Michael Johnson Photo

Denver, Boise & Johnson

There was a short period of time starting on May 21, 1966 when many people in a folk music organization called The Queen City Balladeers were able to be around The Mitchell Trio, Denver Boise & Johnson, John Denver, and Michael Johnson for more than just concerts. It was the mutual love of folk music that enabled this remarkable time. The Queen City Balladeers are a Cincinnati, Ohio group of folk musicians who have been promoting the music and singing for over 40 years.

Several years before he was well known, we knew John Denver as a wonderfully talented singer and guitar player who was very willing to spend hours with us, singing and playing. We came to know the other members of the group also and had many after-concert picking parties with all of them. We were in awe of Paul Prestopino and his multiple talents, we loved Michael Johnson’s voice and guitar playing, we marveled over Bob Hefferan’s superb French Jazz and we enjoyed the humor and talent of David Boise. But on top of it all were the songs. It was their fantastic songs that made me want to tape their concerts and parties. Admittedly, a selfish part of wanting to tape them was to learn the songs for ourselves. When I looked at the set lists of John Denver, Denver Boise & Johnson and Michael Johnson recently, I was amazed at the number of their songs we learned for our own folk groups. The Denison tape was made by a friend of mine who was there; the tape from the Bistro Inn is not as good quality as the others, but I’m just glad it was still ok. I’ve added, after the fact, recordings kindly sent to me by several JD enthusiasts and collectors. This includes the Philadelphia Folk Festival from 1968.

There was an unspoken trust between the Balladeers and John Denver where he knew that we would never do anything with these recordings. I only used these tapes to learn the songs, and for almost 40 years I’ve dragged these old tapes of mine from house to house. The last concerts of Denver, Boise & Johnson were mailed by John Denver to me and two other Balladeers in Cincinnati on reel-to-reel tape. The tape was a compilation of what John thought were the best songs from their last two concerts. We didn’t ask him to do that, he just did it as a gesture to fellow folk musicians and friends. He knew how much we loved their music. (Michael Johnson also had a copy in his possession which he gave to me shortly before his passing.)

Many of these songs have never been recorded on albums and Denver, Boise & Johnson never made a commercial album. What you hear on this web site is how they were and what they did in 1968 and 1969. This material is John Denver in his pre-Far Out days, and in the pre-“Bluer Than Blue” days of Michael Johnson.

I hope you enjoy these songs as much as I do. If you have any questions about this treasure trove, email me at JohnMarlowe@CincinnatiDancingPigs.com.

John Marlowe

April 1, 2007, revised slightly January 8, 2016, edited by Cindy McArthur, May 2022

P.S. A CD was released of The Mitchell Trio and Denver, Boise and Johnson material in 2018. Details and the DB&J songs can be found at https://www.mjblue.com/dbjcd.html.

With Paul Prestopino and Bob Hefferan
(Courtesy of Bob Hefferan)

U of Minnesota & Graceland Univ - November 18/22, 1968

Set 1
That's The Way It's Gonna Be
Draft Dodger Rag
We Didn't Know
Take Me To Tomorrow
Both Sides Now
Saturday Night In Toledo Ohio
Coal Tattoo
When I'm 64
Mr Bojangles
Bells Of Rhymney
Old Folks
You Done Stomped On My Heart
Leaving On A Jet Plane
Love Of The Common People

Set 2
Good To Be With You
John Birch Society
Victoria Dines Alone
You Sure Have Got a Pretty Nice Bod
Flint Hill Special
Eighth of January-Hop High Ladies Medley
Yellow Cat
The '68 Nixon (This Year's Model)
Turning Point/Blowin' In The Wind Medley
I Wish I Knew How It Would Feel To Be Free

Set 1

That's The Way It's Gonna Be (Phil Ochs)
This was on the first Mitchell Trio album, with John as the new replacement for Chad Mitchell. Back in the 60’s everyone did a Phil Ochs song or two. See a video of DB&J doing this song exactly as they did it on this cut on Michael Johnson’s YouTube channel at the Bitter End, NYC.

