Tuesday, 20 October 2015

John Jennings longtime producer of Mary Chapin Carpenter dies at 61

John Jennings November 22, 1953 - October 16, 2015 R.I.P
John Jennings singer-songwriter & longtime producer of Mary Chapin Carpenter has sadly died following his passing on Friday evening (Oct 16, 2015) after a long battle with cancer. He was 61.
The cause was kidney cancer, said Tamara Meyer, his companion of 17 years (diagnosed with metastatic kidney cancer in March 2014).
Mr. Jennings was based in the Washington area throughout his career and had lived with Meyer in Potomac, Md., since 1998. 
Jennings and partner Tamara Meyer were nearly killed in 2003 when a rotting oak tree fell on their vehicle as they were driving home from a movie. 
Besides Meyer, survivors include a brother.

John Jennings Nov 22, 1953 - Oct 16, 2015

Condolences To Family And Friends Of John Jennings
Mr.Jennings was most familiar to those in the Country format for his collaboration with Mary Chapin Carpenter, for whom he produced eight albums during her successful early 90s run, in addition to playing in her band.
A longtime member of Mary Chapin’s band, he produced and recorded 11 Top Ten singles and 2 Grammy winning albums
Including 1995 Best Country Album - "Stones in the Road" (Producers: Mary Chapin Carpenter, John Jennings)
He received a Grammy Award nomination for record of the year for co-producing “He Thinks He’ll Keep Her” (1993).

A multi-instrumentalist, he also worked with a diverse list of artists that included Janis Ian (1995 “Revenge”; 2000 “God & the FBI”), Iris Dement (1996 The Way I Should) Indigo Girls and George Jones; projects on which he played, sang or produced.

Birth name: John Edward Jennings
Born: November 22, 1953 Harrisonburg, Virginia, USA
Died: October 16, 2015 (aged 61) Rockville, Maryland, USA
Raised in Virginia, New Mexico, and Washington, D.C., Jennings grew up listening to everything from classical music and big-band swing to country music and rock & roll. Although he took piano and trumpet lessons as a youngster, he steered toward the guitar after hearing the Beatles.
His performing debut came with a rock band in the sixth grade, and he continued to perform in the 1970s with Bill Holland & Rent's Due and Big Yankee Dollar, a group that mostly played his original songs.

John was also an exceptional hard rock guitarist. He was the lead guitarist in Pentagram in 1971 along with co-founder Geof O'Keefe. They were an American heavy metal band from Alexandria, Virginia, most famous as one of the pioneers of heavy metal, and the subgenre of doom metal in particula. Jennings left Pentagram to pursue a different musical path.

Although he concentrated on writing advertising jingles in the early '80s, Jennings' musical career took off after Bill Danoff (of the Starland Vocal Band) introduced him to Mary-Chapin Carpenter in 1982.
Carpenter had just moved to Washington. Mr. Jennings was writing and recording commercial jingles after stints with local rock bands Rent’s Due and Big Yankee Dollar. The pair dated before realizing they worked better aesthetically than romantically. They played shows at local cafes, and Mr. Jennings encouraged the shy Carpenter to stop relying on covers and perform her own songs, which blended folk and country styles.
Mary Chapin (L) & John Jennings (R)

Performing together in the Washington, D.C., area, Jennings and Carpenter began to garner attention.
An album recorded to be sold at their shows was reissued by Columbia Records as Carpenter's 1987 debut album, HOMETOWN GIRL

The album didn’t chart as its folksy sound and long-running tunes never found a place on mainstream country radio, but Carpenter broke through with “STATE OF THE HEART” (1989; #28 Top Country Albums; GOLD) and SHOOTING STRAIGHT IN THE DARK (1990; #11 Top Country Albums; PLATINUM), up-tempo follow-ups that mixed country and pop. Both were co-produced with Mr. Jennings.
“Down at the Twist and Shout,” a single from “Shooting Straight,” became Carpenter’s first Grammy-winning track. She has since sold more than 12 million records.
STONES IN THE ROAD released: Oct 4, 1994 the fifth album by Mary Chapin Carpenter went 2× Platinum, co-produced with Jennings it was No.1 on U.S. Billboard Top Country Albums (#10 Billboard 200; #26 UK Albums)
Carpenter earned two Grammy Awards in 1995 for her work on the album: Best Country Album and Best Female Country Vocal Performance (for "Shut Up and Kiss Me"), the fourth straight year she won the latter category.

John Jennings speaks about his Collaborating with Mary Chapin and performs on the "Jubilee: Live at Wolf Trap" performance and found on the album "Come On, Come On".

