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Andy White



On Monday 19th May, John Beland appears at South Parade Pier, Southsea. But who is he? Well, suffice to say he was nearly James Burton's replacement in Elvis Presley's band, Ringo Starr gave him a recording contract with Apple records, he's toured and recorded with members of The Eagles and The Byrds, Kris Kristofferson, Dolly Parton, Garth Brooks, Arlo Guthrie, Linda Ronstadt, Johnny Tillotson, Kim Carnes, Rick Nelson, Alison Krauss, Merle Haggard, Bobby Bare, and The Bellamy Brothers, to name but a few. He's written songs recorded by artistes as diverse as Joe Cocker, Engelbert Humperdinck and the lead singer with Grand Funk Railroad. And most important to the man himself, he was a member of the Flying Burrito Brothers, one of the greatest country rock bands that ever kicked up dust on the prairie. Read on and prepare to be be amazed by the sheer breadth of this man's fascinating musical career...

John Beland was born in Chicago in 1949. At the age of 12, influenced by B.B. King, Freddy King, Chuck Berry, Ricky Nelson and The Everly Brothers, . he started playing guitar By the time he'sd reached 15, he was playing R&B, jazz, folk/rock and blues in various bands in Chicago's many clubs.

His family moved to California when he was 16 and soon became well known in Los Angeles' Troubadour Club. Here he was to be found playing for other up and coming artistes such as Kris Kristofferson, Glen Frey & J.D. Souther. Soon after John acquired both a record and publishing deal and started session work also doing the "warm ups" for the Glen Campbell television show. .

In 1969 John Beland joined Spanky & Our Gang as guitarist and vocalist. As Spanky McFarland had left they'd changed the name to One Man's Family. Although no tapes of One Man's Family exist, the group mixed five part harmonies singing a blend of pop and country as an early country-rock outfit. One Man's Family toured with The Byrds, The Hollies and Steppenwolf and received rave reviews. After hanging out with John Prine and Steve Goodman they split mid-tour in Chicago. Around this time John also did a session for the late Gene Vincent.

John Beland returned to L.A where in December 1969 he was hired by Linda Ronstadt, who used One Man's Family's arrangement of "When Will I Be Loved" as the inspiration for her own version. The other members of Ronstadt's band, who called themselves Swampwater, were Gib Guilbeau, Stan Pratt and Eric White, Clarence White of The Byrds' brother. Ronstadt and Swampwater appeared on a number of television shows and concerts, and toured with Tim Buckley, Van Morrison, Poco, Rick Nelson and many others. The powerful vocals of Ronstadt combined with the cajun rock sounds of Swampwater won standing ovations wherever they appeared.

During their stint with Ronstadt, Swampwater recorded two solo albums. Before the recording Eric White left the band and Thad Maxwell took over on bass. The first (eponymous) Swampwater album was recorded in Albuquerque, New Mexico in just two days on a four track machine. The song "Nashville Lady" from this album was the first John Beland song recorded by another artist - Engelbert Humperdinck of all people!

In 1970 John Beland, along with Gib Guilbeau, Ry Cooder and Chris Ethridge, played behind Joan Baez, Pete Seeger, Odetta, Country Joe McDonald, Ramblin Jack Elliot and others at The Hollywood Bowl for the "Tribute To Woody Guthrie" concert, which was released on album in 1972.

In 1971 Linda Ronstadt and Swampwater appeared on TV in "The Johnny Cash Show", recorded at the Grand Ole Opry in Nashville. As a result Swampwater secured a recording deal for with RCA and some tracks were cut in Nashville for their second album. Swampwater left Linda Ronstadt in 1972 to work exclusively for Arlo Guthrie.

In 1973 John left Swampwater and toured England with country and pop singer Johnny Tillotson as lead guitarist and musical director. They toured Europe solid for two years working military clubs throughout Germany and England. While in England, Tillotson gave a copy of John's demo tape to Apple Records. Ringo Starr liked it, and signed John up to the label in 1973. John cut a solo album titled "John Edward Beland", but before it could be released Apple froze up in litigation and John finished the album for Scepter Records. Amongst others, the album featured Sneaky Pete Kleinow, Thad Maxwell and Johnny Tillotson.

John continued to work with Tillotson, and in Nashville where he played on Johnny's Columbia sessions, with such greats as Pete Drake, Hargus "Pig" Robbins, Buddy Harmon, Ray Eddington and Jimmy Capps.

By 1974 Kris Kristofferson, John's old friend from The L.A. Troubadour days had become a major superstar. Kris offered him a place in his band, and John hit the road with Kris and his new wife Rita Coolidge. As well as recording on Kris' own recordings at the time, John also made an appearance with Kristofferson and Rita Coolidge on Bob Neuwirth's eponymous. album, together with such heavyweights as Chris Hillman, Richie Furay and Ben Keith.

