Fredericksburg Songwriters' Showcase Jon Bachmann

Jon Bachman

In nearly forty-five years of singing, performing, composing, entertaining and having fun playing the guitar I have been asked three questions hundreds of times, “What kind of music do you play?”, “Who influenced you as you learned?, and “Do you write your own material”?

Let’s start with “What kind of music do you play?”

A way back during the mid sixties I started saying “folk music”, back when playing folk music put you in some sort of lofty intellectual, down with the roots of what it’s all about kind of expression. I mean, everyone seemed to be tuned in and I tuned in and loved it. I spent every dime I could lay my hands on “records”; Vanguard, Electra, Verve, Folkways and more. I started buying better and better guitars. Singers were telling stories to me, this green suburban kid, life stories that I had never thought of much less experienced. The roots of blues, the humid slide guitar of the Mississippi delta, the raucous vaudevillian ragtime, ballads and balladeers filled my head with ghosts, madmen, bloody rebellions, lost ships, tell-tale hearts, social consciousness and unrequited loves. I soaked it up.

Well, times have a way of detouring your clarity. I copped out and by the mid ‘70’s the nomenclature didn’t fit, the term folk music no longer worked. I guess it was hearing too many bad jokes about Kumbiya and Michael rowing boats that got under my skin and sort of dampened my purist spirit. I started saying I was a “singer”, then “folk/pop singer”, then, “contemporary folk/pop singer”, and then “contemporary, folk/pop acoustic singer”.

It got pretty weird. The fact is that I still played and sang the same types of songs I had been for years. My repertoire expanded, more ballads, more great story songs and by the mid 80’s I realized that I was truly a “folk singer” and that was ok.

Let me explain the 360 degrees retrospect. Folk Music is people music, for and by the people and can incorporate any and all genres. I mean from the rock to the pop, blue grass to blues. It’s all about the music people can understand, dream with, love with and take inspiration from. Finally, I didn’t have to cover up the fact that I played “folk music” and I still loved it.

Now for the second question, “Who influenced you as you learned?”

Anyone’s style is the amalgamation of the people you listen to and respect for their honesty of effort and poetic use of the instrument to support a song. I love the playing and inner voice of Richie Havens, the abstract introspection of Cat Stevens, the stories of blues artists such as Sonny Terry, Son House, and Memphis Slim. I love the vocals of Brook Benton, Joni Mitchell, Hoyt Axton, Billy Ed Wheeler, John Gorka, and Gordon Lightfoot, and many many more. They could capture an image that would spring from their lyrics. You could see the song. That became my style, playing the guitar with the right degree of emotion to let the listener see the song and join me in the story

Now for the last of the three questions,” Do you write your own material?”

The short answer is “No”. My wife and I co-write 95% of the original tunes I now play. I am blessed with a partner who not only can write but can figure out and be honest with a tunes expression. Dianne’s contributions are incalculable. They are absolutely essential in helping co-write songs that carry a story or enlighten a heart. To sum it up, I am a folk singer who uses emotion, image and style for the listener to see and feel the songs. As of the last decade I have contained my musical venues to the Fredericksburg area due to my career as a teacher (my other life’s work) and also to be available for my children as they grow.

Page put together (with info & pics from Bob Gramann ) by Ernest Ackermann.
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