Back in late 1998 early 1999 Mark Hagen the presenter of VH1 Country (Digital Cable TV; broadcast in the UK) made John Jennings the month’s special guest.
He interviewed John in Nashville talking to him about how he got started in music, producing records and about his then new 14 track album I BELONG TO YOU (released Oct 27, 1998; Vanguard ‎– 79515-2). The video for the 1997 video “Everybody Loves Me” from his album Buddy was also aired. Mr. Hagen is currently the producer of BBC Radio 2's "Bob Harris Country", a former board member of the Country Music Association and previously produced The Old Grey Whistle Test at 30 (2001) and Top of the Pops 2.
Mark Hagen (L)

This was part of the interview:

Did you feel completely part of the town [Nashville] or an outsider just going in for a bit?
In some respects I felt part of the town. I was here so little, I travel a great deal on tour with Mary Chapin Carpenter or whoever. I wasn’t here that much, I might have spent about a third of that time in town.
I am a quiet person for the most part so I’m just not the kind to go round to labels and knock on doors and say “Hi I’m John, nice to meet you, please hire me. I was always welcome wherever I went, people we’re uniformly friendly. Because of Chapin’s success I got into some doors I otherwise wouldn’t have got into had I of been anyone else.
It’s an incredibly competitive town. Nashville’s a funny place, what you’ve got it’s the buckle of the Bible belt, it’s a very conservative town. There are little pockets of creativity and culture. There’s radicalism, all that us from the East Coast live and breathe for! (Jokes).
Some of that stuff that makes it a very attractive town. It’s so disconnected that you can’t really find the pulse of the alternative stuff that’s happening, at least I couldn’t.
You do some many things, how do you sectionalize it all?
You can’t really, they all sort of overlap which is a good thing in the big music stew!

How did Freddie and the Dreamers and Gerry and the Pacemakers lead to Lyle Lovett?
Every time I hear “Ferry Cross the Mersey” I have to pull the car over. Or "Little Children" [Billy J. Kramer & the Dakotas]. That’s the stuff I cut my teeth on in bands.
Was it the early Mersey Beat? Who were you playing in High School Bands?
Oh yes, It’s the best, I love it. Yardbirds, The Who, Gerry and the Pacemakers, The Hollies whatever we could get our hands on. The best stuff you could get to play in POP bands

What was your route of entry into music?
I started playing in bands when I was a teenager. I guess about 12 years old playing bass.
Then went to Junior High and High School. I was thinking when I’d get out of High School I’d maybe be an English or Art teacher but I kept playing and going back to being in bands. I’d put down playing guitar for months at a time but I’d always come back to it. From the time I was 23/ 24 that was when I realised I’d be doing this the whole time.
My brother had a story from when I was a kid. He said that when I was 12 he asked me what I’d do when I grew up and I said I want to make a living playing music. So it’s been there for a long time. I started playing in bands and everything happened.
I started writing songs when I was 15. They were REALLY bad, worse than you can possibly imagine. I don’t think I knew what I was doing till I hit 25 or 26.
Only recently I’ve felt I’ve found my own voice which is kind of the key.

Was there a moment when you realised that had happened, was there a particular song or record, when you thought, oh yeah, it’s me?!
That’s a good question. It might have been “Willie Short” from my first record. The song was kind of handed to me philosophically speaking. Over the course of my two records I’ve felt more myself and not someone reiterating the lessons with those that I’d worked with and listened to.

Is it a strange experience putting yourself out there on your own after collaborating with other people?
It’s really strange because you find yourself talking a lot about them than I do talking about myself. It’s been a rich experience working with Mary Chapin [Carpenter], Iris Dement, Lucinda Williams, Janis Ian etc. They are people who can REALLY write songs, really revere. To be a singer-songwriter after working with them is fairly daunting.

What do you think you’ve brought to those collaborations?
John (laughed) then replied: I think the thing I do really well is PRODUCE. It’s fairly involved, part of it is making the artist feel comfortable and have their best interests at heart. The only thing in your world is to have them leave the studio at the end of the day feeling like they’re satisfied with what they’ve done. It’s also about configuring a budget which I think I’m really GOOD at. Getting a lot of BANG for a little bit of BUCK is a helpful thing. There’s no fire I can’t put out, save the death of an artist, the project which has never happened to me.
When it comes to doing a record there’s no prospect that’s too scary to me. There’s no thing that can happen I can’t handle.
Producing / promoting himself?

The critical detachment producing yourself is so difficult to achieve. I had a co-producer Bob Dawson which really helped me who engineered and mixed most of it. He was a really good firewall. 
He stopped me from doing something really stupid. I don’t make a lot of noise about what I do, I think it’s by temperament. If I’d be really smart I’d be taking out Billboard space everywhere!

