.Photo: Ann Marsden March

.Photo: Ann Marsden March
Photo Reinhard Liess
John Gorka live at Falcon Ridge, July, 25, 2010

Biography

 


John Gorka playing at Sharon Hoydich's high school graduation pool party in June 1976.
  John Gorka is an acoustic based singer songwriter and self described "aspiring folksinger." His songs look at the world with a realistic hope, acknowledging the sorrows and celebrating the joys of a modern life. "the quintessential urban folksinger" ........
..............................Boston Globe
 
John Warde on pedal steel and John Gorka on guitar at Dave Fry's house (you can see his feet!)

 




The Moravian college band in Bethlehem with Richard Shindell, Doug Andersen, John Gorka, Russ Rentler (Photo was made at Folk Festival -1978 Bethlehem, PA)


John Gorka with Willkie Nillinger, Lucy Kaplansky, Shawn Colvin and
Christine Lavin and Mark Dann on a Fast Folk evening
(photo: Teddy Lee)


John's wife,
. Shawn Colvin , John Gorka and Lucy Kaplansky

 


John Gorka with Shawn Colvin and Lucy Kaplansky (photo: Teddy Lee)

 

Godfrey Daniels is one of the oldest and most venerable music institutions in eastern Pennsylvania. A small neighborhood coffeehouse and listening room, it has long been a hangout for music lovers and aspiring musicians, and in the late 1970s, one of these was a young Moravian College student named John Gorka.

The Razzy Dazzy Spasm Band was formed in 1976 at Moravian College in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania. The band consisted initially of John Gorka, Russ Rentler, and Doug Anderson. Later, Richard Shindell joined the group on lead guitar. Tim Germer was also part of the group, playing bass guitar. As Gorka would later describe it, "It was kind of a bluegrass band, but not a real formal, traditional one." Although the band never recorded an album or even went on a tour, three members (Gorka, Shindell, and Rentler) went on to have significant careers in folk music. Doug Anderson, is now a philosophy professor at Southern Illinois University and continues to play music locally and Tim Germer is a software engineer in Northern Virginia.

The Razzy Dazzy Spasm Band:
John Gorka - banjo
Russ Rentler - mandolin
Doug Anderson - rhythm guitar
Richard Shindell - lead guitar
Tim Germer - bass guitar

History
The Razzy Dazzy Spasm Band
The original three members of the Razzy Dazzy Spasm Band met as freshmen at Moravian College at an open mic held as part of freshman orientation. Gorka was performing on banjo and Rentler on mandolin. After meeting guitarist Doug Anderson in the audience the three formed a band. According to Rentler, "John played incredible 5-string banjo and Doug Andersen provided the solid rock rhythm on his custom made Froggy Bottom guitars." A year or two later the group was joined by "Rich" Shindell on lead guitar. They were also joined by Tim Germer on bass guitar.

Click here to read much more about The Razzy Dazzy Spasm Band

Though John Gorka's academic course work lay in Philosophy and History, music began to offer paramount enticements. Soon John found himself living in the club's basement and acting as resident M.C. and soundman, encountering legendary folk troubadors like Canadian singer/songwriter Stan Rogers, Eric Andersen, Tom Paxton and Claudia Schmidt. Their brand of folk-inspired acoustic music inspired him, and before long he was performing his own songs --mostly as an opener for visiting acts.


John Gorka with Christine Lavin (photo: Teddy Lee)

Soon he started traveling to New York City, where Jack Hardy's legendary Fast Folk circle (a breeding ground for many a major singer/songwriter) became a powerful source of education and encouragement. Folk meccas like Texas' Kerrville Folk Festival (where he won the New Folk Award in 1984) and Boston followed, and his stunningly soulful baritone voice and emerging songwriting began turning heads. Those who had at one time inspired him -- Suzanne Vega, Bill Morrissey, Nanci Griffith, Christine Lavin, Shawn Colvin -- had become his peers.In 1987, the young Minnesota-based Red House Records caught wind of John's talents and released his first album , I Know , to popular and critical acclaim. With unusual drive and focus, John hit the ground running and, when an offer came from Windhan Hill's Will Ackerman in 1989, he signed with that label's inprint, High Street Records. He proceeded to record five albums with High Street over the next 7 years: Land of the Bottom Line


John with Gladys Bragg, Lucy Kaplansky and Richard Meyer (photo: Teddy Lee)

..
John in the early eighties...............................John live at Paradiso Amsterdam 1992