The Draft Dodger Rag (Phil Ochs)

The Draft was traumatic in those days, especially to those who had to go to Vietnam because of it. I remember going in for the physical because I had temporarily lost my student deferment (“2S”, if I recall) and I remember seeing many of my peers doing their bit to avoid the draft, such as acting feminine, or taking a mix of drugs the day of the physical, or like me, pointing out that I had flat feet, at which the Draft Board guy sneered and then promptly passed me on to the next station. I was sure that my flat feet would be good for a physical deferment. Others joined the Reserves to avoid Vietnam, and I remember one friend being ecstatic over getting into a Post Office Unit of the Reserves. I also had a pharmacy student friend who swore he knew the mix of drugs to take that would guarantee a rejection at the physical. Phil Ochs was extremely right on with this song and his verses reflect how it really was. I was one of the lucky ones who eventually got a good number in the Draft Lottery, but some of my friends were not so lucky and were drafted and shipped off to Vietnam. This song was originally done by The Chad Mitchell Trio.

We Didn't Know (Tom Paxton)

Take Me To Tomorrow (John Denver)
This song was done by the group on their only official recording, on the A side of a 45 that also included “The 68 Nixon”.

Both Sides Now (Joni Mitchell)
This is one of the most beautiful versions of this many times recorded song. Michael Johnson’s lead singing on it is superb, the harmonies are great and John’s harmony is almost ethereal. John’s 12 string background picking made it even better. This song is a good representation of Paul Prestopino playing his Martin D-28 as a bass guitar. Paul may have started doing this because there were too many guitars in the group with Michael Johnson’s addition. Want to see them on video doing the song exactly as on this recording? See below.

Saturday Night in Toledo Ohio (Randy Sparks)
This song has a fascinating history. Randy Sparks, founder of The New Christy Minstrels, wrote the song. Michael Johnson was part of a Randy Sparks folk group and learned the song from Randy and George Blackwell while Michael was touring in Saigon, Vietnam with Randy. John Denver was originally part of Randy Sparks’ organization too. Michael brought the song to Denver, Boise & Johnson and John Denver subsequently made the song famous on his concert album after the group broke up. This was one of several Michael Johnson originated songs that John did after the trio breakup.

And, I don’t believe there are many people in the world who know these extra verses to the song, written by Randy. Here they are, and sing them in your mind….they fit, they were just not chosen by Michael Johnson and John Denver to be part of the song, for whatever reason, but probably because these verses made it too long:

There once was a ship that went down on Lake Erie
Not far from Toledo one day
I met one poor sailor who'd floated to town
He told me quite frankly he'd rather have drowned
So you bring the flowers and I'll give the eulogy
We'll, once and for all, do it right
We'll all shed a tear for Toledo, Ohio
It dies every Saturday Night

Compared to the splendor of lovely Toledo
Great standards of beauty grow pale
The voice of Caruso emerges a grunt
Elizabeth Taylor become Allen Funt
(Michael's demo of this song with the extra verses can be found at https://youtu.be/RdEwTlLB4zQ, early 70's)

Coal Tattoo (Billy Ed Wheeler)
David Boise is playing guitar on this song besides doing the lead. David also played guitar when Paul Prestopino was doing his Bluegrass banjo solos as part of their act. As far as we know, the Kingston Trio made this song famous and DB&J performing it was indicative of the fact that they were all “folk singers” in this era. I suspect that David Boise brought the song to the group. Not much has been heard about David Boise in years, except that he is still performing and playing bass in a C&W group. David apparently spent some time after the DB&J breakup, playing backup for Liza Minnelli. The Cincinnati Dancing Pigs do another Billy Ed Wheeler song called “Little Brown Building” and have met this fine singer and songwriter who has supplied a lot of hit records for other people. He wrote “High Flying Bird” which Judy Henske made famous for instance, among many, many others. He’s still performing. Some other songs he wrote are “The Coming Of The Roads”, “The Rev. Mr. Black”, and “Jackson”. (Michael performed "Coal Tattoo" solo as late as 1978.)

When I'm 64 (Lennon & McCartney)

Mr. Bojangles (Jerry Jeff Walker)
David Boise keeps the guitar on after “Coal Tattoo” for this song and is doing the initial lead 6 string steel guitar picking on it. John’s 12-string is heard in the background and Michael Johnson can be heard doing very nice picking also. It sounds like Paul Prestopino is doing muted banjo on the song. (Hear Michael perform this solo at https://youtu.be/VwlTjEtdbW, 1968.)

