Why I Think That John Sebastian is The Coolest, Hippest Guy Ever
Lovin' Spoonful: Formation and Early Years 1964–1965
The band had its roots in the folk music scene based in the Greenwich Village section of lower Manhattan during the blurry, infantile folk-rock music scene in the 1960s. John Sebastian, the son of classical harmonicist John Sebastian Sr., grew up in the Village in contact with music and musicians, including folk musicians who were involved with the American folk music revival of the 1950s through the early 1960s. Sebastian formed the Spoonful with guitarist Zal Yanovsky from a bohemian folk group called The Mugwumps (two other members, Cass Elliot and Denny Doherty, later formed half of the Mamas & the Papas), playing coffee houses and small clubs.The birthing of the Lovin' Spoonful during this time was later described in the lyrics of the Mamas & the Papas' 1967 top ten hit, "Creeque Alley."
Now That the Intro
is history, and done out of sheer, unfading respect, I want to now talk (about the rest of my piece) about the founding member of the Lovin' Spoonful, John Sebastian. No. I do not know why this band chose to leave the "g" off of Lovin'.
I fondly remember the first time I heard "Daydream," in 1965. I was about to fall in love, but not until the fall of 1966. Did you ever have one of those, as I call them, "life moments" where you know that when a certain event happens, you know that it's going to be fine? This defined me at that age, 11, and now about to tackle rock music, the Hip 60s, and a certain girl who I instantly left my heart at her feet.
But this story is not about (a) certain girl who looked stunned at seeing my heart laying on that hardwood floor in Hamilton Grammar School, 1966, with that same school house smell that was, and is smelled all across the United States. I've got your query covered. I have always thought that (this) schoolhouse smell was designed by Ike Eisenhower during his administration as our President when the C.I.A. was busy infiltrating "sleeper agents" finding out all they could about Castro, Russia and The Cold War.
I'm sorry. I got carried away. I gave you no mention of my tackling of rock music and the Hip 60s. But these two subjects do not matter (except the girl with my heart in the floor) because I am going to talk about the coolest, hippest guy ever born in pure mortal flesh, John Sebastian. No offense intended toward Arlo Guthrie.
A classic from the Lovin' Spoonful.
Honestly and Openly
my interest with Sebastian (then) started in 1966, sixth grade, then-Hamilton Grammar School, and that song, "Did You Ever Have to Make up Your Mind," as it would touch my spirit many times as I would look over in our classroom and worship (that) one girl whose heart was still laying underneath her feet underneath her desk. Yuk. I wonder right now if the late Dr. Hunter S. Thompson is reading this hub and thinking outloud, "son, you are on my road. Dig it."
But my heart laying at (this) girl's feet wasn't that appealing as it was for me to watch John Sebastian, Joe Butler, Zal Yanosky; Steve Bone and Joe Butler answer questions that was asked by eager, mouth-gaping teens with the press all looking in a daze as one more press conference (with) a rock band, Lovin' Spoonful panned out.
As I slowly sail away from the Spoonful, I must say that I know of no criminal record by any of the band's members or tearing up a Holiday Inn (in a drunken party) off of a busy interstate somewhere in Maryland. No. Even John Sebastian, the topic of my story, was not even arrested during Woodstock, Aug. 19, 1969. All he did was sing, love people, and sing about love and loving people--which is tough to do all at the same time.
Sebastian had no deadlines. No post-Spoonful pressures as when the Spoonful disbanded (a term that I still hate), he just "did his thing," (a term that he probably coined) and watched the world roll by. Now that is not to deceive you into believing that John Sebastian was the poster boy for Clorox Bleach. I am sure that he had his times behind doors and maybe behind cell doors that some slick-thinking press agent painted the arrest in a different way and he was released. Allegedly.
John Sebastian at Woodstock, August 1969
Why do I Think Now
that my requited allegiance for John Sebastian needs for you and all of my terrific followers to know why I think Sebastian is the coolest guy who ever donned a pair of earth sandals. Note: to respect Sebastian, I should say to you, my "hip" followers, about learning why I've admired him for years instead of saying my "terrific followers."
- John Sebastian to me, if asked by HubPages editors, staff and families, (and my "hip" followers) what makes John Sebastian so cool and hip, I would start off by saying . . .
- His Facial Expression: is most of the time happy and very calm. Okay. Peaceful. And this was on stage at Max Yasgur's farm outside of Bethel, N.Y., when Woodstock was born on Aug. 19, 1969. Just watch his video (first that I published) about "Rainbows All Over Your Blues" and you will see how relaxed and focused he looks. No worry lines or stuttering--even surrreal. Sebastian rocked the crowds at Woodstock. Right on?
- His Voice: is almost angelic. No. I am not doing drugs. I cannot say that about Sebastian at Woodstock or in private times with his buddies or family. To me, this is his business. But listen closely to him talk if you can hear him over that Spanish translator you will agree about my analogy about his soft voice. Do you know what I would have been able to do with his voice in 1966 and from years on? Girls by the truckload--singing, laughing, watching them laugh and swoon at my Sebastian-like voice. I am not telling you anything that you haven't heard before.
- His Wardrobe: was and is always in style. Although during the "Turbulent Sixties" most hippies and rockers wild, wore tie-die shirts and jeans while taking what free clothing was available on thrift store racks. Not John Sebastian. He always looked sharp. And this was years before another rock band, Z Z Top, hit the 1980s with "Sharp Dressed Man." Sebastian never tried to follow anyone else's fashion statements. He liked what he wore and that was that.
- His Laughter: is not your usual manly laughter, but a laughter that you can hear that distinctive lilt in his voice. No, not a girly laugh, but an orchestrated laugh. Sebastian saw or heard something funny. He laughed in his own rhythms. And stopped. No kicking his feet on the floor. No hitting his buddies in their ribs. When the laugh was over it was over.
- His Muscial Talent: was not what you would call amazing, but Sebastian knew enough to easily play guitar, bongo's and an autoharp. And he was so proficient in his musical talent that we never noticed the notes that he missed. He just went ahead enjoying singing the song (probably about love) and then heading to dinner with close friends and then home.
- His Eyes: were always clear, sharp, and seeing the good in people. No, I am not advocating that Sebastian was in the forefront or background of the tumultous anti-war protests, but I am sure that he was a supporter of peace and for no more American G.I.'s being shipped to 'Nam to fight a war that hardly anyone understood.
- His Listening: was key to me. Even with the likes of pioneer daytime talk show hosts such as Mike Douglas would interview Sebastian, he (Sebastian) did most of the listening to the other celeb's Douglas would talk about during the hour show. In comparison to those musicians and celebs in the 1960s who were so wired that no powerful record company would dare keep them in rehab, but would talk 122 M.P.H. on radio and television about a major tour and several thousand "uhh,'s," "man's," and "dig it's" were hurled through the air for us to grab ahold of to find out who they were.
- His Sensitivity: was landmark. True to a man of peace. He was no actor or hypocrite. Sure he had sins like we all are, but John Sebastian not only managed, but succeeded in living then from the Lovin' Spoonful 1964 to 1965, in promoting (without knowing it) a lifestyle of . . .
peace, love, and understanding.
Now where else did we heard that before?
Good night, Lincoln, Nebraska.
Lovin' Spoonful Original Members
are (in no particular order) Zal Yanosky, guitar; John Sebastian, vocals; Steve Boone, bass guitar and Joe Butler, drums. These were the "roots" of Lovin' Spoonful which the band and its music still resonates in 2017.
© 2017 Kenneth Avery