• Monthly
  • $25
  • $50
  • $100
  • $other
  • use PayPal

CounterPunch needs you. piggybank-icon You need us. The cost of keeping the site alive and running is growing fast, as more and more readers visit. We want you to stick around, but it eats up bandwidth and costs us a bundle. Help us reach our modest goal (we are half way there!) so we can keep CounterPunch going. Donate today!
FacebookTwitterRedditEmail

Daydream Believer

John Stewart — singer, songwriter, guitarist, artist, husband, father, grandfather, Californian, American — was scheduled to perform at McCabe’s in Santa Monica on Saturday, February 2. He missed the gig, but he had a good excuse. Stewart suffered a sudden stroke at the age of 68 and died on January 19th in San Diego at the very same hospital he was born in.

His friends called him Johnny Stew, including Lindsay Buckingham who wrote a song by that name. He lived much of his life in Southern California (the rest up north) and was a presence in Malibu for years.

In 1961 he joined the Kingston Trio with whom he sang “Where Have All The Flowers Gone?” and “Greenback Dollar.” He wrote songs for NASA and became pals with astronauts John Glenn and Scott Carpenter. He also marched for civil rights in Selma and was smuggled out of there, along with Harry Belafonte, on the floorboards of a Chevy to prevent the Klan from taking potshots.

His solo career began in 1968, the year he joined Robert Kennedy’s last campaign and became house folkie and confidante to the Senator and his wife Ethel. That same year the Monkees recorded John’s “Daydream Believer,” which kept him in donut holes — his avowed favorite food — for life.

Stewart recorded more than 45 solo albums for various labels and in 1979 reached number five on the charts with “Gold,” a paean to the musicians of Los Angeles. Anyone who was half-sentient in 1979 (and there were many of us who were only half) remembers that rumbling rocker: “When the lights go down in the California townThere’s people out there turnin’ music into gold.” Johnny Stew was the Golden State’s own Guthrie/Cash/Dylan and remained a working musician until his dying day.

It was decided that the February 2 gig at McCabe’s would go on. The tiny guitar shop, walls lined with mandocellos and other arcane, stringed instruments, is full of mostly middle-aged fans — lifers who are here to celebrate the Lonesome Picker. (Stewart had more handles than a polygamous truck driver). Dave Batti, Stewart’s bassist and left-brainiac, and John Hoke, his guitarist and co-producer play host. Batti introduces Jeremy Stewart and Amy Stewart Kaplan, two of John’s adult offspring, Dennis “The D-Man” Kenmore, John’s longtime drummer, Andy Fergus, a club owner from Scotland who regularly booked Stewart (“If anyone wants to talk to Andy, I’d be glad to interpret,” quips Batti), and others, including me, who played roadie, adviser, and companion for Stew more times than I can count. Batti and Hoke then sing John’s “Runaway Train,” which was a massive hit for Roseanne Cash, a dear friend of Stewart’s, and “Jasmine,” a recent composition. (By Stew’s own estimate, he wrote 5000 songs.)

Batti parks his bass and reads the eulogy that Luke Stewart, John’s youngest son, gave at his father’s funeral, which includes lines such as:

“My Dad invented sarcasm

My Dad would always buy me that CD I wanted when I was a kid, even if it had a parental advisory sticker on it

My Dad always rooted for the underdog

My Dad didn’t care what ANYBODY thought

My Dad’s heroes [were] John F. Kennedy, John Glenn, and Elvis

My Dad had a great laugh if he thought you were funny

My Dad had a great look…if he thought you weren’t

My Dad was always late…he was even late today, I think

My Dad’s favorite way to say goodbye to me [was] ‘ bye buddy, call if you get work’

My Dad is a legend”

Batti pauses to compose himself before continuing.

“My Dad is loved

My Dad is missed

My Dad is remembered

Forever.”

Batti tells the gathering that Stew was “the Miles Davis of folk music. He would improvise, sometimes on purpose, sometimes not. John Stewart never played the same song the same way once.”

Paul Surratt, who produced a documentary about the Kingston Trio, shows clips from Stew’s television appearances with the Trio, including a “Hard Day’s Night”-like pilot called Young Men In A Hurry. We see solo Stew on The Joey Bishop Show (introduced by Regis Philbin), on Playboy After Dark, and, most oddly, disco-suited in 1979 on Solid Gold, lip-syncing “Gold” with a half-dozen spangled chorines shakin’ booty (Hoke insists that Stew tried to get the Solid Gold dancers to a McCabe’s gig, but we think he was kidding.) Surratt then treats us to footage of John at London’s legendary Abbey Road Studios asking where the inflatable Yoko was kept, inquiring about buying a Linda McCartney t-shirt, and standing outside the famous crosswalk screaming, “Telegram for Pete Best! Telegram for Pete Best!”

