From his piano lessons at age five to his medal-winning french horn performance at the Ithaca College Music Festival, from his folk days of singing Weavers, Peter Paul and Mary, and Bob Dylan songs, from his obsession with the Ventures, Beach Boys, Beatles and Jimi Hendrix, John Hall learned three things - play, write, listen.
Now he’s listening to testimony and writing legislation as the Congressman from New York’s 19th District, but John still plays guitar occasionally, and listens to everything from John Scofield to Allison Kraus. John left a projected career in science, dropping out of Notre Dame University and Loyola to play full time in a band in Georgetown. A brief stint on M Street led to an invitation to play in New York at Greenwich Village’s Cafe Wha?.
As John honed his bass and guitar skills as part of the band Kangaroo, James Taylor was gigging around the corner at the Night Owl with the Flying Machine and Jimi was backing up John Hammond at Village Gate as Jimi James and the Blue Flames. Kangaroo alternated sets for a time with a band called the Castilles, whose lead singer was Bruce Springsteen.
During this time, he wrote and directed the music for the Broadway show “Morning, Noon and Night,” and 1969’s Obie-winning “Honest to God Schnozzola.” From the Broadway score came a guitar lick that was the underpinning for “Half Moon” recorded by Janis Joplin on Pearl. John later penned songs for Bonnie Raitt, Linda Ronstadt, Ricky Skaggs, Steve Wariner and many more. After moving to Woodstock, John worked as a studio guitarist for Seals and Crofts, John Simon, and Jackie Lomax, and toured with Taj Mahal, recording the double album The Real Thing at both Fillmores.
In early 1972, John’s local jam band in Woodstock turned into Orleans when first Wells Kelly and then Larry Hoppen joined the ensemble. Later that year, Lance Hoppen joined on bass, freeing Larry to play guitar and keyboard. Orleans recorded four albums in the seventies, scoring radio hits with “Still the One” and “Dance with Me” (both certified over four million airplays in the US).
John left Orleans in 1978 and made two solo records, John Hall and Power. The latter featured the anti-nuclear anthem which later became the theme of the No Nukes concerts, recorded by the Doobie Brothers with James Taylor. Then followed two John Hall Band albums, and the AOR and MTV hit “Crazy (Keep on Falling)”. After Wells Kelly’s death in 1984, John reunited with Larry and Lance Hoppen and they were recruited by Tony Brown of MCA Nashville to record there. The result was 1986’s Grownup Children. Since then John has alternated between recording and touring with Orleans, and doing solo projects including Recovered, On a Distant Star, and Love Doesn’t Ask.
Along the way, environmental and political concerns have kept John moving in and out of direct community involvement. He was elected to the Ulster County Legislature in 1989 and served one term in 1990 and 1991. In the late 1990s, he was elected twice as trustee of the Saugerties New York Board of Education, where his fellow trustees elected him president. He also served as a volunteer member of the Hudson River Sloop Clearwater’s board of directors.
The latest CD, Rock Me on the Water, memorializes in song a sailing trip from Kingston New York to Havana, Cuba (on a humanitarian mission delivering medical and musical supplies), then north to Martha’s Vineyard and Cuttyhunk, then south again to Annapolis, Maryland. It includes four songs that are written by John with his wife, Attorney and former Tennessee Assistant State Attorney General Pamela Melanie Hall, who was first mate on most of the trip. There is also a tune co-written with Steve Wariner and sung as a duet, a previously unreleased reggae song by Jules Shear, and more.
This studio band features John and Pamela playing stratocasters together. Peter O’Brien on drums, Joakim Lartey on percussion, and bassist Bobby MacDougall round out the quintet. Additional background vocals are added by Marian Thompson, Bert Carey and Bing Bingham.