[The only “personal” connection I’ve had with John Denver was a friend of mine from Colorado who told me he was at a gas station in Colorado when John Denver rolled in, driving his Mercedes sports car. “It was weird,” my friend told me, “The top was down and he was blasting his own music at 100 decibels.” Weird? … I dunno … it sounds exactly like something I would do myself. What say you, ‘backs and ‘belles? Do we let John Deutschendorf Denver hang out with us in The Jungle? SB SM]
Today’s selection — from John Denver by J. Deutschendorf. The early career of John Denver:
“Henry John Deutschendorf Jr. was the son of Captain Henry John ‘Dutch’ Deutschendorf, a United States Army Air Forces pilot, stationed at Roswell AAF and his wife, his ‘Oklahoma Sweetheart’, Erma Louise (nee Swope). Years later, as a Lieutenant Colonel in the U.S. Air Force, Deutschendorf Sr. set 3 speed records in a B-58 Hustler bomber, being inducted into the Air Force Hall of Fame. In his autobiography, Take Me Home, Denver described his life as the eldest son of a family shaped by a stern father, who couldn’t show his love for his children.
“Because John’s father was in the military, his family moved frequently, so it was difficult for him to make friends and fit in with other children of his own age. Constantly being the new kid was troubling for the introverted Denver, who grew up always feeling as though he should be somewhere else, but never knowing where that ‘right’ place was.
“While the family was stationed at Davis-Monthan Air Force Base in Tucson, Arizona, John was a member of the Tucson Arizona Boys Chorus for two years. Denver was happy living in Tucson, but his father was then transferred to Maxwell AFB in Montgomery, Alabama, which was in the midst of the Montgomery bus boycotts by blacks fighting for civil rights.
“The family later moved to Carswell AFB in Fort Worth, Texas, where John graduated from Arlington Heights High School. Denver wasn’t happy at Fort Worth, so during his third year of high school, he drove his father’s car to California to visit family friends and begin his music career but his father flew to bringing his reluctant son back to California in a friend’s jet, bringing his reluctant son back to complete his schooling.
“John was given a present of an acoustic guitar from his grandmother, when aged 11, which he learned to play well enough to perform at local clubs by the time he got to college. He changed his surname to ‘Denver’ after the capital of his favorite state, Colorado, when Randy Sparks, founder of The New Christy Minstrels, suggested that ‘Deutchendorf’ wouldn’t fit comfortably on a marquee.
“John studied Architecture at Texas Tech University in Lubbock, while singing in a folk-music group called ‘The Alpine Trio’. He was a member of the Delta Tau Delta Fraternity, before dropping out of the Texas Tech School of Engineering during 1963 then moving to Los Angeles, where he sang in folk clubs. Denver joined The Mitchell Trio during 1965, replacing founder Chad Mitchell, which later became ‘Denver, Boise, and Johnson’, John Denver, David Boise, and Michael Johnson.
“John left the band to pursue a solo career during 1969, releasing his first album for RCA Records: Rhymes & Reasons. Denver had made a self-produced demo recording of some of the songs he played at his concerts 2 years previously, including ‘Babe I Hate to Go’, later renamed ‘Leaving on a Jet Plane’, having made several copies, which he gave out as Christmas presents.
“Milt Okun, producer for the Mitchell Trio and the high-profile folk group Peter, Paul and Mary, who’d also become John’s producer, took the unreleased ‘Jet Plane’ song to Peter, Paul and Mary. Their version of the song hit# 1 on the Billboard Hot 100, the group’s only US chart-topping single, also reaching U.K. No. 2 during February 1970, having made No. 1 on the U.S. Cash Box chart in December 1969.
“Although RCA didn’t actively promote Rhymes & Reasons by organizing a tour, Denver embarked on an impromptu supporting tour of the Midwest, stopping at towns and cities as the mood took him, offering to play free concerts at local venues. When he was successful in persuading a school, college, American Legion hall, or local coffee-house to let him play, he would spend a day or so distributing posters in the town, usually going to the local radio station, guitar in hand, offering himself for an interview.
“With his foot in the door as composer of ‘Leaving on a Jet Plane’, he often got some valuable promotional airtime, usually featuring one or two songs performed live. Some venues would let him play for the ‘door’, with others restricting him to selling copies of his L.P. during the intermission then following the show.”
|author: J. Deutschendorf|
|title: John Denver|
|date: November 6, 2022|