Batti thanks the audience and Hoke ends the night with: “As John would say about now, ‘It’s Monkee time!'” The tears fall and we sing along.

Cheer up sleepy Jean
Oh what can it mean
To a daydream believer
And a homecoming queen.

MICHAEL SIMMONS is an award-winning journalist and currently filming a documentary on the Yippies. He can be reached at guydebord@sbcglobal.net.

This article originally ran in the LA Weekly.
 

 

 

 

More articles by:

Michael Simmons is a musician and journalist. He can be reached at guydebord@sbcglobal.net.

bernie-the-sandernistas-cover-344x550

Weekend Edition
May 24, 2019
Friday - Sunday
Rob Urie
Iran, Venezuela and the Throes of Empire
Melvin Goodman
The Dangerous Demise of Disarmament
Jeffrey St. Clair
“The Army Ain’t No Place for a Black Man:” How the Wolf Got Caged
Richard Moser
War is War on Mother Earth
Andrew Levine
The (Small-d) Democrat’s Dilemma
Russell Mokhiber
The Boeing Way: Blaming Dead Pilots
Rev. William Alberts
Gaslighters of God
Phyllis Bennis
The Amputation Crisis in Gaza: a US-Funded Atrocity
David Rosen
21st Century Conglomerate Trusts 
Jonathan Latham
As a GMO Stunt, Professor Tasted a Pesticide and Gave It to Students
Binoy Kampmark
The Espionage Act and Julian Assange
Kathy Deacon
Liberals Fall Into Line: a Recurring Phenomenon
Jill Richardson
The Disparity Behind Anti-Abortion Laws
Kollibri terre Sonnenblume
Chelsea Manning is Showing Us What Real Resistance Looks Like
Zhivko Illeieff
Russiagate and the Dry Rot in American Journalism
Norman Solomon
Will Biden’s Dog Whistles for Racism Catch Up with Him?
Yanis Varoufakis
The Left Refuses to Get Its Act Together in the Face of Neofascism
Lawrence Davidson
Senator Schumer’s Divine Mission
Thomas Knapp
War Crimes Pardons: A Terrible Memorial Day Idea
Renee Parsons
Dump Bolton before He Starts the Next War
Yves Engler
Canada’s Meddling in Venezuela
Katie Singer
Controlling 5G: A Course in Obstacles
Evaggelos Vallianatos
The Beauty of Trees
Jesse Jackson
Extremist Laws, Like Alabama’s, Will Hit Poor Women the Hardest
Andrew Bacevich
The “Forever Wars” Enshrined
Ron Jacobs
Another One Moves On: Roz Payne, Presente!
Christopher Brauchli
The Offal Office
Daniel Falcone
Where the ‘Democratic Left’ Goes to Die: Staten Island NYC and the Forgotten Primaries   
Julia Paley
Life After Deportation
Sarah Anderson
America Needs a Long-Term Care Program for Seniors
Seiji Yamada – John Witeck
Stop U.S. Funding for Human Rights Abuses in the Philippines
Shane Doyle, A.J. Not Afraid and Adrian Bird, Jr.
The Crazy Mountains Deserve Preservation
Charlie Nash
Will Generation Z Introduce a Wizard Renaissance?
Ron Ridenour
Denmark Peace-Justice Conference Based on Activism in Many Countries
Douglas Bevington
Why California’s Costly (and Destructive) Logging Plan for Wildfires Will Fail
Gary Leupp
“Escalating Tensions” with Iran
Jonathan Power
Making the World More Equal
Cesar Chelala
The Social Burden of Depression in Japan
Stephen Cooper
Imbibe Culture and Consciousness with Cocoa Tea (The Interview)
Stacy Bannerman
End This Hidden Threat to Military Families
Kevin Basl
Time to Rethink That POW/MIA Flag
Nicky Reid
Pledging Allegiance to the Divided States of America
Louis Proyect
A Second Look at Neflix
Martin Billheimer
Closed Shave: T. O. Bobe, the Girl and Curl
David Yearsley
Hard Bop and Bezos’ Balls
FacebookTwitterRedditEmail