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John Fahey - recordings

Books - DVD - Recordings - CDs -Equipment

You will find various information for each song listed. It may be in depth comments on the recording of the song (but there at not too many of these). You may find reference to CDs including the recording, books and videos where it is included, information on guitar tuning, key, chord progressions, etc. But for some, you will find nothing but the title. It all depends on how much information I have on this specific recording. (You can help me improve this by sending information.)

"Compositions" are only listed when they are recorded by other artists than the composer or when there is no reference to a specific recording (and "recording artist" is given as "Standard".)

John Fahey was born on February 28, 1939 in Takoma Park, Maryland (a suburb of Washington, D. C.). His parents encouraged John's musical interests, and there was often someone playing the family's upright piano. He started out playing the clarinet in his school band, but was more interested in composing and improvising than in playing other people's music. At age 13 he got his first guitar, which provided an outlet for his creative urges. He taught himself several songs (in hopes of attracting women), and developed a special interest in bluegrass. Soon he became a record collector and music historian, seeking out recordings of early bluegrass players. He would listen to and copy such artists as Pete Seeger and Grand Ole Opry guitarist Sam McGee. In 1957 Fahey discovered African-American music in the country blues and sacred songs of Blind Willie Johnson. Fahey's passion for American roots music continued to grow, extending to Delta bluesmen Charley Patton and Skip James.

In 1959, Fahey started his own record label, Takoma, and made his first American Primitive guitar album. The album did not generate great public interest, but it became legendary for introducing John's arrangement of the hymn In Christ There Is No East or West, which became a fingerpicker's standard. The album presented Fahey's personal blues-based style in such a convincing fashion as to make some mistake him for an unknown Negro.

Setting music aside for a time, Fahey studied philosophy in the late 50's and early 60's at the University of Maryland, American University, and U. C. Berkeley. The folk boom of the 1960's, though, drew him back into performing, and in 1963 the Takoma label was revived for a recording of Delta bluesman Booker T. Washington White. Following this, Fahey returned to the South with fellow blues enthusiasts Bill Barth and Henry Vestine in search of Skip James, whom they found and recorded. By 1964, Fahey was composing again, combining the influence of Skip James with his earlier exposure to symphonies and Gregorian Chant.

Fahey returned to Los Angeles to study folklore and mythology at UCLA. By 1967 musical eclecticism had spread, and Fahey's music was finding an audience. He recorded then for Vanguard, an independent label which had recorded both Joan Baez and Doc Watson. Fahey also continued to record other guitarists on the Takoma label, including Leo Kottke. By the early 1970's, Fahey had developed a respectable following. He recorded two of his most acclaimed albums, Of Rivers and Religion and After the Ball on the Reprise label. In 1972, John took an interest in the music and personality of Brazilian guitarist Bola Sete, which led him to pursue meditation and yoga as forms of enlightenment.

By the early 1980's, Fahey was again recording for Takoma. He recorded his first live album in Tasmania in 1981, the same year he moved to Oregon. The Takoma label disbanded, but Fahey continued to record for Rounder's Varrick label. After some health problems in the early 1990's, he made a strong comeback late in the decade. His style had changed, though, using electric guitar but still incorporating a wide variety of influences. At the same time, he retained an interest in American folk music. Several of his early recordings were reissued on a new label, Revenant, which he co-owned.

Fahey's musical influence touched not only close associates such as Leo Kottke but also such rockers as Chris Stein. Fahey passed away on February 22, 2001 at the age of 61.

Recordings by John Fahey

  • Auld Lang Syne - 15415
  • Beverly (Indian Pacific Railroad Blues) - 16968
  • Dance of Death - 12009
  • Dance Of The Inhabitants Of The Palace Of King Philip XIV O - 14122
  • Give Me Cornbread When I'm Hungry - 14121
  • I'm Gonna Do All I Can For My Lord - 14119
  • In Christ There Is No East Or West - 14120
  • It Came Upon A Midnight Clear - 15412
  • The Last Steam Engine Train - 14114
  • On The Sunny Side Of The Ocean - 10749
  • Poor Boy A Long Ways From Home - 14115
  • Requiem for John Hurt - 13230
  • The Revolt Of The Dyke Brigade - 14123
  • Round the Bend - 13411
  • Silent Night - 15416
  • Some Summer Day - 14116
  • Spanish Dance - 14117
  • Spanish Two-Step - 14124
  • St.Louis Blues - 15413
  • Steamboat Gwine - 13410
  • Sunflower River Blues - 13229
  • Take A Look At That Baby - 14118
  • The Union Pacific - 15414
  • When The Springtime Comes Again - 10757
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