About The Festival
This year's lineup is diverse and speckled with musicians who have direct connections to our festival namesake. Once again our talent buyers loaded the bill with outstanding headliners and filled it with the most entertaining musicians this country has to offer. Our headliners are the folks who include the legends and those who are making the biggest waves across the vast ocean of music that we call Americana, Roots, and Bluegrass.
“I am tickled to death to be here! And I’m tickled to death that you’re here too. And I’m tickled to death that we’re all here at the same time.” John Hartford (1994 live concert, Ryman Auditorium)
We live in a nation of festivals. Great big festivals, little bitty festivals that start with a bang then fizzle out like a 4th of July Roman Candle. We are fortunate to have the freedom to gather and celebrate life with music. We can shop for festivals that will satisfy any musical taste. Most start out small then grow with profit usually being the driving force, at least for the mainstream festivals. People will come together in large numbers to hear music, enjoy alcohol and party. Our festival, The John Hartford Memorial Festival is different. It’s different in that we bring musicians and music lovers together in a laid back atmosphere to celebrate the life, music and legacy of the late John Hartford. We have fulfilled the vision of our founder John Hotze and co-promoter Tom Burkhart. We have become a family bent on education and the preservation of our namesake's rule defying genre bending, all inclusive music.
John Hartford was a ground breaking trend-setter who started a movement in music that forever changed and opened up the landscape of bluegrass music, giving way to the name “Newgrass".
No conference room full of commercial corporate types made this festival happen. One man with a vision, one man who lost a great friend, John Hartford, to cancer, this man John Hotze, did. St. Louis businessman and music lover, John Hotze, had this vision to throw a big musical party in honor of his late lifelong friend, John Hartford. John Hotze, who used to sit in with the original Missouri Ridge Runners, took the plunge and the John Hartford Memorial Festival was born. In an interview with Mr. Hotze, back in 2012, he said, “I never started this venture for money. I would be very happy to let it just sustain itself both to honor John and provide a venue for more performers. My vision is to narrow the scope of the festival to be Hartford centered, that is booking bands & entertainers that have been greatly influenced by John and entertainers that also cover John’s songs.”
It was the second year that Louisville business man, master wood worker, acoustic music lover and jug player, Tom Burkhart befriended John Hotze, saw some issues he could fix, recognized John's vision and realized this endeavor was also his vision, and that he could help in a big way. Tom became John's right hand man.The third year, it was announced that Tom Burkhart would be co-owner, co-promoter and talent buyer for the John Hartford Memorial Festival. Tom brought natural people person skills and management skills along with a knack for making snap decisions. Tom Burkhart says, “We are working to keep a small festival feeling by capping off the full festival tickets sold at 2000, even as we bring bigger names into our lineup.” Everyone gets the same opportunity to get in. Staying in tune with our mission to further the legacy, music and history of our namesake, John Hartford, and the vision of original festival promoter, John Hotze, we have birthed a family of like minded folks, bent on having a great time with music and friendship in a family atmosphere. We will only sell enough tickets to insure that we can do it again, next year. We aim to live up to our reputation as “The Most Laid Back Festival In America”, by not getting so big that we bump elbows and bang instruments. Everyone is on equal ground here. Tom Burkhart went on to say, “At JHMF we treat everyone the same and will never have any audience areas reserved for VIP because we feel that everyone attending is very important. Much of our motivation comes straight from a line in the John Hartford song, Josephs Dream. Just when you think it can’t get no better then it does”. John and Tom assembled a dedicated crew of volunteers, each with unique talent and skill and now we are heading into our 8th year. The John Hartford Memorial Festival has made its mark and is established as "The Most Laid Back Festival in America", and folks, it's fun, we're fun, and the music is great