Jack's Crows, Temporary Road, Out of the Valley, and Between Five and Seven. His albums and his touring (over 150 nights a year at times) brought new accolades for his craft. Rolling Stone called him "the preeminent male singer/songwriter of the new folk movement." His rich multi-faceted songs full of depth, beauty and emotion gained increasing attention from critics and audiences across the country, as well as in Europe where his tours led him through Italy, Belgium, Scotland, Ireland, Holland, Switzerland and Germany. Other performers also discovered his songwriting. His material is championed by many -- to date more than a score of artists have recorded and/or performed John Gorka songs, including Mary Chapin Carpenter, Mary Black and Maura O'Connell. He also started sharing tours with many notable friends -- Nanci Griffith and Mary Chapin Carpenter among them. All this has brought his music to an ever-widening audience. His video for the single "When She Kisses Me" found a long-term rotation on VH-1's "Current Country," as well as on CMT and the Nashville Network. John also graced the stage of Austin City Limits, appeared on CNN, and has been the subject of other

 


John Gorka live in Rimini, Italy (Velvet Bar) in 1992 with "Working in
corners" (a Nanci Griffith song)

 


Press compilation 1991-1992 > I would like to thank David Tamulevich
for the video tape.

 


 


Photo:Joe Deuel (Cafe Lena 1991

 

national programming. Finally in 1998, after five successful recordings, and seven years at Windham Hill/High Street, John felt the need for a change and decided to return to his musical roots at Red House Records. The choice was driven, in part, by the artistic integrity that the label represents in an industry where the business of music too often takes precedence. As John says, "Red House is in it first for the music, and so am I. It's a good place to be." After Yesterday represents the first fruits of that reunion and reflects John's continuing commitment to the craft of songwriting. Longtime fans will find in its twelve songs John's trademark twist of lyric and attention to the details that so effectively evoke a time, a place, a person, or a range of emotion. But there are also the stirrings of new musical directions with the evocative addition of percussion from Ani DiFranco's drummer Andy Stochansky.
John also shares his joy at recent changes in his life (namely a 1996 marriage and move to Minnesota, followed by the 1997 birth of a baby boy -- Bocephus Mahatma Sinatra Gorka) with cuts such as "Cypress Trees," "After Yesterday" and "When He Cries." There is a hardened knowledge, vented and voiced in "Thorny Patch" and "Wisdom." Story songs and character studies, "Amber Lee," "Silvertown" and "Zuly" engage the imagination,while a song like "Heroes" invites introspection. Though a long way from


John and his wife..........................................John with his son

>
Photos of John Gorka live at World Trade Center 8/29/01. These pictures were made by Tommy Lane (just 2 weeks before 9/11) The photo from WTC Tommy Lane made up from the concertseats.

 

 

 

 



 

 

 

 



 

Godfrey Daniels, John Gorka is still honored to be a part of the folk tradition -- energetic acoustic music that is not a trend, not a fad, but an expression of everyday life. After Yesterday is the embodiment of that expression -- another classic release where his rich baritone voice and unique songcraft weave together in a way that can only be described as "Gorka."

His 2001 release "The Company You Keep" held fast to John's tradition of fine songwriting, yet moved forward down new avenues. Its fourteen songs displayed John's creative use of lyrics and attention to detail. Andy Stochansky played drums and shared production credits with Gorka and Rob Genadek. Ani DiFranco, Mary Chapin Carpenter, Lucy Kaplansky and Patty Larkin contributed stellar guitar work and vocals to this fan favorite.


John Gorka's fourth release for Red House Records is the 2003 CD "Old Futures Gone". The CD contains fourteen songs filled with potent lyrical twists, infectious melodies, and gentle grooves. The album was produced in an unorthodox way. Gorka and producer Rob Genadek used three separate drummers and three bass players in various combinations throughout the recording sessions.
Genadek would hand pick the drummers and bass players he felt would be right for each song. The result is a more interesting record. Themes taken on in the songs range from character studies to commentary on politics and the state of the modern world.


On his new CD "Writing in the Margins" (2006), John Gorka reminds us of why he is considered one of the best on the contemporary singer-songwriter scene. Almost two decades after his debut recording, he has made a new collection of songs that while perhaps not quite as immediately memorable as his early work, still has all the great qualities in both composition and performance. His songs are usually subtle and do reveal something new each time you listen. The band and added guest backing vocalists ( Nanci Griffith and Lucy Kaplansky) perform tastefully, and never get in the way of the songs. Kudos to producer Rob Genadek, who also engineered and mixed the recording. We give him a grade A for the sound quality with both acoustic and electric instruments captured well. And the recording has a decent dynamic range, something that is quite rare these days. While I might recommend for the uninitiated some of John Gorka's earlier recordings as representing his very best work, Writing in the Margins is a great way to get to know this outstanding artist, And his long-time fans will not be disappointed by this worthy new release.

Windham Hill has also released in 2006 a collection of John’s greatest hits from the label called Pure John Gorka.

John Gorka his first DVD " The Gypsy Life" was released on september 16, 2007 on AIX Records (a high definition, surround audio/video music label). Joined by Susan Werner, Amilia K. Spicer, Russ Rentler and longtime collaborator Michael Manring, John performs 19 of his best songs including: I Saw A Stranger With Your Hair, I'm From New Jersy, Let Them In and Mercy of the Wheels. Shot in HD Video and combined with two different 5.1 surround music mixes, this is the ultimate presentation of acoustic vocal music.