In 1975 John toured with The Bellamy Brothers who had recently released their debut single "Let Your Love Flow" and had found themselves "overnight" pop stars. After a heavy touring schedule John left to asked to play guitar for singer/songwriter Kim Carnes, who was preparing for her first major tour as opening act for Neil Sedaka. John also played on a few Kim Carnes albums:

In 1976 John Beland was asked to join Elvis Presley's band to replace departing guitarist James Burton. John learned the show and met Presley, but at the eleventh hour James decided to stay with Elvis. John went back to work with Johnny Tillotson.

In 1977 John went to work for yet another popular singer/songwriter, Mac Davis. John became close friends with Mac's opening act, a young country singer from Nashville who had recently made the move to Hollywood - Dolly Parton. When Mac's tour ended, Dolly asked John to join her in her new band. Anxious to leave the Mac Davis job, Beland went on tour with Dolly, who had now become a major superstar with the release of her number one pop hit "Here You Come Again".

During this time John resumed a heavy session schedule in Los Angeles working for famed producer Jimmy Bowen with such notable players as Jim Keltner, Jim Gordon, David Paich, Jeff Porcaro, Dean Parks and Larry Carlton.

In 1978 John joined Rick Nelson's band, toured the country with him and appeared on countless television shows. He worked with Rick on an album produced by Al Kooper which also featured Michael McDonald and Dr. John,

In 1979 John Beland, Gib Guilbeau and Thad Maxwell with Mickey McGee on drums reunited Swampwater and an album was recorded in Los Angeles called - what else - "Reunion". Sneaky Pete Kleinow and Charlie Harwood were guests on the album After the Swampwater reunion session, John Beland got the chance to join the Flying Burrito Brothers to replace Greg Harris. The other members of the band were: Gib Guilbeau, Sneaky Pete, ex Byrd Skip Battin and John Mauceri. A succesfull tour of Italy resulted.

Back together again, Beland and Guilbeau began writing together and stockpiled an amazing output of solid commercial country songs, and in 1981 "Billboard Magazine" and "Record World Magazine" awarded the Burrito Brothers (by now they'd shortened their name) "Number One Crossover Group" and "Best New Vocal Group Of The Year" awards. "Billboard"'s review said "The Burrito Brothers are rapidly proving that groups sometimes get better the second time around. Guilbeau, a Burrito since 1974, and Beland, a two-year veteran of the group, have turned this band around to create one of the strongest new acts in country. Burrito harmonies are richly magnetic; Guilbeau's in particular has a sincerity that makes lyrics shimmer. Their collaboration on writing seven of the cuts proves their roots go deep and their instincts are right on target. Country, as seen through the Burritos' eyes, is a matter of sparkling instrumentation and melodic commerciality."

In 1982 The Burritos achieved a greater honour by helping to get their idol, Lefty Frizzell, inducted into the "Country Music Hall of Fame". Lefty's widow gave Gib and John an unfinished song Lefty had started years earlier . They finished the song, "My Abandoned Heart" and it was recorded by The Burritos. although it remains unreleased.

Gib and John then toured Australia together in March 1983 with a pick up band imaginatively called "The Pick - Ups". They played a mixture of Flying Burrito numbers like Christine's Tune, Wild Horses, Sin City as well as their own songs like Big Bayou, She A Friend Of A Friend, Louisiana Man and Toe Tapping Music. Gib also performed a pretty version of Hickory Wind.

The Burrito Brothers signed to Leon Russell's label in Nashville, but halfway through recording the label went bankrupt and the tapes went on the shelf where they remained until 1996. In 1984 The Burritos gave a farewell performance on Nashville's biggest TV show "Music City Tonight" and received a standing ovation.

After The Burritos broke up in 1985, John settled back into session work and working Nicolette Larson's band, whilst making plans to move his family back to California and re-join Rick Nelson. However, disaster struck - Rick and the band were killed in a plane crash in Texas on New Years Day, just prior to John's return. Devastated by Rick's death, John remained in Nashville. John later wrote the introduction for the Rick Nelson biography "The Ricky Nelson Story (Hollywood Hillbilly)" . John is also featured on "Legacy " the Rick Nelson box set.

Concentrating on his writing, John scored two country hits - "Forever You" by The Whites and "Isn't It Amazing" by former Grand Funk Railroad member Mark Farner. Joe Cocker also recorded a Beland song. John also recorded sessions for Nashville writer Dewayne Blackwell. Blackwell used John as his main session guitarist, along with his demo vocalist Garth Brooks.Later, when Garth recorded his first album he cut a song by Beland and Blackwell .

