Then and Now: John Hartford

John Hartford is one of the most quintessentially American musicians to ever hit the bluegrass scene. Like Tony Rice and David Grisman, he crafted music that was somehow as ancient as it was modern, all with songwriting skills that recall Mark Twain. With legacy like that, it’s no shocker that Hartford’s musical legacy continues to inspire today’s generation of bluegrass groups from Crooked Still to the Travelin’ McCoury’s to Special Consensus. Enjoy this playlist of John Hartford: Then and Now!

David Chernack

David Chernack is a fiddler, mandolinist, and guitarist from the Hudson Valley. Trained as a classical violist, David found out about bluegrass music in high school and despite his best efforts has been unable to kick the habit in adulthood. He picked up mandolin and guitar in college in Boston, where he studied environmental science and music. While not at his day job or pickin' 'grass, David also enjoys birdwatching and wrenching on cars.

One Response

  • Great job collecting these cuts David!

    Some call Hartford the inventor of “newgrass”. That may be true I guess although I’m no connoisseur or judge of newgrass.

    In my youth I was not a fan of Hartford because his music had a reputation as the choice of pot-heads. I even avoided watching him live at bluegrass festivals for the same reason. I began to appreciate him in the 1990s when he got SERIOUSLY into old time music. Plus, I married a nice lady who was a big John Hartford fan (even though she and brother used to listen to Hartford records while puffing on the weed). Then through musician friends I got to meet him and was drawn in by his UNIQUE personality. What he did with the old fife and drum tune “Squirrel Hunters” hooked me for life.

    John invited me to play with his String Band once, and I jumped at the chance and flew to Nashville. When I got there he assigned me to play MANDOLIN of all things!!! Which I’ve never played on stage. It was a wonderful experience.

    The last few years of his life, as he was slowly dying from non-Hodgkin lymphoma, I got to see up close what DETERMINATION looked like. He was so weak, but he continued to play as long as he could travel in his bus.

    If you’re ever in Nashville go to the gravesite he designed for himself and his wife Marie, sit on the stone bench, and play/sing some music. It’s what he wanted. Spring Hill Cemetery on the town line with Madison.

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