By Crow Johnson
Part 1. The story of meeting and “Catch Another Butterfly”
Crow: It’s going to take a long long time to ask all my friends the questions I think you– the readers– will enjoy learning about. Rather than explaining how I met Mike Williams, I’ll let you hear it from him. Mike, how did we meet?
Mike: Crow, you and I met in autumn 1966, under a tree near the UT student union in Austin, Texas. No, I must have the timing wrong – you’re only 29 now. (LOL flatterer)
I was sitting under that tree with a busted leg, playing my busted 12-string guitar with a busted arm and broken finger and writing my first two songs, “Balloon Song” about a kid who let go of his balloon string on Gentle Thursday (Austin’s first love-in), and “Catch Another Butterfly” about nostalgia at age 22.
You came along and stopped to hear, and I played those songs for you. I was really busted up but immediately started healing at the notion of a pretty girl liking my music. Then I found out you and your husband Paul Johnson were a musical duet. Then I found out Paul knew enough about guitar repair to fix where the motorcycle wreck (see next story) crushed one edge of my guitar. Then I found out you had a pre-war cassette recorder (which REALLY made me think you were cool) and you recorded me singing “Catch Another Butterfly.”
After three months in Austin, I motorcycled home to North Carolina. Soon after I left Austin, Paul’s brother Michael Johnson came to town, heard your tape, learned “Catch Another Butterfly,” and went up to Minnesota or one of those other can’t-decide-if-it’s-mid-or-west states and he formed a trio with David Boyce and John Denver, and Michael taught them the song, and when the trio broke up, John went solo and recorded “Catch Another Butterfly” on his first album. I found out about John’s recording by receiving a phone call from his New York manager Milt Okun on a payphone at a Denver club where Steve Fromholz and I (the original Frummox) were doing an audition set that convinced the owner to fire the house act and hire us.
Over the next half-century, royalty checks for “Catch Another Butterfly,” which John also recorded with The Muppets, supported my music habit. John performed “Catch Another Butterfly” for three decades. Someone sent me a tape of him, shortly before his plane crashed, sitting alone in the kitchen of a fish camp may be in Alaska, playing “Catch Another Butterfly” just because he liked it.
The journey of that song from your house to John’s recording . . . I thank Michael Johnson (RIP) for that. Michael also was the guy who told me that if you wait long enough, you can co-write with yourself.
Well, Crow, you can see that it all ties together, and it all started with you finding me under a tree in Austin and inviting me home. And if you hadn’t had that cool pre-war cassette recorder, we’d have just traded a few tunes and I’d have gone on to a career mass-producing widgets because there’s nothing I’m actually qualified to do except pick and sing.
Crow: I’m laughing. Every little thing is really connected. Great story and I know the history of that song will be a surprise to lots of John Denver fans. Thank you… let’s do this again. I’ll think up a next question.
Award winning song writer/performer, Crow Johnson Evans has turned her efforts of the last decade to weaving stories and spinning yarns. Educated in Zoology, she remains intrigued by nature and its interplay with human life and dreams. … Sister-in-law to Michael Johnson... she wrote five of the songs he recorded.
Do you remember days not so many years ago
When the world was run by people twice your size
And the days were full of laughter and the nights were full of stars
And when you got tired, you could close your eyes
Yes, the stars were there for wishing and the wind was there for kites
And the morning sun was there for rise and shine
And even if the sniffles kept you home from school in bed
You couldn't hardly stay there after nine
Chorus: And I wonder, has the smell of morning faded
What happened to the robin’s song that sparkled in the sky
Where did all the water go that tumbled down the stream
And will I ever catch another butterfly
Do you remember campouts right in your own back yard
And wondering how airplanes can fly
And the hours spent just playing with a funny rock you found
With its crystal specks as blue as all the sky
Bridge: Yes, the days were each a treasure as they blended into years
The memories come back so sharp and plain
And while we were enjoying those moments, did we mourn
That today would never come this way again
And now I watch my son. he’s playing with his toys
He's happy, and I give him all I can
But I can't help feeling just a little tingle-y inside
When I hear him say he wants to be a man