Robbins, et al.

His unique, self-taught style of playing the 12-string guitar and baritone voice have giving his recordings an appealing uniqueness seldom matched by other recording artists and performers.

His songs and singing style have always been one of my motivations to perform.

Guy Clark
Guy Clark came roaring out of the Texas folk music scene in the mid-1970s with his first album “Old No.1” and quickly established himself as the consummate story teller.

From there he branched out into more up-tempo songs in the subsequent “Texas Cookin'” and “South Coast of Texas” albums as he transitioned to the role of Nashville songwriter where he blended the storytelling with the up-tempo style to create hits like “She’s Crazy For Leavin'” with/for Rodney Crowell, “Heartbroke” for Ricky Skaggs and “New Cut Road” for Bobby Bare.

A close friend of Townes Van Zandt, he has included one of Townes songs on each album he has created since Townes death in 1997.

He is an amazing talent and a wonder to still be alive considering his lifestyle as a contemporary of Townes Van Zandt. Much of which I attribute to his wife, Susanna Clark, a gifted artist in her own right.

I highly recommend both Wikipedia and his own site for more information about the man and his music.

Jesse Winchester
Jesse Winchester was “discovered” by Robbie Robertson of “The Band” after Jesse moved to Montreal, Canada to avoid the draft in 1967 and produced his first album in 1970. A native of Lousiana, he grew up in Memphis, TN and went to college in Massachussetts.

Because of his status as a “draft dodger”, he never was able to tour in the United States until President Carter extended amnesty to all draft resisters after the Vietnam War ended. As a result, he never developed to popular following he truely deserved. He does have tremendous recognition as a songwriter and many, many of his songs have been recorded. Most well known, perhaps, is Reba MacEntire’s version of “You Remember Me”. His songs are always heartfelt with a certain tenderness and often a touch of sadness. I recommend his Wikipedia page for much good information. His own website as well.

He was diagnosed with cancer of the esophagus a couple months ago and mid-September underwent four hours of laproscopic surgery to remove the cancerous area. The procedure was a great success and he not only has retained his voice, but has been deemed cancer-free by his doctors. This we can all be grateful for.

John Stewart
John Stewart is one of the most successful folk and pop songwriters you’ve never heard of or don’t remember. He was “the new guy” in The Kingston Trio until they disbanded in 1967. He wrote “Daydream Believer” for the Monkees and he wrote, “Gold” which reached #5 on the pop charts in 1979 from his own album “Bombs Away Dream Babies”. John also wrote other highly regarded songs such as “July, You’re A Woman” and “Never Goin’ Back (to Nashville)” which was recorded by the Lovin’ Spoonful on their farewell album.

He is recognized as a vanguard of the “country rock” genre with his seminal “California Bloodlines” album that was produced in Nashville with studio musicians. He developed an ardent group of fans best illustrated by his double live album “The Pheonix Concerts”, a compilation assembled from several concert dates in Pheonix, AZ.

We lost John Stewart January 19th, 2008 when he succumbed to the effects of a massive stroke he suffered the previous day. It was revealed after his death that he had been diagnosed the previous year with dementia and perhaps his sudden passing was a blessing in disguise.

Nanci Griffith
When Nanci took up the guitar at the age of twelve, she found that it was easier to learn to play if she was playing a song that she wrote herself.  She’s been writing heartfelt, penetrating songs ever since. At the age of forteen, her father took her to see Townes Van Zandt perform.  He cautioned her, “Pay attention, because this is the best folk singer ever to come out of Texas.”  (She is quick to point out that is only because Woody Guthrie was born in Oklahoma.) He performed “Tecumseh Valley” that night and it touched her profoundly.  Her middle name is Caroline and the fate of that song’s character, whose name she shares has remained as a powerful reminder to her about creating your own choices in life and not just accepting the choices presented to you.  They became good friends in time and he, her mentor.

Nanci has a powerful singing voice and an impeccable performance sense.  Her song “Love At The Five And Dime” (co-written with Patrick Alger) was a hit in 1986 for Kathy Mattea.  She has battled both breast and thyroid cancer in the past couple decades and seems to have beaten them, but at some cost to her vocal and physical strength, it seems.  I am proud to perform her songs.

Steve Gillette
Steve now lives in Vermont, but we met and became friends back in the mid-1970s in Southern California when he was recording and working some club gigs.

He had already achieved songwriting success with “Back On The Street Again”, a minor hit for The Sunshine Company, and had the great good fortune to have his song “Darcy Farrow” picked up by John Denver for his “Rocky Mountain High” album, as well as it becoming the “B” side of the hit single “Rocky Mountain High”. (I’ll bet most people don’t know that the “B” side gets credited with just as many sales as the hit “A” side.)

There are at least 30 songs in Disney movies, animations, and theme parks that Steve has written.

Steve is the all-round musician/songwriter. Great voice with excellent range, gifted songwriter, and an astonishing flat-picker. He is also the gentlest, most good-natured human being I have ever met. I am both proud and fortunate to have him for a friend for all of these years.

Townes Van Zandt
Townes Van Zandt is one of the most talented, and troubled, songwriters to ever come out of the Texas folk music scene. There is so much about the man that I can only recommend that you seek out the Wikipedia page about him for a full telling of his story. There are many, many videos of him performing his songs on YouTube as well that I recommend.

If Townes has any recognition outside of Austin and Nashville it is because of his song, “Pancho and Lefty” that Willie Nelson made a hit, duetting with Merle Haggard. Willie and Nashville brought a musical polish to it that hides some of the raw intensity of the song as Townes performed it.

He was friend and mentor to Steve Earle and Nanci Griffith. Steve’s “Fort Worth Blues”, written for Townes after his passing is a touching eulogy to him. Nanci’s performance of his “Tecumseh Valley” at his Austin City Limits tribute concert will break your heart. They’re both available on YouTube.

To me, the best way to get to know Townes Van Zandt is to listen to his double, live album “Live at the Old Quarter, Houston, Texas”. He was at the top of his game, fairly sober, and in good health. Just Townes and his guitar. No studio arrangements or overdubs. Just raw, elemental Townes.

Utah Phillips