Bells of Rhymney (Pete Seeger, based on a poem by Idris Davies)
This became John’s signature song as a great 12 string guitar player and singer. It was included on the first Mitchell Trio album. John mentioned in his autobiography that he learned it from Mike Crowley of the “Back Porch Majority” out in California when John was with the Randy Sparks organization. David Boise’s job was saying funny things about the 12 string when John was having trouble tuning it, which happened a lot. John started telling these jokes, too, when he went solo, with things like “The only difference between a 6 string guitar and a 12 string guitar, is an additional 6 strings”, or “The 12 string guitar was invented in the late 18th century by The Marquis De Sade”. Or, “In order to tune a 12 string guitar, you find the string out of tune and tune the other 11 to that one.” The Wise Owl and Denison concerts had long stretches of John’s 12 string guitar tuning. Certainly John Denver inspired many, many guitar players with this song.

This song was based on a poem by Welsh coal miner, Idris Davies, who was inspired by the hardships of himself and other miners. The poem was in Idris Davies’ 1938 book, Gwalia Deserta, and Pete Seeger found it in a book by Dylan Thomas in a chapter called “Welsh Poetry in the English Language”. Further reading; https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Bells_of_Rhymney

Old Folks (Jacque Brel, translation: Gerard Jouannest, Jean Cori, Eric Blau & Mort Schuman)
After the trio's breakup, John recorded this song on his third album and Michael on his first, “There Is A Breeze”. There’s a very interesting interview with Michael Johnson regarding his love of Jacque Brel songs and his performing in the play after the breakup of DB&J. Apparently Michael had gone to see the show with John and was very impressed, so much that he auditioned for the show and was in it for a year after leaving DB&J. The interview is at http://www.mjblue.com/bmanof.html.

You Done Stomped on My Heart (Mason Williams)
See notes from Denison and Wise Owl concerts above. I’ve included on the website, two short party versions of this song, where the guys didn’t quite know the song yet.

Leaving on a Jet Plane (John Denver)
Intro by Michael. Michael had as much respect for John’s songwriting as John had for Michael’s talent. The Queen City Balladeers were thrilled to have known this song by heart before it became famous through Peter, Paul and Mary. This brings to mind that we became aware of John Denver as “our kind of folksinger” because of hearing Peter, Paul and Mary do “For Baby” a few weeks prior to seeing the Mitchell Trio and John for the first time at the University of Cincinnati. When the song was introduced as “For Bobbi” and that it was written by John Denver, it was like a light bulb going off. It’s another John Denver song that we had to learn and did.

Paul Prestopino is once again playing bass on this song and using his nice old mellow Martin D-28.

Love of the Common People (Ronnie Wilkins & John Hurley)
This song was recorded on John’s first commercial album, “Rhymes and Reasons”. Michael Johnson does the lead on this song and it was a good set closer, intense and driving. I think it was Waylon Jennings’s version that made this song known. (Michael's demo of this song can be heard at https://youtu.be/XT5Sc-vYwCc.)

March 7, 1968 concert held at the Memorial Student Center, Graceland College, Lamoni, IA.
Copyright Graceland University.

Set 2

Good to Be With You (Eric Andersen)
Eric Andersen was a much emulated songwriter of that time and the Mitchell Trio did several of his songs, “Violets of Dawn” being another one. This song is from Eric’s “Avalanche” album. (Good to Be With You was a MJ concert song through the late 70's and his 60's demo can be heard at https://youtu.be/CcrE78PaQ5A.)

John Birch Society (Michael Brown)
This was a Chad Mitchell Trio song originally and made the group well known as daring and political. Note the lyrics changes in the song, some to keep it topical, and some that were personal. I think the group changed this song with every city they played in. Instead of “Westbrook Pegler” they say “Spiro Agnew” and John says “Well, GAC has agents that are flatly unashamed”, which I think refers to a booking agency that DB&J had problems with. Instead of “Norman Vincent Peale”, it’s “Dr. Spock”. And they say “And even old Eagleville is full of Bolsheviks”, referring to Eagleville, Iowa where they were playing. Michael Johnson says “Do you want President Higgins to be your commissar?”, and I suspect Higgins was the president of the college then. Instead of “Do you want Mrs. Krushchev in there with the DAR”, it’s “Do you want Mrs. Brezhnev in there with the DAR?”

My friend Ken Loar reminded me recently that when he produced the Miami University DB&J show, John’s mother was there from the Wright-Patterson Air Force Base in Dayton. Ken mentioned that the group did the line from the “The John Birch Society”, “If your mommy is a commie then you gotta turn her in” for her after Ken introduced her to the audience. I seem to remember a nice laugh at that.

