John Hartford (#117)

A multi-talented musician shows his sharp wit while creating music that blends folk and modern country.

Grammy Award-winning performer and songwriter John Hartford was a fixture on the American music scene for 40 years, from his 1960s spots on the Glen Campbell Goodtime Hour to his appearance on the O Brother, Where Art Thou? soundtrack. Though best known to most music fans as a songwriter, Hartford was a musician’s musician who played a variety of stringed instruments—not to mention an author and riverboat captain. This episode of Jubilee offers music lovers a chance to appreciate the late performer’s talents once again.

Hartford, who has at least 20 albums to his credit, penned the classic “Gentle on My Mind” and appeared regularly on The Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour and then the Glen Campbell Goodtime Hour. Among his most notable albums were his 1980 rock ’n’ roll-meets-bluegrass reunion with the Dillards, Permanent Wave, and Shel Silverstein’s The Great Conch Train Robbery.

Hartford began performing with his son Jamie in the late 1980s. Around the same time, he became involved with Opryland, where he helped launch an old-fashioned steamboat ride. On June 4, 2001, he finally lost his long battle with non-Hodgkins lymphoma when he died in a Nashville hospital at the age of 63.