“A Daughter’s Perspective: Katie Harford Hogue on John Hartford” by Kimberly DeCero
“One of my favorite memories with my Dad was spending an afternoon together at the kitchen table, reading the funny pages into a tape recorder,” recalls Katie Harford Hogue; daughter of the legendary John Hartford. As the 4thAnnual John Hartford Memorial Festival approaches on May 29-31, so does the 13th anniversary of John’s passing on June 4, 2001. The annual festival is on a mission to preserve the music, legacy, and ideals of John Hartford and celebrate his life and all he accomplished in his 64 years young.
Following a decade without John Hartford, the first annual John Harford Memorial Festival was born in 2011. It was attended by a small group of die-hard Hartford fans, friends, and his immediate family, including his daughter Katie and his son Jamie, who is well respected Nashville singer-songwriter in his own right. Jamie performs at the event every year and dedicates a large portion of his sets to playing his favorite songs that his father wrote. John’s family attends the event every year and supports what the festival is doing.
“I really appreciate this festival because it’s for my Dad,” said Katie. “John Hotze and the other organizers, as well as all the performers, have put so much time, effort, and love into this. Every time we go, I just feel like Dad would be so honored by it all,” she shared.
“I like that the festival appeals to a broad range of people. You'll find hippies, traditionalists, professionals, young people, families, and empty-nesters. It’s just a great, eclectic mix, and everyone is having fun,” she said. The annual festival has become known as the “Most Laid Back Festival in America,” and Katie agrees. “It really is a fun, laid-back atmosphere. You don’t have to worry about whether or not you know anyone who’s going; you’ll make plenty of friends when you get there. It’s just that kind of place,” said Katie.
“We always bring a lot of Dad’s CDs and other merch with us, and set up a table on the hill that looks down onto the main stage. My absolute, most favorite thing is being at the table where I can hear the music, and then getting to visit with all the people that come by to chat, share stories about Dad, or talk about how his music has affected them. I’ve met so many friends that way. Sometimes we don’t close up until 1am, but I wouldn’t trade it for anything,” she continued.
Born as John Cowan Harford in New York on December 30, 1937, he grew up in St. Louis, MO. John was a descendent of Patrick Henry and cousin of Tennessee Williams. His great-grandfather was a founder of the Missouri Bar Association and his father was a prominent doctor. In 1965, John moved to Nashville. The following year he was signed to RCA Records by the legendary Chet Atkins. It was Atkins who convinced John to add a "t" to his last name, becoming John Hartford.
It is widely known that John Hartford was a musician, songwriter, steamboat pilot, author, artist, disc jockey, calligrapher, dancer, folklorist, historian, and of course a father. He won Grammy awards in three different decades, recorded a catalog of more than 30 albums, and wrote one of the most popular songs of all time, “Gentle On My Mind.” He was a regular guest and contributor on the Glen Campbell Good Time Hour and the Smothers Brothers Show. He added music and narration to Ken Burns’ landmark Civil War series, and was an integral part of the hugely popular "O Brother, Where Art Thou?" soundtrack and Down From The Mountain concert tour.
“Everyone is familiar with Dad’s fun side and his sense of humor, but not everyone realizes that he was well-educated, a deep thinker, and obsessed with information,” Katie shared. “He considered himself a frustrated librarian. When he was interested in something, he researched it extensively, inside and out, taking notes and looking for connections to other things. His extensive book collection is evidence to that,” she said. “His riverboat collection is being curated by the Herman T. Pott Inland Waterways Library at UMSL, and his music and history collection is at Vanderbilt's Blair Music School.”
John Hartford’s family is well aware of their father’s impact on the world. “I think, for those who listened, he taught a generation of creatives not to be afraid of their own voice,” concluded Katie. She and her husband Eric are also keeping John’s legacy going by running the official John Hartford website www.johnhartford.com and Facebook page.
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