Circus (Michael Johnson, John Denver and Laurie Kuehn)
It’s possible this is really mostly a Michael Johnson & Laurie Kuehn song and that John Denver contributed little on it. The Kuehn’s may have been a family that Michael Johnson was close to. This is a quote from Mike Johnson (as he called himself in the late 60’s) in a Wise Owl concert in 1970 about the song, where he says: “I would say that half of this song was instigated by a 13 year old girl….. she had the ideas for the song”. John played “Circus” with a classical guitar at his initial solo concerts, ala Michael Johnson. He recorded this DB&J song on “Rhymes and Reasons”, his first commercial album. But this version is the original way it was written to be sung, with Michael Johnson doing lead and John Denver doing harmony.

Victoria Dines Alone (Tom Paxton)
There was a somewhat long intro to the song in concert, with John telling a story of a lonely looking girl he saw somewhere.

You Sure Have Got a Pretty Nice Bod (Michael Peter Smith)
This song was written by well-known Chicago songwriter Michael Peter Smith. Michael Johnson brought this song and so many other good songs to Denver, Boise & Johnson. Not included in the website yet is Michael Johnson’s DB&J version of Michael Smith’s “Wonderful World of Sex”. The Cincinnati Dancing Pigs have been doing “The Bod Song”, as we call this song, since the DB&J days. It was written in 1966 and was one of Michael Smith’s first songs. Part of the Cincinnati Dancing Pig’s “schtick” with this song, is bringing up one of the buxom/beautiful girls from the audience and singing it to her. There have been hundreds of “Bod Girls” since the group started doing this song, most of whom have enjoyed it, but some of whom have been mortified by the attention and/or the words.

Paul Prestopino solos:
Flint Hill Special (with David Boise on guitar)
Eighth of January/Hop High Ladies
What can you say about Paul Prestopino? Not enough, certainly. He’s the ultimate finger picker, flat picker, bluegrass and frailing style banjo player, mandolin player, dobro player, bass player, autoharp and harmonica player, sound engineer, machine designer and nice guy. He played with the original Chad Mitchell Trio for years before John Denver joined the group. In a prior life, Paul played mandolin in the bluegrass group The Greenbriar Boys with the great John Herald and Bob Yellin. Most recently, Paul Prestopino was the accompanist for Peter, Paul and Mary and the Chad Mitchell Trio reunion. These two songs showcase his talents which John and Michael and David appreciated a lot. At one after-concert party, Paul and Bob Hefferan put on a display of guitar wizardly by playing “Sweet Sue” on the same guitar, impressing all of us. Michael Johnson’s thoughts about Paul were that he was this very professional musician and the rest of them were just young dopes. Paul taught the Queen City Balladeers that you could save money by washing your guitar strings with steel wool, which brightened them up again and let you play them for a little bit longer. It was a wonderful tip for folk musicians who couldn’t afford new strings all the time, though it’s been years since I’ve done that.

Yellow Cat (Steve Fromholz)
This was another song Michael Johnson brought to the group. On a party tape I recorded, John Denver can be heard saying “This is one of the greatest songs you’ll ever hear”. The words seem a little rearranged from the Steve Fromholz original. John recorded this song on his first album, “Rhymes and Reasons”. This song was also done by John on the Nowhere Coffeehouse tape, and I know JD purists will want to shoot me over this, but his solo version is truly awful in my humble opinion, and especially on the Rhymes and Reasons album, when compared to the way Michael Johnson did it with DB&J. (Hear Michael's solo version at https://youtu.be/bWE7XFxahhM)

One interesting piece of information is that Steven Fromholz was named “Poet Laureate of Texas” on April 19, 2007.

The ‘68 Nixon (This Year’s Model) (June Reizner, aka Bernie Cross)
This was on the only commercial recording released by Denver, Boise & Johnson and it was the B side on DB&J's 45 of “Take Me To Tomorrow.”

Turning Point/Blowin' in the Wind medley (Martha Holmes/Bob Dylan)
It’s a guess that the trio got this song from Nina Simon, who apparently called it “Turning Point”, as opposed to “Little Brown Girl”, or “Mom Can She Come Over”. Thanks to Roger Ooms for the research on this song. It makes sense that the song came from Nina Simone, since the next song was done by her too.