In 1989 John appeared at the annual Gram Parsons and Clarence White tribute concert in Nashville, later released as an album.

In 1988 and 1989 Beland was working with Bobby Bare and his band Pulleybone, when a promotor in Europe asked the Flying Burrito Brothers to reunite for a series of dates in France and Spain. Again the Flying Burrito Brothers reformed with new line- up, John Beland, Gib Guilbeau, Sneaky Pete Kleinow, Larry Patton and Rick Lanow, and during this tour a live album was recorded entitled "Encore - Live in Europe 1990"

In 1990 John Beland worked again with The Bellamy Brothers on the road and in the studio, and the song "Cowboy Beat", co-written by John Beland and The Bellamy Brothers, reached 23 on the Billboard Country Music Charts. John won the 1993 ASCAP Award with this song

In the Spring and Summer 1994 The Flying Burrito Brothers (now Guilbeau, Beland, Kleinow, Brian Cadd, Gary Kubal and Larry Gadler) toured Austria, Germany and Switzerland and another short various artists tour of Europe took place in June and July 1995. .

In 1998, The Burritos now led by John Beland (without Gib Guilbeau orSneaky Pete Kleinow) signed with Grateful Dead Records. Thier first album on this label featured guests Merle Haggard, Earl P. Ball, Alison Krauss, Ricky Skaggs, Sam Bush, Delbert McClinton, The Oak Ridge Boys, John Cushman and Dave Roe.

Also in 1998 Beland and family returned to California and John recorded two sides with legendary producer Eddie Kramer on which he was backed by Herb Pedersen, Jay Dee Maness and Steve Duncan, ex-members of The Desert Rose Band

In August 1999 Jefferson Airplane guitarist Jorma Kaukonen asked John Beland on stage to jam with him at the Pocanos festival - . Jorma Kaukonen played lap slide and John played mandolin, and the crowd were ecstatic.

The Burritos did a six week Australia and Hawaii tour in Jannuary and February 2000. In Australia The Burritos shared some of the thirty dates with The Amazing Rhythm Aces but also headlined a very successful appearance at The Tamworth Music Festival where they received rave reviews.

In September 2000 John performed his first solo appearance in Los Angeles since 1969 along with Severin Browne (Jackson Browne's brother). John played for one and a half hours and received a standing ovation....

John contributed a wonderful version of "Some Of Shelly's Blues" for a Michael Nesmith tribute album: "Papa Nez: A Loose Salute To The Work Of Michael Nesmith" The project features a variety of artists recording Mike Nesmith songs, a far cry from when he was a member of The Monkees..

John is currently at work on his autobiography titled "Younger Than Yesterday (A Life In Country Rock)". The book will focus on John's life, career and the amazing roster of artists he has worked with for nearly four decades. Also featured in the book will be rare vintage photo's from John's private collection as well as quotes from many of the artists featured in the book. As a bonus, John plans to include a 4 track CD with the book featuring his acoustic versions of hit songs he's written for other artists. Working with John on the project is author Alan Rockman, who is one of the leading experts on the history of California country rock as well as a contributor to The Byrds website.

A great introduction to John Beland and the second incarnation of The Flying Burrito Brothers is probably the new "John Beland/Burrito Works" album, a compilation CD featuring the best of John's work with The Flying Burrito Brothers. Guests include Alison Krauss, Ricky Skaggs, Sonny Landreth, Jo-El Sonnier, Buck Owens, Sam Bush and others. There is an eight page booklet included with CD with a wealth of Flying Burrito Brothers historical information.

The final word should go to John Beland...

"The Flying Burrito Brothers was a major part of my life and career. Although I'm glad we scored hits in the early '80s my final years with the group were the most productive creatively. I feel that after all the years with the group, the final lineup of Patton, Kubal, Bridges, Earl Ball and me represented the tightest lineup The Flying Burrito Brothers ever had. These guys could play circles around anybody. That's not to take anything away from my time playing with Gib Guilbeau and Sneaky Pete Kleinow. Both are legendary stylists and pioneers who contributed greatly to the legacy of the band. It's unfortunate that health issues and other commitments prevented them from continuing with the band on a permanent basis. It's only because of those reasons the latter day Flying Burrito Brothers came to be. It was a treat to work with Merle, Buck, Waylon and all my heroes. I guess their participation with us and the body of work we came up with contributed to the credibility we needed. The band took me on an incredible journey for over two decades. Along the way, I had some amazing experiences, met some wonderful fans and made some lifelong who says I didn't get rich being a Burrito? Now its onward to more music...and hopefully, some more miles of road ahead."

John Roberts.

John Beland appears at South Parade Pier, Southsea, on Monday 19th May.

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