John Hart Biography, cont.

When asked about his approach to writing music, John reflects for a moment, then says, "any song I’ve ever written that I felt was good enough to share with listeners, in a room, in a club, or on recordings, begins with a feeling that something wants to come through, out of a stillness, when I'm free from the constant chatter in the mind". My job, it seems, is to get out of the way intellectually, and try to capture the feeling, whether I hear a lyric first, or a melody that I can tease out of a guitar. It's a delicate process, one that takes time and patience".

"This wasn’t always the case, especially early on in his music career. In those days, all John wanted was to play guitar like Jimi Hendrix, or Eric Clapton and spent a good many years working on that. John remembers, “I was constantly comparing myself to the greats, never feeling competent enough to really enjoy playing the guitar. I preferred to let the sax, the keyboards, even the drums take the solo spot, more often than not”. John’s first real, paying gig was at a loud and boisterous club in London’s East End. It was so loud and so hot, bodies pressing up to the stage, ‘so close I was sure I would suffocate’. While he was in England, his parents lived in Brussels, Belgium. There was an interim period, before resuming his studies at University, where he played with a Belgian rock/swing band, ‘doing a lot of Chuck Berry stuff, and performing at outdoor venues that summer’. John remembers doing a TV show, a sort of Belgian version of Top of The Pops, sharing the bill with Donovan Leach. "He (Donovan) was into the whole Dylan thing, a guitar, a harmonica in a harness, and wearing a sort of Fisherman’s hat with well groomed hair protruding out the back and sides". John was spellbound by the whole English music scene and spent a lot of time getting to know people in bands that were going places, including Eric Burdon and the Animals. John recalls, “I made a good friend in Chas Chandler who helped me to audition with the band, but of far greater interest to me, Chas introduced me to Jimi Hendrix who was auditioning talent from in and around London, looking to form the Experience. I was in the cellar downstairs at Birdland, when Jimi found Noel and Mitch Mitchell". "I can’t say enough about the time I spent with Hendrix, so I won’t. Only that, he was a gentle soul, completely open and sincere and had a beautiful girlfriend who I recognized from the movies”. John spent years working clubs and festivals, all over the map and eventually, in the US, where he formed a three piece power trio, that evolved into the David Littlejohn blues band and finally morphed into the Little John band, several years later. "The whole blues band thing came to an end when tenor sax man, Vince Wallace, walked in on a rehearsal one summer's day – and never left". The Little John band took on its own persona under the influence of Vince and his passion for jazz. The core rhythm section contained rock ‘n rollers, with one exception, the band’s drummer. John recalls, “this man came as close to emulating Buddy Rich as any drummer could possibly manage. We used to unleash him on a solo before an unsuspecting public, and watch their jaws drop open. He was the real deal”. John created most of the original material for the Little John band which had a lot of rough edges, full of raw energy and intensity, but hardly mature, while Vince Wallace contributed works, such as ‘Gremlin’s Lullaby, an entire suite of tunes that, if you knew Vince, could only have come spinning out of his unique world view. These early compositions are exposed on two (hard to find, but available on the web) albums for Epic records. The best material of all from that creative period is contained in a 'live-in-the-studio' recording produced and engineered by legendary Columbia Records engineer/producer, Fred Catero, at Pacific Sound in San Mateo. Sadly, the final, 32 track master tapes were submerged under water, in a cardboard box on a garage floor during an unexpected flood. There is a bootleg copy of those recordings that for those into Bay Area music folklore might find interesting. They possess a kind of numinous quality for some of us because, the bass guitar parts on that session are played by Ross Valory, right as he was stepping into and assuming the role of bass guitarist for the then unknown band that became the very well-known band, Journey.

Created: April, 2014