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John Hartford, 63, Dies

On June 4th, John Hartford, a versatile and wry performer who wrote the standard "Gentle on My Mind" and turned his back on Hollywood to return to bluegrass music, died at a hospital in Nashville after a long battle with cancer for over a decade. He was 63.

Hartford was a singer-songwriter, comedian, tap-clog dancer, television performer and riverboat enthusiast. "Gentle on My Mind" has been broadcast on radio or television more than 6 million times, according to Broadcast Music Incorporated, which collects song royalties. It has been recorded more than 300 times, most prominently by Glen Campbell in 1967.

Hartford's career spanned on both coasts on the Eastern part in Nashville and the Western part in Hollywood. In between were stops writing and performing on network television, thousands of shows at bluegrass clubs and festivals, and stints as a licensed steamboat pilot on the Mississippi River.

Born in New York City and raised in St. Louis, Hartford was enthralled as a youngster by riverboats and bluegrass music, in particular that of Lester Flatt and Earl Scruggs, who recorded the theme for the Beverly Hillbillies. He moved to Nashville in 1965, and his first album "John Hartford Looks at Life" was released the following year.

Hartford moved to California in 1968, landing a job writing and performing on "The Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour." His went on to the cast of "The Glen Campbell Goodtime Hour."

Returning to Nashville in 1971, Hartford released the landmark acoustic album "Aereo-Plain" and continued to record until his death.

John Hartford sites: http://www.techpublishing.com/hartford/ and http://www.johnhartford.com

John Hartford had numerous songs aired on the Dr. Demento Show including "Don't Leave Your Records In The Sun," "Granny Wontcha Smoke Some Marijuana," "Golden Globe Award," his classic "Boogie" (which I covered with a disco mix in 1998...cheaply produced...I'm not sure if it's uploaded or on Napster), and his recent hits, "The All-Collision, All-Explosion Song" and "Sexual Harassment."

A good source for John's version of "Gentle on My Mind" can be found on "A Tribute to Steve Goodman" As an aside, the main demented interest on the CD is Harry Waller's performance of "Cockroaches on Parade"

Thank you to Rob Killiam and Jim Carr for the alert. Folks, say a prayer for good ol' John. I'll see you tomorrow morning.

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