I Wish I Knew How It Would Feel To Be Free (Billy Taylor & Dick Dallas)
This song was one of the best that DB&J did and one of the Queen City Balladeers favorite John Denver, Michael Johnson, David Boise and Paul Prestopino songs. See below for their video. This is also another good demonstration of Paul Prestopino playing bass backup on his old Martin D-28. This is yet another DB&J song that John recorded on “Rhymes and Reasons”.

Bistro Inn - Columbus, Ohio, summer of 1968

Introduction by The Bistro
That's the Way It's Gonna Be
What This Country Really Needs Is Another Movie Star
We Didn't Know
Take Me to Tomorrow
Saturday Night in Toledo, Ohio
Red Velvet
I Like To Deal With The Ladies
Flint Hill Special – Paul Prestopino
Everybody's Talking
Both Sides Now
Love Of The Common People
I Wish I Knew How It Would Feel To Be Free
If You Had Me In Shackles (partial)
John Birch Society
For Bobbi
You Sure Have Got a Pretty Nice Bod
Victoria Dines Alone
Your Friendly, Liberal Neighborhood Ku Klux Klan
Leaving On A Jet Plane
Eighth Of January/Hop High Ladies Medley – Paul Prestopino
Yellow Cat
The ’68 Nixon
Turning Point
Get Together
Coal Tatoo (end)
Leyenda (classical guitar solo) - Michael Johnson
Business Goes On As Usual
Catch Another Butterfly
Foggy Mountain Breakdown - Paul Prestopino
Cripple Creek - Paul Prestopino
Sticky Summer Weather
Love Of The Common People – 2
Both Sides Now – 2
I Wish I Knew How It Would Feel to Be Free – 2
Bistro Closing

That's The Way It's Gonna Be (Bob Gibson & Phil Ochs)
See song notes above

What This Country Really Needs Is Another Movie Star (June Reizner, aka Bernie Cross)
I wish I knew more about who June Reizner was. I found an obituary for her, indicating she died in 1978, that she was a composer, and that she wrote for the Allan King Comedy show. This is a clever song, and I understand she had written “Barry’s Boys”, “The ’68 Nixon”, and “Alabama Mother” too.

We Didn't Know (Tom Paxton)
See song notes above

Take Me to Tomorrow (John Denver)
See song notes above

Saturday Night in Toledo Ohio (Randy Sparks)
See song notes above

Red Velvet (Ian Tyson)
This song was written and recorded at the height of the Folk Music Scare of the 60’s. Ian and Sylvia were one of the most favorite and emulated groups of The Queen City Balladeers and were one of the satirical folk group prototypes for the movie “A Mighty Wind”. There was nothing like an Ian and Sylvia recording with John Herald and Ian playing their Martin guitars on them. I still think that the early Ian and Sylvia recordings had the best sounding acoustic guitars on them. “Red Velvet” came from Ian and Sylvia’s album “Early Morning Rain”, which also had “Darcy Farrow” on it. I wish I knew Dave Boise’s history before he joined the Trio, but I’m guessing this was either one of his favorite songs, and/or one he did before the Trio.

I Like To Deal With The Ladies (John Denver)

Flint Hill Special (Earl Scruggs) Paul Prestopino solo

Everybody’s Talkin’ (Harry Nillson)
This is a beautiful Trio version of this song, which we first heard DB&J doing at a party.

Both Sides Now (Joni Mitchell)
See song notes above

Love Of The Common People (John Hurley & Ronnie Wilkin)

I Wish I Knew How It Would Feel To Be Free (Dick Dallas, Billy Taylor)
See song notes above

If You Had Me In Shackles (Tom Paxton)
Alse see the Philadelphia Folk Festival version of DB&J doing this song. The song was not recorded by Denver, Boise & Johnson, or The Mitchell Trio or anyone as far as anyone knows.

John Birch Society (Michael Brown)

For Bobbi (John Denver)
Unfortunately this is not a good recording of this song. I liked the song the from very first time I heard it because it’s a good, distinctive sounding 3-chord song, and because of Paul Prestopino’s Carter Family style of Martin guitar picking on it.

You Sure Have Got a Pretty Nice Bod (Michael Smith)
Michael Smith also wrote The Wonderful World of Sex and The Dutchman.

Victoria Dines Alone (Tom Paxton)

Your Friendly Neighborhood Ku Klux Klan (June Reizner, aka Bernie Cross)
This is from The Mitchell Trio album “Violets of Dawn."