The new record do you see it as a step up or as Buddy Part 2?
I think of it as a step up Buddy as the songs are by and large are better. Buddy was recorded over 3-4 years at different times. Everything on the new one was written in last 2 years. One thing that songwriters have to do is to stay open emotionally so they can be inspired to do things.

Treasured Memories
One of my all time favourite producers it was indeed a privilege to see John perform in Mary Chapin’s band several times in London. The first being in 1993 at Hammersmith Odeon on the Stones In The Road tour (support Jon Randall). As far as backing bands go I've never seen a better, tighter or more self-assured one. It was musicianship of the very highest order, with fantastic arrangements. Another occasion dated back to Nov 5, 1999 as part of playing an incredible 7 night run at the Lyric Theatre in Hammersmith on Mary Chapin's "Party Doll On Wheels Tour" playing to 350 people each night with Catie Curtis supporting! The ethereal beauty of songs like Swept Away with collaborater John Jennings on bass and the band eased smoothly into top gear. An unforgettable night!”

Listen on soundcloud to Mary Chapin performing Bruce Springsteen's "My Love Will Not Let You Down" at the Lyric Theatre, Hammersmith in London on November 1, 1999. Featuring John Jennings on bass.
In typical Mary Chapin fashion the songs on TIME SEX LOVE (#6 US, #57 UK; released May 29, 2001) explored the many facets of human relationships. 
The album's full title, time is the great gift; sex is the great equaliser; love is the great mystery, came from her long-time guitarist John Jennings that came about during a conversation he and she had. For the first time she recorded in London November 2000 with Jennings and Music Row's Blake Chancey (Dixie Chicks). 
The song “This is Me Leaving You", a raucous declaration of independence found her working with Jennings.
Mary Chapin toured the album playing in the UK including the Hammersmith London Apollo on Saturday 9th June 2001 with special guest Shawn Colvin.

Jennings took a temporary hiatus from Carpenter's band in 1993 and began work on his solo album; co-produced with Bob Dawson, BUDDY (Vanguard records) released in 1997. This and later albums had limited sales but received widespread acclaim.
Reviewing IT’S ALL GOOD (2001), Mr. Jennings’s third solo record, music critic Mike Joyce wrote in The Washington Post that “the songs don’t attract attention so much as insinuate themselves, like a minor key blues or ancient Celtic air.”

Watch John Jennings: Everybody Loves Me shown in the UK on VH1 in 1997. This was the 1997 WAMMI video of the year. Features cameos by Raul Malo, Robert Reynolds (Mavericks) and Trisha Yearwood.

Jennings has remained one of Washington, D.C.'s most accomplished musicians, and has received area music awards (Wammies) as Producer of the Year (1987, 1989, 1991, and 1995), Best Folk/Bluegrass Instrumentalist (1991), Best Folk/Bluegrass Male Vocalist (1991), Best Contemporary Folk/Irish Instrumentalist (1992), Best Contemporary Folk/Irish Male Vocalist (1992), and Video of the Year ("Everybody Loves Me," 1997). I Belong to You followed in 1998.

Buddy (1997; Vanguard ‎– VCD 79496-2 | Artwork | Details) | I Belong To You (1998; Vanguard ‎– 79515-2 | Details) | More Noise From Nowhere (2007) | It's All Good (2007)

“West One” (Shine on Me) writers: Paul Fox, John Jennings, Malcolm Owen, Glen Ruffy performer Ruts
“Guide Me” writer John Jennings performer Glen Campbell SOUTHERN NIGHTS (1977)

“Willie Short” writer John Jennings RED HOT + COUNTRY (1994) performer Mary Chapin Carpenter        
Co-writes with Mary Chapin Carpenter:
“A Road Is Just a Road” | Hometown Girl (1987)
“Never Had It So Good” | State of the Heart (1989)
“Going out Tonight” | Shooting Straight in the Dark (1990)
“This Is Me Leaving You” | Time* Sex* Love* (2001)
“Bells Are Ringing” | Today's Country Christmas (2001)/ Come Darkness, Come Light: Twelve Songs of Christmas (2008)

Producer, Composer, Programming, Engineer, Vocal Harmony, Vocals (Background),
Bass (Upright), Bass, Clevenger Bass, Bouzouki, Dobro, Dulcimer, Guitar (Acoustic), Guitar (Electric), Guitar (12 String Electric), Guitar (Acoustic), Guitar (Baritone), Guitar (Electric Baritone), Harmonica, Hi String Guitar, Lap Steel, Slide Guitar,

Mr. Jennings played the bass, keyboard and not least the guitar — acoustic, electric, slide, lap, steel or baritone. “He could play anything,” Mary Chapin Carpenter said in an e-mail, “and his knowledge, talent and supreme great taste informed everything he did.”
 “He had a studio in his basement, and I’d start going over there on the weekends and diddling around,” Carpenter told the New York Times in 1993. “That’s the way John is. John is like, ‘Let’s do it.’ He doesn’t see hurdles. I see hurdles.”
Mr. Jennings said he was happy to see Carpenter make it big but never sought the same level of fame for himself. “While I want to be successful, it’s not something I’m going to go out of my way for,” he told The Washington Post in 1997. “I don’t really see it for me.”

