John Herald

John Herald

John Herald (September 6, 1939 - July 18, 2005) was an American folk and bluegrass songwriter, solo and studio musician, and one-time member of The Greenbriar Boys trio.

Herald was born in Manhattan in 1939, to an Armenian born poet father. It was through him that Herald was first exposed to live performances by blues and folk legends Leadbelly and Woody Guthrie. While at a summer camp in 1954, Herald was inspired by a performance by Pete Seeger. During his Manumit School days, he became a regular listener of Don Larkin's bluegrass radio show, and began attending open guitar jams with the likes of Bob Dylan and Rory Block.

In 1959, Herald formed The Greenbriar Boys, along with Bob Yellin (banjo) and Eric Weissberg (mandolin). Weissberg was soon replaced by Ralph Rinzler (mandolin) to form their most successful combination. Herald was lead guitarist and vocalist. The trio often played the Greenwich Village scene, but were notable enough to be the first Northern group to win the likes of the Union Grove Fiddlers Convention competition, where Yellin also took top honors for banjo. Shortly after backing Joan Baez on her second LP, The Greenbriar Boys were signed to Vanguard Records, for whom they released three records. In 1969, Linda Ronstadt recorded Herald's "High Muddy Water." Two years previously, she had recreated his vocal of Mike Nesmith's "Different Drum," which became a hit for her band the Stone Poneys.

After the trio split up, Herald played sessions for Vanguard. In 1972, he recorded a solo album for Paramount Records, then went "electric country bluegrass" on a 1978 disc featuring the John Herald Band (a group he'd formed while living in Philadelphia in 1976).

Herald's last recording was "Roll On John" in 2000. He was working on new material in 2005 when, on July 19th, his body was found in his home in West Hurley, New York. The state police suspected suicide, although no official cause was released (as of July 26, 2005).

External links

* [ New York Times obituary]
* [ All Music Guide biography]
* [ The Official John Herald website]

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