Leaving On A Jet Plane (John Denver)

Eighth Of January/Hop High Ladies Medley
Paul Prestopino solo

Yellow Cat (Steve Fromholz)
see song notes aboave

The ’68 Nixon (June Reizner, aka Bernie Cross)
see song notes aboave

Turning Point (Martha Holmes)

Get Together (Chet Powers)
This is a Youngbloods song and was on the Mitchell Trio album “That’s The Way It’s Gonna Be”. Back in that era, we probably ignored the Youngbloods hit but learned the song after we heard DB&J doing it.

Coal Tattoo (Billy Edd Wheeler)
See song notes above

Leyenda (Francisco Tarrenga)
Michael Johnson's classical guitar solo. FYI, in 1968, Michael Johnson went by “Mike”. Francisco Tarrenga is considered the father of classical guitar, according to Wikipedia

Business Goes On As Usual (Fred Hellerman and Fran Minkoff)
This was a Mitchell Trio song and it fit John’s growing though initially uncomfortable feeling anti-war sentiment. Anti-Vietnam war, that is. It was originally sung by Joe Frazier in the Mitchell Trio. It was interesting that John and Michael Johnson were both initially uncomfortable with “protest” songs back then. John seemed to eventually welcome this into his personality, though Michael was more comfortable not singing about causes in his later years. (Michael sang this solo as late as 1975 at the Guthrie.)

Catch Another Butterfly (Mike Williams)
I think it’s reasonable that this song was performed at the last two concerts of Denver, Boise & Johnson and that John Denver left it off of the compilation tape. This is yet another song brought to DB&J by Michael Johnson and one that John recorded on his first album, “Rhymes and Reasons”. When the Balladeers first heard this song we all wanted to learn it immediately, and we did. It’s a great, great song and Michael Johnson’s distinctive classical guitar part on it was emulated by John when he went solo and by all of us who learned it. (Michael continued to sing this all his solo years.)

The story is complete now, as much as it can be, of Mike Williams and this wonderful song of his, “Catch Another Butterfly”. Thanks to Mike for writing me back and filling in some holes about this song and about yourself. Mike says he wrote this song in September of 1966 and sang it on the day he wrote it, to Paul and Amy Johnson. “Johnson”, you say? Paul Johnson is Mike/Michael Johnson’s brother. Amy Johnson is also known as Crow Johnson, a famous singer/songwriter and as the one for whom the “Crow’s Nest” at the Kerrville Folk Festival is named. Michael Johnson has also recorded a number of Crow’s songs. (In Your Eyes, The Gypsy In The Photograph, The Glory & Ridin' In the Sky)

Mike Williams relates that from his memory, Michael Johnson was passing by Austin, TX on his way to Minneapolis and to joining the group Denver, Boise & Johnson, when he stopped by Paul and Amy Johnson’s place. They taught him “Catch Another Butterfly”. Michael drove north and taught the song to the Trio. Of course, we all know that John Denver and Michael Johnson took up the song when they went solo.

I was amazed to find out that Mike Williams and Steve Fromholz (of “Yellow Cat” fame) were in a duet in the spring of 1968, called “Frummox”. Mike and Steve were playing at a place called “Gigi’s Lounge” in Denver, when Steve got a call on the bar phone from Cherry Lane Publishing Company and was asked the question “Is it ok if John Denver records Steve’s “Yellow Cat” and Mike’s “Catch Another Butterfly” on his first album? The two Frummox gentlemen said “Yep, it was ok”. The rest is musical history. Thank you Mike for letting me and anyone else who reads this, know about your song. Mike has let me know that I can share not only his recollections of this wonderful song, but the words too, which contain an extra verse that not many people know. Some of us Balladeers knew this extra verse because Mike Johnson happened to do it in 1970 on a tape from the Wise Owl coffeehouse.

Mike Williams’ thoughts about “Catch Another Butterfly”, written 9/4/2007:
John, I wrote "Catch Another Butterfly" on a sunny afternoon sitting under a tree outside the student union on the UT campus in Austin. There likely was a passing butterfly. Or maybe I was just feeling nostalgic. I was 22, an absurd age to be so reflective. Autobiographical? Yeah, I enjoyed catching butterflies as a kid, and surely experienced all the details in the song (except no son).

