I owe my songwriting art to my Dad. He started me early in music. He was a great musician. In 1926 he joined the U.S. Marines and served in the American Legation, Peking, China as a "China Marine." I was born on December 26, 1940. Mom and I joined Dad in Alaska where he was stationed. One year later, when the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor, all dependents were evacuated. We boarded the S.S. Columbia which went out to sea and anchored for fear of Japanese submarines. We finally made it to the family homestead in eastern Washington for the duration of the war.
At 17 I wrote my first song for Mary Jo, my first girl friend. I hired a drummer, recorded it and presented it to her on our second date. I have never stopped writing since.
My first album was Vietnam Farewell, released in 1991 and sent to Veteran Centers throughout North America free of charge. My second was Maria and Me with both my daughter Maria and I writing and singing. My third album in 1994, Vietnam Farewell II, "I Don't Know Where the Time Has Gone" was sent again to all 220 Vet Centers in North America, Virgin Islands, Puerto Rico, and Guam; and to all Senators and Congressman. The creation and production of "Meet Me In Vietnam" was a soul searching journey first inspired by meeting Dorothy Fall, wife of Dr. Bernard B. Fall. Dr. Fall was one of my instructors at the US Army Civil Affairs Advisory Course at Fort Gordon, Georgia where I was a student in 1966 prior to being assigned to South Vietnam as an advisor.
I left for Vietnam in January, 1967. On February 21, 1967 Dr. Fall was killed by a booby trap in northern South Vietnam while on an operation on the "Street Without Joy" with the US Marines. He was 40 years old, the foremost authority on Indochina. By the time of his death he had already authored seven books on Vietnam, most notably "Street Without Joy." At Fort Gordon we sat in awe as he presented slide after slide of facts and data about the drastic situation in Vietnam, different than our "glowing" briefings by the US Army. Dr. Fall was a "guerilla historian." He reminded us that "a denial by the Pentagon is an affirmation."
After my 1967 tour the Army said I should plan to return. In 1970 I communicated to John Paul Vann (A Bright Shining Lie, Neil Sheehan, Random House, 1988) that “I have no desire to spend my next tour in the administrative bureaucracy of Saigon.” I was assigned to Vann’s headquarters in Pleiku, II Corps. The situation was not what I and others expected. It was now clear we had lost the war and were abandoning the South Vietnamese. In Meet Me In Vietnam, my producer Scott Anderson and I worked to digitally re-record, remix, and remaster some previous selections and adding eight new songs, my favorites Ia Drang and Dorothy. Researching this album allowed me to find my old Vietnam friend Carl D. Robinson and his beautiful wife Kim Dung living now in Australia. I was reading Lost Over Laos and saw him referenced by Pyle and Faas. Dorothy Fall and Joe Galloway helped me track Carl down. The inspiration for writing Ia Drang goes to Joe Galloway and Hal Moore. In 1992 they autographed my personal copy of “We Were Soldiers Once and Young.” It sits proudly on my shelf. Meeting Dorothy Fall and presenting her with the song Dr. Fall was wonderful. I then knew I needed to memorialize her in song as well. Dorothy presented me with the year 2000 reissue copy of Dr. Fall’s “Last Reflections on a War.” She wrote, “For John, thank you for remembering Bernard’s wise words.” Finally, none of this would have happened without the loving support of my family, my producer Scott Anderson of 57th Street Productions and Dorothy. Now you can read Dorothy Fall’s “Bernard Fall: Memories of a Soldier Scholar” now available in book stores. It is an unbelievable story and tribute.
In 2016 Back in Time was released – an album of old tunes written in past years plus three new ones: Night Flight – Baby, Baby, Baby and Love’s Lonely Road. In 2017 I released Original Rockabilly with tunes I wrote and first recorded in the late 1950’s and early 60’s in a style between country and Rock and Roll of that era. An interesting album also we just released in 2017 is Armed Forces Network, the actual Headquarters United States Army, Armed Forces Network broadcast across Europe and into the “Iron Curtain” on April 1, 1964. This broadcast featured the 24th Infantry Division Entertainment Group I was in charge of in my assignment as an Army Infantry Officer First Lieutenant.
Don’t miss watching my music videos. One in particular you may find interesting is called, “When I Came Home” from the album Meet Me In Vietnam. This was filmed on location at the Union Gospel Mission for the homeless in Seattle, Washington.In 2018, I released Roll on Russia, a tribute to my 2017 journey on the Trans-Siberian railway. I returned to Russia and performed songs from the album at a music festival for army veterans in Perm. If U.S.- Russia relations are ever to improve, we must continue cultural exchange such as this. To heal is not easy, but we must try. In the end, our confrontation, the game of "superpowers", cannot continue forever. And I am sure: friendship and fraternity will conquer any policy.
Also in 2018, I released Stairway of My Mind. This album goes deep into the heart and soul of today's politics as well as more universal themes of temptation and betrayal. I continue to release new music today, with several new singles out in 2020. Stay tuned and stay in touch, more is coming in 2021 and beyond.