Music Memories 12: John Hartford

John Hartford: Natural To be Gone

John Hartford Gentle On My Mind
John Hartford Gentle On My Mind

I came to listen to John Hartford through listening to Glen Campbell on this Good Time Hour on television. And I came to listen to Campbell through The Smothers Brothers on their Comedy Hour on TV, and through another source. I’ll spend another post on that other source for Glen Campbell and the song  Gentle On My Mind at another time. I do remember seeing John Hartford, at the top of the show, sitting in the audience and standing up while picking his banjo. It seems to me that he was picking the opening of Natural To Be Gone. Of course I’m relying on memory, and as each day passes, my memory becomes more suspect.

I bought this album on the strength of the title song and Natural To Be GoneNatural To Be Gone appealed to me, as a young man, because it was the alternative to the cookie-cutter, safe, boring life that most of us were destined to live. The romance of the open road, the “highway running up my banjer neck” had an exotic appeal. But, of course, I didn’t choose that road. Oh, stodgy old me.

The other song on that album that drew me in was The Six O’Clock Train and A Girl With Green Eyes. I knew exactly where the emotion in that song came from, because I had experienced the same thing. Well, except that I had never waited at a railway station and she didn’t have green eyes, and I actually envisioned myself as the man in the brown suit. Other than that…

As much as I love this version of the song, I prefer the recording Hartford made years later on the Mark Twang album. That album Flying Fish album in 1976, along with Nobody Knows What You Do started a period of recording by him that I loved.

The Mark Twang version Six O’Clock Train is on YouTube and you should listen to it to see the difference and make up your own mind. Also on YouTube are two videos of Hartford performing Natural To Be Gone on Playboy After Dark. One of them is him lip syncing from the Gentle On My Mind album. The second video shows him performing live, and it is a good version. I have problems with performances on Playboy After Dark, but that’s probably worth a post at a later date.

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