The writing was quick, maybe an hour. There's a saying among songwriters who are in the first rush of a write and see the whole vision and all that's left is to work out the details: "This song is finished. Now all I gotta do is finish it." In that sense, "Catch Another Butterfly" took only a few minutes to write. Also, the melody came fast, and it had two qualities that songwriters crave: runs and jumps. The cascading runs, balanced with the little ups and downs, make this a memorable melody, a fun melody to sing.

Did I know it was a good song? It felt good, coming out -- as a songwriter, that's a feeling I've learned to trust. And when I sang it for friends, their reaction was wonderful. I didn't really have a sense, back then, of how the song would hold up over the years. Only the passage of time, and word coming in from folks like you, have proved the song's reach.

(An interview with Mike Williams by Crow Johnson along with the lyrics can be found at https://mjblue.com/bmwilliams.html and a video of Michael is at https://youtu.be/pE-lm7Y05kI at time 14:22.)

Foggy Mountain Breakdown/Cripple Creek
Paul Prestopino solos. Cripple Creek is an example of where Paul switched between frailing style banjo playing and the normal Scruggs style 5-string banjo picking. And of course, Foggy Mountain Breakdown is THE classic Earl Scruggs bluegrass tune, made massively famous by being in the movie “Bonnie and Clyde”.

Sticky Summer Weather (John Denver)
This was always one of my favorite John Denver songs. -JM

Love Of The Common People (John Hurley, Ronnie Wilkins)

Both Sides Now (Joni Mitchell)
See song notes above

I Wish I Knew How It Would Feel to Be Free (Dick Dallas, Billy Taylor)
see song notes above

Wonderful World of Sex (Michael Peter Smith) – omitted from recording
This song was definitely performed at the same concerts that made up the last DB&J concert recordings. For some reason John decided to leave the song out of the DB&J last concerts compilation tape. It was introduced to DB&J by Michael Johnson. How do I know John left the song out? Michael Johnson’s follow-up line to the song, “Sex is just nature’s way of saying Hi” was on the tape. Unfortunately, this song was also missing from the Bistro Inn tape, even though I had originally written that it was on it. The only other recording I’ve heard of this song was done by Steve Goodman and in my opinion Michael Johnson’s version was better. (Michael's solo performance from 1968 can be heard here.)

You Done Stomped On My Heart
Mitchell Trio and DB&J early versions. It’s interesting to see the progression of this song from when they barely knew it in the Mitchell Trio days, to where it was the almost finished DB&J version at the Miami University party. At the Oxford, Ohio party, “Stompt” was the first of a round of funny C&W songs, and it was followed by myself mentioning “Egg Suckin’ Dog” (the great Johnny Cash song), Michael Johnson doing a little each of “If You Think You’ve Reached The Bottom, Just Look Down”, “Thank You Dear Jesus, For Victory In Korea”, and then everyone at the party doing “Amelia Earhart”. Erich Zwertschek knew the verses to “Amelia”, and is singing them. It’s interesting that Paul Prestopino was originally in the bluegrass group “The Greenbriar Boys” and that this group was where we all learned “Amelia Earhart”.

Love Is The Answer (John Denver)
It took me a while to research and then to realize that this was truly an unknown song written by John. I’ve talked with two excellent JD historians and both agree that this is a song that was never recorded anywhere as far as we know. You can find the song listed at least, on the Cherry Lane Publishing site as written by JD. It brings to mind conversations I’ve had with Jochen Michalak about the other JD songs sitting in vaults somewhere, waiting to be rediscovered and recorded by someone, anyone.

As an FYI, Jochen Michalak belongs to a John Denver fan club in Germany that has been operating since 1981. This is a group of true fans, and I appreciate all the information Jochen, as one of the best JD historians around, has passed on to me. Their web site is at http://www.johndenverclub.org/

With The Wind On My Mind (John Denver)
Another song that JD never recorded.

Philadelphia Folk Festival

If You Had Me In Shackles
Yellow Cat
Talking Vietnam Potluck Blues
Business Goes on as Usual
Everybody's Talkin'
'68 Nixon
Leaving on a Jet Plane
Love of the Common People