With is October, 13 2009 release "So Dark You See", his 11th studio album, he returns to his roots.This is his most compelling and traditional album to date.

Many well known artists have recorded and/or performed John Gorka songs, including Mary Chapin Carpenter, Nanci Griffith, Mary Black and Maura O’Connell. John has graced the stage of Austin City Limits, Mountain Stage, etown and has appeared on CNN.

His new song “Where No Monument Stands” is featured in the upcoming documentary Every War Has Two Losers, about activist Oregon Poet Laureate William Stafford (1914-1993).

Red Horse
Eliza Gilkyson, John Gorka and Lucy Kaplansky come together as Red Horse on this brand-new collaborative project from three of the most revered songwriters in folk music. Inspiring and paving the road for countless musicians and songwriters on the road today, having these three talents converge on one record is a folk fan's dream album.

Red Horse's sparse instrumentation allows these three distinctive voices to carry the magic of the music that is awash in great harmonies and songwriting. Each of these legendary singer/songwriters solos on classics first made famous by the other two members. Lucy gives a haunting performance of Eliza's "Sanctuary," John takes the lead on Lucy's "Don't Mind Me" while Eliza performs John's "Forget to Breathe" which has never been released on Red House before. Red Horse showcases new material from all three, covers they have never before recorded as well as revisiting and rearranging a couple of early classics.

Red Horse is the result of three veteran songwriters and good friends coming together to make music. With Red Horse Eliza Gilkyson, John Gorka, and Lucy Kaplansky give us a collection of songs that solidifies their place as three of folk music's great songwriters

 

Bright Side of Down (12th solo CD, March 4, 2014)

Bright Side of Down arrives during the twenty-fifth anniversary of John Gorka's first record. But this is not your father's Gorka album. Largely absent is the affectionate satire of "I'm from New Jersey," the political commentary of "Land of the Bottom Line," and the up-tempo passion of "Mean Streak." With arrangements built around acoustic guitar, and vocals recorded with a different pre-amp and mike, Gorka takes a softer, gentler approach as he ruminates on the passage of time and the passing of friends.

The opener, "Holed Up in Mason City," introduces the themes of time and winter that run throughout. A fierce storm has stranded the singer, stopping time ("The future isn't ready tonight.") in Mason City, where time stopped in another snowstorm, when a plane crashed, leaving Buddy Holly eternally twenty-two. In anybody else's hands, the song could have been heavy-handed, but Gorka lightens it with an accordion sound, a two-stepping rhythm, and an evening at the fictional Big Bopper Diner.

The title track follows, with a tinkling six string and vocal help from Eliza Gilkyson and Lucy Kaplansky, as the singer reflects on easing "the way down the uphill climb." "More Than One" provides the record's most driving tune, powered by light but insistent drumming that reminded me of the way some cars sound. It's a folksong Gypsy's prayer for a clear sky, a dry road, a full tank, and a light load. "She's That Kind of Mystery," a rare cover, is a reverential and lovely take on a lovely tune. Listen to the way Bill Morrisey's original guitar figure appears here. "Honeybee," a kids' song--another Gorka rarity--has a terrific progression and the album's most hummable melody. The most revelatory guest appearance comes on "Procrastination Blues" with Claudia Schmidt's powerful outro vocalese. "Mind to Think" has Gorka on banjo and the unmistakable sound of Michael Manring on bass. "Really Spring" brings the album to a thematic close. Dirk Freymuth's high strung guitar and an overlay of Antje Duvekot voices bring the beauty.

 

The "new old" recording:



Released on Red House Records in 2016

 

CD "Before Beginning"
The Unreleased 'I Know' - Nashville, 1985.

Back in 1987, a young John Gorka released his first album, I Know, on Red House Records. The album became a hit on folk-radio stations around the country, with songs like "Branching Out," "Love is Our Cross To Bear" and "I Saw a Stranger With Your Hair," helping launch a very successful career for Gorka. But what we didn't know was that this recording was actually not Gorka's first attempt to release these songs.

Two years earlier, Gorka took his life savings down to Cowboy Jack Clements' studio in Nashville and recorded essentially the same collection of songs with a band of professionals and a top-notch producer named Jim Rooney. After the recording was finished, Gorka decided the finished product didn't really go the musical direction he wanted.

Fast-forward to 2016: Gorka thought he'd give a listen to the 1985 sessions. He ended up bringing the tapes to Rob Genadek at The Brewhouse Recording Studio in Minneapolis, and with a few tweaks and re-mixes, and the help of Red House Records, Gorka decided to release the "new old" recording as Before Beginning — The Unreleased 'I Know' — Nashville, 1985.

 
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The Gypsy Life DVD Trailer (2007)

 

 

 

John Gorka "Blue Chalk" in MNoriginal.