After Mr. Jennings was diagnosed with cancer in spring 2014, a benefit concert was held at the Bethesda Blues and Jazz Supper Club (7719 Wisconsin Avenue Bethesda, Md 20814) >> Tribute Concert

Almost $75,000 was raised through a crowdfunding site Indiegogo.com (John Jennings: Musician's Relief Love Campaign) to pay for his medical expenses.
John Jennings, Jim Henry & Mary Chapin Carpenter Taken on August 3, 2010

Of her longtime collaborator and friend, Carpenter commented, “I have been lucky enough to play music with John for many years. But I would say that what makes me even more fortunate is that he is also my dear friend. And I know that there are a great many people who would describe John the same way. I am in awe of his spirit as he works daily on the hard business of recovering from surgery and as he undergoes the important follow up medical procedures. It takes everything he’s got. I know that John would be the first person to offer his help to a friend in need. And the last person to ask for it on his own behalf. So that is why his friends are here to ask for your help…if you have ever been lucky enough in your life to have a friend like him, I am certain you will understand…”

Long-time MCC band member Jon Carroll wrote: Besides being a great guy, John Jennings is truly a renaissance musician and songwriter! A wonderfully gifted guitarist and performer who hits the note every time and a highly respected producer who understands the mojo of making great artists greater. Always loved his music and I'm proud to have him as my friend.

A seventh solo album was unfinished at the time of Mr. Jennings’s death, although one song, “I Believe Love Will Save My Life,” had been released. In an interview with WUSA-TV, Mr. Jennings said he began writing the song after his illness was diagnosed. “I thought I knew something about love before people started helping me,” he said. “I was wrong.”
Local musician John Jennings writes song about illness - www.wusa9.com
Because of his illness, he withdrew from touring with Carpenter last year.

Janis Ian on Facebook posted a photo and wrote: A moment of silence for producer and friend John Jennings, who died last night. John produced one of my favorite albums, Revenge, and taught me so much about recording and producing in the process. He asked me what my dream band would be, and got them to work for what I could afford. (Steve Gadd, Willie Weeks, Matt Rollings, Ciro Baptista, Jim Brock.)

Lucy Kaplansky tweeted ‏@lucykaplansky Awful news: John Jennings passed away last night. He was an absolutely wonderful, smart, hilarious and supremely talented guy. So so sorry.

Catie Curtis shared a Facebook photo and posted: It's so hard to believe that the world lost John Jennings. I got to know him while touring with Mary Chapin Carpenter in the late 90's. in 2002 John convinced that we could still make Acoustic Valentine even though he had just been in a car accident, broken his neck and was wearing a halo (cage) around his head. We did it. When we played at the White House I thought it would be neat to make a record. John made a phone call and within hours we were at Bias recording studio (with Elana Arian and Ingrid Graudins.) I'm so glad to have those recordings now. John brought (and will always bring) so much joy to others with his divine guitar playing and harmonies. ..He just made everything sound amazing and memorable. He loved his friends, he made me feel special. He is so alive in my heart and will always be

John Gorka tweeted ‏@johngorka I'm so sorry to hear the news about John Jennings. I thought he was going to come through it.
Benmont Tench III ‏@benchten Sad, sad, sad. What a good man. Rest now.  John Jennings, guitarist and producer, dies at 61

Maura and Pete Kennedy performed at the Rose Garden Coffeehouse, Mansfield, Mass., on Saturday, Oct. 17, 2015. Pete dedicated this instrumental tune to the late John Jennings.

Mary Chapin Carpenter acknowledged Jennings’ passing at acoustic concerts this weekend in Minnesota and Iowa.
Roses for John and a heart felt thank you to all in Des Moines last night ..."when we look back and say, those were halcyon days..." Instagram
She tweeted @M_CCarpenter 2nite all @MayoCivicCenter carried us through our tears. Why walk when you can fly? For John, now & always
MaryChapin Carpenter (Oct 17) Sunset and evening star,  And one clear call for me! And may there be no moaning of the bar… Instagram

Why Walk When You Can Fly  R.I.P

Music Row.com: LifeNotes: Producer/Guitarist John Jennings Passes
Washington Post: John Jennings, guitarist and producer, dies at 61
CMT (by Edward Morris)

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