Denver, Boise & Johnson after-concert party in Oxford, Ohio October 12, 1968

There are several songs on these tapes where they were learning this song or the other before the group broke up. As examples, they were doing a wonderful version of the Chuck Berry song “Memphis”, and Mike Johnson had lead on “Little Green Apples.”
Both Sides Now
Everybody's Talkin'
Red Velvet
Love is the Answer ("I just wrote that about a week ago", JD says)
Driving Through the Hills of Mexico
Little Green Apples
You Dun Stomped On My Heart
If You Think You've Reached the Bottom, Just Look Down
Thank You Dear Jesus For Victory in Korea
Amelia Earhart
John Hardy instrumental
Bugle Call Rag instrumental
Foggy Mountain Breakdown instrumental
Earl's Breakdown instrumental
Unknown (someone identify this bluegrass tune) 39:00
Unknown inst
Unknown inst - 44:00
Cripple Creek inst. 45:00
Pike County Breakdown inst. 47:00
Love Come Home inst. 50:00
Ella Speed 52:00
Alice's Restaurant 58:00
Memphis - 1:00
Cindy's Crying 1:02
Now That I've Taken My Life - 1:05
The Game is Over 1:09
Yellow Cat 1:12
Waitin Around to Die 1:15:45
Flower Time? 1:19
Chicken Road 1:23
People Get Ready 1:26
I Wish I Knew How To Be Free (let me tune that 12 string for god's sake) 1:31:46

Leukemia Benefit
Denver to Present Concert

The Denisonian
April 21, 1972

by Rollie Travte
John Denver. Mike Johnson, and Dave Boise of the popular Mitchell Trio will perform in a benefit concert for the Leukemia Society of America next Thursday al 8 p.m. in Livingston Gym.

The proceeds from the event will go towards the growth of the Buzz Rogert Fellowship Fund which was established in memory of Vincent "Buzz" Bogert, a 1970 graduate of Denison and member of Pi Delta Theta fraternity, who died last year of acute leukemia. The Leukemia Society will award the grant to the scientist with the best research program in the field of research in young adult leukemia.

The concert is being coordinated by the Phi Delta under the direction of their president, George Hodges, and Jon Wells, co-chairman. The University has donated the use of the 3,000 seat basketball facilities for the event.

Bogert Joined Phil Delt as a pledge in 1966 and was graduated from Dennison In June of 1970, when he entered the executive training program of the Pacific Telephone Company. In March of 1971 he developed acute leukemia and despite the latest treatments available, died at the age of 23 after his five-month fight against death.

Denver and Bogert, both of Los Angeles, were close personal friends and when Denver requested to perform for the benefit, it was he who arranged fo the addition of Johnson and Boise to the bill. Bopert's parents, whe currently reside in California, have been working closely with the Los Angeles chapter of the Leukemia Society of American in order to raise the enormous funds required fo descover the potential cure for the disease.

Hodges revealed that the benefit had been a long time in planning and that all the members of the house were working together In efforts to make the benefit concert a success. He hopes that the donations to this cause will be high and that he has "great confidence" in the Denison students to make the endeavor an auspicious occasion. "Denver, Johnson and Boise will perform separately for about 30 to 40 minute then the three will combine for the last port of the show," added Hodges, "and we think that the benetit will be sold out far the performance."

Members of the house will go to various living units to promote the concert. Tickets will be available in the union is well as at the door and the concert will be open to students of all surrounding schools. The donation is $3.00.


John Marlowe
April 1, 2007
Email: JohnMarlowe@CincinnatiDancingPigs.com
Credits and thanks:

The biggest credit goes to Cindy McArthur, who assisted me in so many ways, starting with pulling a lot of the songs off of the reel-to-reel tapes. She also helped with the web site page for the songs, with editing and correcting, and with researching the material. Cindy is THE source of all Michael Johnson information. Thank you, Cindy, for all your help.

Cindy McArthur, Chuck Munro, John Denver, Michael Johnson, Paul Prestopino, Bob Hefferan, David Boise, Diana Boise, Jochen Michalak, Roger Ooms, Alfie Temple, Jason Xion Wang, Mike Williams, Michael Peter Smith, The Queen City Balladeers, The Miami University Archives, Tom Phillips, Mike Zwertschek, Erich Zwertschek, Michael Zwertschek, Jr., Joanne Zwertschek, Jack Lohman, Barb Bristol, Harry Sparks, Jeffrey Pettegrew and the Bandersnatch Managers, The Cincinnati Dancing Pigs, Ken Loar, Bill Schuerman, Nancy Lee, Barb Marek, Frank Blau, Randy Sparks, Dave Myers, Martin Guitars, Steven Fromholz, The University of Cincinnati, Barbara Hoehn, Jeff Fields, Billy Jacobs, Jim Glish, Mark Spiegel.