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John Stewart of Kingston Trio fame passes

January 21, 2008

John Stewart, a member of the Kingston Trio who wrote "Daydream Believer" for the Monkees and recorded more than 40 albums of his own, died Saturday from a stroke surrounded by his family in the same San Diego hospital where he was born. He was 68 years old.

Stewart, who spent most of his adult life living in Marin County, had a Top 10 hit in 1979 with "Gold," featuring guest artists Stevie Nicks and Lindsey Buckingham of Fleetwood Mac.

He first emerged as a songwriter when the original Kingston Trio recorded a couple of his songs. Stewart had formed a similarly styled folk group, the Cumberland Three. He joined the Kingston Trio in 1961, at the time one of the biggest selling acts in the world, to replace founding member Dave Guard. He quit the group in 1967.

With folk singing partner Buffy Ford, whom he would marry in 1975, Stewart hit the 1968 campaign trail for Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Robert F. Kennedy, appearing with him at campaign rallies up until the night of his assassination in Los Angeles.

He released his classic "California Bloodlines" album in 1969, the first of seven solo albums to make the charts through 1980. His biggest solo hit was "Gold," from the "Bombs Away Dream Babies" album, which also produced lesser hits "Midnight Wind" and "Lost Her in the Sun." His songs were recorded by a number of artists, including Rosanne Cash, who scored a 1988 country hit with his "Runaway Train."

He continued to record over the years, releasing a number of recent albums on his own label and selling them through the Internet. He was working on a new album at the time of his death, with Buckingham playing guitar on the record. Recently diagnosed with Alzheimer's disease, Stewart wrote a song for the new album titled "I Can't Drive Anymore."

Since 2000, Stewart and fellow former Kingston Trio member Nick Reynolds have held the Trio Fantasy Camp, where campers practice their favorite Kingston Trio song and perform the number with the two former group members. Stewart was visiting Reynolds in San Diego when he was stricken last Thursday in his hotel room.

Friends and family came from across the country on Friday to hold a hospital room vigil. Stewart is survived by his wife, Buffy; three children from his first marriage, Mikael of Camarillo (Ventura County), Jeremy of Mission Viejo (Orange County) and Amy of Alisa Viejo (Orange County); a son, Luke, of San Francisco, from his second marriage; and six grandchildren. Services are pending.

Posted by Chris Boros at January 21, 2008 11:20 AM


We will miss you, John. Your music and the Kingston Trio are forever in my mind and heart.
I was part of the Pittsburgh, PA people who had the good fortune to hear you live several times. My sympathy to your family.

Posted by: Brian Talbert at January 21, 2008 1:05 PM

What a sad day for the Music world; I was fortunate to catch John at Liverpool about 12 years ago and recall his great humour,wit and consumate performance.
I shall now go and play some of his music.

Posted by: David Webster at January 22, 2008 2:13 PM

One of my greatest regrets is that I never had the chance to hear John Stewart live - even though I was introduced to his solo music by a friend in 1975. His were some of the first songs I taught myself to play on the guitar and his music and lyrics have been a big part of my life. He is missed!

Posted by: David Kramer at January 22, 2008 8:20 PM

One of the true geniuses - excellent songwriter and performer and poet. I knew he was ill, and while this news wasn't unexpected, it is still sad...I hope his family knows how blessed we all were for being allowed to share in his life and music.

Posted by: Jon Chandler at January 23, 2008 12:44 PM

I was very sad to hear of John Stewart's death. He is one of my most favourite singer/songwriters. I was in my late teens when Bombs Away Dream Babies came out and it quickly became my favourite album. It is still is one of my favourites, which shows John Stewart's "staying power".

I discovered some of his earlier work when I was searching for Bombs Away on CD and just love it. I'm sorry I never got the chance to see John Stewart perform - it sounds like he put on a great show.

I'll miss you, John. My sympathies to your family. Thank you.

Posted by: Ruth Fox at January 23, 2008 10:39 PM

Hearing John Stewart in 1978 at Chuck's Cellar, a now defunct club in Mountain View (or was it Los Gatos?) CA turned me into an instant fan. The last performance I saw was at the Cactus Cafe in Austin TX in the early '90s. I only have his music on vinyl, so I guess it's time to get a few new CDs.

Posted by: Marian Alexander at January 25, 2008 9:25 PM

I just heard this terrible news Sunday, and my sadness is deep. I have admired John since the release of the Close Up album with the KT. I learned to play banjo listening to his records. The world is a bit colder of a place with John gone. My sympathy to his family who will miss him even more than we do.

Posted by: Dan Yount at February 4, 2008 1:26 PM

I saw John twice in 1970 at the Main Point In Bryn Mawr, Pa. This was just after the release of Willard. He was on the bill with Livingston Taylor and most of the people there were there to hear Taylor. During John's set, he seemed peeved at the inattention to his music and the anticipation of the crowd to hear Taylor, so John went into the song, Lodi. If you know that song, you will know why John sang it. The next time I saw him, at the end of the set, Jim Croce, James Taylor, Peter Asher, the original members of Manhatten Transfer, which was a folk group then, and Gene Pistilli,joined John on stage to sing Will the Circle Be Unbroken.

Posted by: Frank Bradin at February 7, 2008 6:45 AM

California Bloodlines still sends chills down my spine. John was as pure a song writer as there ever was.

Posted by: F.J.McMahon at February 27, 2008 6:58 PM

I had the good fortune to hear John Stewart live in Phoenix in 1974. This concert was part of the double live album issued by John Stewart. He was a great songwriter and performer. Does anyone remember the song "Armstrong" that I believe he released after Neil Armstrong walked on the moon in 1969? I have never heard this played since then.

Posted by: Jim Romaine at April 21, 2008 10:27 PM

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