John Beland

John Edward Beland (born July 24, 1949) is an American songwriter, session guitarist, recording artist, producer and author. Beland’s career as guitarist started out in Los Angeles in the late 1960s, playing sessions and local live gigs with Kris Kristofferson, as well as future Eagles members, Glenn Frey and Bernie Leadon. Beland’s first major break came in 1970, when he played lead guitar for a young Linda Ronstadt. He helped Ronstadt put together her first serious solo band, Swampwater. Along with bandmates Gib Guilbeau, Thad Maxwell and Stan Pratt, Swampwater toured the country with Ronstadt, appearing with her on many notable television shows including The Johnny Cash Show. Swampwater recorded two landmark country-rock albums for Starday-King and RCA Records. The group was one of the first Los Angeles bands to record in Nashville, known for their smooth harmonies and Cajun rock style.

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John Beland

John Beland performs live onstage in Kristiansand, Norway in September 2013
Background information
Birth name John Edward Beland
Born (1949-07-24) July 24, 1949 (age 72)
Hometown, Illinois
Genres Americana, folk, country, country rock, rock and roll
Occupations Musician, Singer/Songwriter, Producer
Instruments Guitar and Mandolin
Years active 1960s-present
Associated acts
Musical artist

After working with Ronstadt, Beland became a much in-demand guitarist, engaged by such high-profile artists as Arlo Guthrie, Johnny Tillotson, Kris Kristofferson, The Bellamy Brothers, Mac Davis, Dolly Parton and The Flying Burrito Brothers. As a solo artist, Beland recorded for Ranwood Records, scoring a chart hit in 1969 called “Baby You Come Rollin’ ‘Cross My Mind”. Beland also became the last artist to sign with The Beatles’ record company Apple Records in 1973. As a session guitarist, Beland recorded with many music business legends in the United States and internationally. For over twenty years, he was the creative force behind the pioneering country rock band from California, The Flying Burrito Brothers. Through his leadership, the group achieved nine hit country singles for Curb Records in the early 1980s. Beland was also instrumental in the comeback of rock and roll legend Rick Nelson in the late 1970s, arranging and playing on Nelson’s last hit single “Dream Lover”, as well as Nelson’s much-acclaimed album The Memphis Sessions. He also toured and appeared with him on Saturday Night Live in 1979.

Beland has also received awards from the American Society of Composers, Authors, and Publishers (ASCAP) during his career. As an award-winning songwriter, Beland’s songs have been recorded by a wide variety of recording artists from various genres. They have included artists from pop, folk, gospel to country music.

. . . John Beland . . .

Beland was born and raised in Hometown, Illinois, and was the eldest son of Clarence and Celine Beland. While growing up, he listened to a number of well-known American music artists. This included Buddy Holly, the Everly Brothers and Ricky Nelson. He was inspired by the music from a young age and began to play the guitar, predominantly rock and roll. At six years old, he received a toy Davy Crocket model guitar, but wouldn’t own a guitar until he was seventeen.[1]

During high school, Beland played with local bands, performing in small venues and at private parties. He practiced on his own at home, while listening to Dick Biondi on WLS radio. In an interview, Beland recalled the influence The Beatles had on his life as a young musician. He stated that he had never heard music like it and inspired him as a guitarist.[1]

Beland became more involved in local music over the coming years as a teenager. He took little interest in school, instead, he focused on practicing blues and jazz tracks that were popular at the time, including Mose Allison, Ramsey Lewis and Bo Diddley. He was also strongly influenced by the Rolling Stones. He formed a small jazz trio in his hometown and regularly played small gigs. They would take pop songs and, as Beland described it, “jazz them up”. Performing these musical blends further influenced Beland’s youth. As his tastes and performances matured, Beland began to have a passion for jazz pianist Vince Guaraldi‘s music. His biggest inspiration as a teenager was The Byrds. He recalled hearing The Byrds single Mr. Tambourine Man for the first time and being instantly connected and inspired by the Bob Dylan written track. As Beland performed more regularly, his music began to take on The Byrds’ sound, showing how they had influenced him as a young musician.[1]

Beland’s life changed in 1967 when his father secured a new job, meaning the family would be moving to Los Angeles. They took a 3-day train journey from Chicago to California. They ended up living an hour outside Los Angeles, in the town of La Puente. Beland didn’t attend his new school in Southern California and instead spent his days sneaking into movie studios and record companies to learn more about passions of filmmaking and music. When his family and the school realized what he was doing on a daily basis, they moved him to a continuation school for troubled teens. Determined to follow his dreams of becoming a musician, Beland recorded a dozen original tracks on a stolen tape recorder. When he was dropped at continuation school the next day, he hitchhiked to Los Angeles in hope of getting a record deal.[1]

He lived on the streets for a couple of weeks after leaving home, speaking to publishing companies and record labels on a daily basis and showing them his homemade demo tape. After speaking to a record executive at Capitol Records, he advised Beland to try playing live at a club in Los Angeles called the Troubadour. Every Monday he attended open mic night at the venue and for $1 he would be able to perform for 15 minutes. He became well known by performers and regulars at the club, before host, Larry Murray decided to showcase Beland at the primetime slot in front of numerous record label executives.[1]

After performing one night at the Troubadour, he was approached by Lois Dalton, who was a former member of The Back Porch Majority folk group. She had set up their own music production group and she offered to help Beland in any way she could. After weeks of living on the street, Beland was desperate for somewhere to stay. Dalton and her family took him in. Dalton spoke with Beland’s parents and it was decided he would stay with the Dalton’s in Los Angeles to pursue his music career under her guidance.[1]

. . . John Beland . . .

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. . . John Beland . . .

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