Everybody's Favorite

Everybody’s Favorite
I just finished reading Prine On Prine, a book conceived and edited by Holly Gleason, and it is a bit of an irony that I would wrap this book up on the week that John Prine died. So I felt compelled to write this article about him and this lovely book.

If you happen to be a JP fan I am sure you will find is is a a delightful read. It brought back many memories and provided me with a backpack full of chuckles, but it also motivated me to learn a bit about Holly Gleason.

I knew Holly was from Northeast Ohio, and that she was associated with the music industry, but that was about it. A few years ago when Alex Bevan mentioned to me that he was working with Holly, I should have taken the time then to do a little research on her career and accomplishments.

Since reading this book, I have come to realize she has enjoyed a remarkable and successful career as an author, music critic, reporter, and songwriter. She has written for nearly all of the major music industry publications and worked as a consultant and advisor for many major artists. She truly is one of those music industry celebrities that NEO can be proud to claim as their own.    

Holly knew John Prine and clearly knew him well. She was the perfect person to gather this selection of interviews with Mr. Prine, edit, and assemble them in such a way that they not only held together, but they created a book that was a joy to read.

As you might imagine, nearly every time John Prine was interviewed, similar questions were asked about how he got started, how his career progressed, and how he was inspired to create and write songs. And to Gleason’s credit as an editor, she didn’t try to eliminate or cut these repetitive passages, she allows the reader to perhaps see a little bit deeper into John Prine’s character as the same stories are told with each interview.

As you read the book, you read about Prine being stationed in Germany while in the US Army, during the Vietnam War. You read about him being a mailman in a Chicago suburb, attending an open mic night, grousing a little about the quality of the performances, and being challenged to get on stage if he thought he could do better. And the story goes from there exploring topics ranging from roast pork to muscle cars.

John Prine was a delightful character.
I was first introduced to his work in 1975 when my long-time friend and fellow musician, Vance Wissinger, gave me a couple of John Prine records. He told me I needed to listen to them. Well, I did, and it just didn’t resonate, or should I say, it took a while. At that time I was listening to, and performing, mostly the hard rock of the day, Aerosmith, Jeff Beck, Joe Walsh, and, you get the idea.  

I left my high-school band behind when I went to Miami University and embraced the singer-songwriters of the day: Jackson Browne, Dan Fogelberg, and a new guy, Jimmy Buffet. This was when I first heard and met, Alex Bevan, who was sailing on the success of “Skinny” and Grand River Lullaby and I found myself revisiting John Prine’s first two records. I think I learned to play nearly everyone, and then, a handful of newer ones as well.

This was early in my own solo performing career, and John Prine’s songs were a substantial part of my repertoire: Grandpa Was A Carpenter, Dear Abbey, Paradise, Hello In There, Souvenirs, Please Don’t Bury Me, Barbra Lewis, and Angel From Montgomery were all staples in my set lists. It didn’t seem to matter where I was performing, there would be a handful of enthusiastic John Prine fans who would simply light up when I played any of his tunes.

I got the chance to open a show for him at the Victory Theater in Dayton Ohio in the early 80’s. I met him after my sound check and we briefly chatted. The first thing he said after we shook hands was, “This sure is a pretty place” and then he asked me if he could bum a pick. I dug one out of my pocket, handed it to him and he held it in his hand for a moment then offered it back saying, “Why I would bust every one of the strings off of my guitar, Jesus this is too thick.” And we both laughed.

He was exactly what I expected him to be. Just a fellow who was stopping in another town to share his songs and honest observations with anyone who wanted to listen.

Forty-five years after I first heard John Prine, there are occasions when I shake the dust off of the songs I remember and play ‘em. It doesn’t seem to matter where I am, or who I am playing for, they are always well received. It is like he was everyone’s favorite songwriter.

On April 7th, 2020, John Prine passed away from COVID-19, and the nation lost a cultural treasure. I felt like I lost a relative I hadn’t visited with for a long while. And even though I hadn’t recently listened to him, there was an unmistakable feeling of absence in the family tree. 

When he died, I wrote a song I called Everybody’s Favorite. I was doing two or three Facebook live streams a week due to the Covid, and I played that song a time or two. It kind of sums up the deep emotions I felt for him and his work. He made me laugh out loud, ponder awkward personal situations, reflect on societal ills, and most importantly, how to embrace life.

I posted a simple video on YouTube if you’re so inclined to give it a listen here is the link.


Enjoy every step on this hike.
See you on the trail!


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