just discovered this tribute
site to John Vandiver run by his daughter Joanna or "Jojo"
as she signs her notes. It is a beautifully simple site with
pictures and stories of a wonderful singer-songrwiter from Dallas
who I only knew of up until now as one of Shake Russell's running
buddys. I do remember the annoucement on the local radio when
he died a tragic death in 1985 saying that he and girlfriend/manager
Debbie Davis were murdered in their home near Magnolia, TX.
"I am telling John's story through the photos and stories
of his friends and fans." says Joanna, "I have tried
to include a little bit of everything so please explore and
remember, enjoy and heal."
found Joanna's site through Lucky and Jinelle Boyd's excellent MyTexasMusic.Com
where I heard clips of John's magnificent voice and now I am beating
myself up for not listening sooner. I have purchased the new release
I Found A Dream and so should you! John
Vandiver, like I said, had a magnificent voice and the songs on this
release capture that voice and his playful laid back attitude again
and again. Joanna writes on the web site, "When I was trying
to decide what songs should be included on the first CD release Shake
Russell suggested I use a set of songs from a tape that John was making
copies of and selling out of his trunk at gigs in 1984. Not only was
it a good idea, but the recordings from those tapes have turned out
to be some of the best. Both in quality and musically. They were recorded
at Poor David's Pub in Dallas, Tx. The songs on John's tape were from
June 23, 1984. I used songs from three of his performances that year
at Poor David's; April 14, June 23 and August 21, 1984. I did this
in order to be able to add more songs to the playlist and so that
I could get the best quality recordings. David Hough (the man in charge
of the music technicalities) has done a wonderful job of bringing
the reel to reel tapes back to life. I believe the final product was
well worth the wait." Believe it Jojo! It's true.
mix of originals and covers, every song also features wonderful bluesy
acoustic picking by Vandiver with the standout for me being St.
James Infirmary. He takes a song I always found scary and brooding
when I used to listen to the late great Joey Long play it and turns
it into a roof raising gospel. His original song "Comin Home"
and the cover of Taj Mahal's "Cakewalk Into Town" take me
right back to the early eighties when I was graduating high school,
hanging out at Memorial Park and finding out about public radio, KPFT,
and Shake and Dana. I've also read where KLOL was playing tapes of
Shake and John around this time. I must have heard those and assumed
it was just Shake. I know better now.
Home - John Vandiver (center) with Shake Russell/Dana Cooper
Band at Rockefeller's.
Photos page at the tribute site will tear your heart out. Seeing
the smiles of John and Debbie together and realizing how they
were tragically taken away. I can surely understand why it took
so long for Joanna to start this restoration but she has done
an excellent job showing the good times, their family, and the
history of her father and his music.
Then there's the Memories
page, full of heartfelt stories and quotes from people like
Robert Mendez who was instrumental in starting Joanna down this
road. "John Vandiver sang the blues and played guitar in
the style of the legendary blues greats from Chicago to Florida.
Big Bill Brounzy, Jimmie Reed and Bessie Smith were among some
of his influences. He covered pop greats like Randy Newman and
Van Morrison and he wrote beautiful ballads like 'Country Girl'
and harmonized with folk legends from all over Texas. During
the sixties, right out of high school, he learned from greats
like Mance Libscomb, and actually chauffered Mance around the
southwest. He helped carry Mance's bags, and then he provided
Mance an opening act, and before John turned forty, he would
sing Hogey Carmichael's "Georgia On My Mind" so that
it belonged to him, as much as Ray Charles. His iron worker-like
fingers, armed with metal picks, never inhibited him from gracefully
dancing around the first Bill Collings arch top guitar ever
made while driving a baseline with his thumb which Ray Wylie
Hubbard likened to a metronome. By the summer of 1977, he was
a solo act. The strongest solo act many of us ever encountered."
writes Robert, "Just as there were many sides to this talented
special human being, there are many versions of story to tell
about him. This site is dedicated to inspiring those who truly
loved the man, his music and his life to join in and share your
thoughts with us and help us celebrate his life."
way to learn the history of John Vandiver is to read the Press
pages on the tribute site. Learning how John met up with Shake
and his journey around the states and back to Houston in his
own voice through interviews and reviews of his shows. I tell
you, I could sit here and copy pictures and quotes off this
site all day but it's better you just get on over there
and see it for yourself. You won't regret it.
and images courtesy http://www.johnvandiver.com