A FLYING BURRITO BROTHER & MUCH, MUCH MORE...
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
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
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
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
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
In 1977 John went to work for yet another popular singer/songwriter, Mac
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
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
During this time John resumed a heavy session schedule in Los Angeles working
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
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,
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
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
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
Also in 1998 Beland and family returned to California and John recorded two
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
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
Life In Country Rock)". The book will focus on John's life, career and the
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
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
friends...so 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 Beland appears at South Parade Pier, Southsea, on Monday 19th May.