From "The Capital" on 10/22/03
Pops Gala had something for everyone.
"The star attraction of the pops portion
of the program was local favorite Mack Bailey, whose folksy tenor, guitar
playing and whistling are reminiscent of John Denver. He's funny, too!
Filling Maryland Hall with vocal and human warmth, he was the consummate
one-man show. His renditions of "The Nearness of You" and "Eagles and Horses"
made me want to run out and buy all of his recordings.
of Mack's new CD "Why I'm Here"
Mack's new CD was reviewed by "Music Monthly," a music news magazine, in
the August 2003 issue. In her column, the Wollan Report, reviewer
Laurin Wollan writes:
"Mack Bailey is tellin’ us all Why I’m Here. Some
spiritual music can be found on this folksy, bluegrassy release. It is
very Christian. He’s got a good voice. The flute really works it for
me during some moments. . . . it sure could bring a smile to someone’s
face. He sang back up for Vince Gill and Amy Grant in the past and Mary
Chapin Carpenter sang back up on his first release. Elvis’ backing
singers, the Grammy award winning Jordanaires sing on this album so if you are
into that sort of thing, well there you go."
"On My Way" honored and featured on CD Baby's Front Page
For three days, Mack's
CD "On My Way" was featured on the CD Baby web site, which is the online
service designated for ordering Mack's CDs, among thousands of other
artists' CDs. In a memo to Mack, CD Baby's president writes:
"I love your "On My Way" CD so much I'm going to feature it on the FRONT
PAGE of CD Baby for a few days. I'm REALLY picky about what goes on
the front page. We get about 40 new albums a DAY coming in here now,
(about 12,000 total), and yours is one of the best I've ever heard.
It should go up at
midnight, California time, on Sunday, November 10th, and stay there for
- Derek Sivers,
President, CD Baby
And it looked like this:
Mack Bailey: On My Way
While summer is long past now, this fresh country folk album,
evoking images of front porch swings and homemade lemonade, is a
hearty dose of good natured, wholesome sweet folk from the sunny
country sides for fans of artists from John Denver to Amy Grant to
Randy Travis, all whom he has opened for. Who can resist such a
fresh sound in any season?
Montgomery County, North Carolina
October 9, 2002
"Mack Bailey and friends"
is food for the soul . . . And feeding souls and nourishing friendships is what
Mack Bailey and friends did Friday night in Montgomery County.
While the event was billed as a Tribute to John Denver, the crowd eagerly
responded to the songs Bailey is known for locally such as "Rock Me Grandpa" and
"Potter's Wheel." Accompanying Bailey on stage were Bill Danoff, who
performed and co-wrote with Denver, John Sommers, also a member of Denver's band
and writer of "Thank God I'm a Country Boy," and Kenn Roberts, a member of The
Hard Travelers band.
Besides the local community that is always eager for a Bailey concert to come to
town, a following has developed along the East Coast. Those "followers"
were easily recognized at Friday's concert, knowing every word to every song and
eagerly joining in on occasion. One such follower happened to be in the
state on a "Haul for Justice" ride. . . . The concert was also a
reunion for one family . . . that had planned a reunion in Colorado to coincide
with the annual John Denver Tribute. For one reason or another, things
just did not work out. But as fate would have it, (they) found an
opportunity to be in the area this weekend and were able to have their reunion
and their concert here in Montgomery County.
Mack, Kenn Roberts and John Sommers perform at the
Troy Rotary Club
Over the years, Bailey has given back to his roots and Friday night was no
exception. The concert was a benefit for the Trinity Music Academy's
scholarship fund. Through the scholarship fund, young musicians have an
opportunity to experience the world of music and the magic it holds.
Asheboro, North Carolina
September 28, 2002
The following is from
to lead 5th annual Tribute to John Denver
Staff Writer, The Courier-Tribune
TROY - Mack Bailey
will kick off the 5th annual Tribute to John Denver in his hometown of Troy in
Montgomery County this Friday night. Coming home is always a treat for Bailey,
but he says this concert will be bittersweet.
Bailey, The Hard
Travelers, and two members of Denver's band will play a benefit performance for
the Gerry Bailey Memorial Scholarship Fund at Trinity Music Academy. Mack is the
middle son of Morgan and the late Gerry Bailey.
From Troy, the
group goes to Aspen, Colo., for the annual three-day Tribute to John Denver for
two performances at the Mountain Chalet Ballroom and three at the Wheeler Opera
house. Vince Gill and Amy Grant will join the group for the last performance
there on Oct. 13.
On Oct. 18, the
tribute tour concludes at the Cellar Stage in Baltimore, Md.
Joining Bailey in
Troy will be two members of John Denver's band, Bill Danoff and John Sommers.
Sommers wrote "Thank God I'm a Country Boy" and Danoff wrote "Take Me Home
Country Roads" which became the theme song of West Virginia and "I Guess He'd
Rather be in Colorado" which is the theme song of that state.
performance will include many other Bailey favorites in addition to Denver's
categorized as a contemporary folk singer, but his style is hard to pin down as
At the North
Carolina School of the Arts, voice coaches tried to steer him toward becoming an
operatic tenor. Bailey tried.
"With opera, or
rather oratorio, on one side of me and my guitar on the other, I just listened
to the music and I sang and just tried to experience both of them," Bailey said
in an interview last year. "The guitar won."
Bailey said he
enjoys singing everything, including oratorio and choral works.
"I just love music.
I love hearing music while I'm actually being a part of singing it, of hearing
it live around me. I'm not very good with categorizing music. I mean, it's all
just music to me."
Bailey has settled
in Silver Spring, Md. He is as well known in that state and the Washington,
D.C., area for his humanitarian work as his performances.
Bailey does special
concerts for children and for Alzheimer's patients. One of his most touching
memories is hearing an Alzheimer's patient, whom nurses said had not spoken in
three months, sing along on "The Battle Hymn of the Republic."
"When I Dream," was inspired by a woman with Parkinson's Disease who told him
she was healthy in her dreams.
Bailey loves to
spread his love of music. In 1999, he was the Artist in Residence at the Kennedy
This year, he was presented the Governor's Citation for Maryland State Arts
Council Individual Artist Award.
Sept. 9, Bailey sang at the Pentagon Memorial Fund Brunch at Café Milano in
He was in the
background in the picture in The Washington Post behind his wife, Lauren, and
daughter, Caroline, at a stage side table.
A long supporter of
the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation, that's how he met The Hard Travelers and John
Bailey joined The
Hard Travelers as a guitar player when their lead player broke in his thumb.
He met Denver when
he sang, "Thank God I'm a Country Boy" for the sound check at a Cystic Fibrosis
benefit and Denver asked Bailey to trade verses with him during the performance.
There was a brief
conversation about future appearances together, Bailey said, and some contact
between agents, but three weeks later Denver died in a plane crash in Miami.
Then came the first
tribute, The Cellar Door Remembers John Denver.
Bailey was asked to
sing Denver's songs, using Denver's arrangements, with Denver's band.
overwhelming. I was in awe of working with them," Bailey said.
The performance in
Troy will include more than Denver's music, Bailey said.
While he sings
everything from any music genre that appeals to him, Bailey is a songwriter in
his own right.
Fans of the wacky
"Car Talk" on NPR recognize Bailey's song, "High Gear."
"Waltzing with Bears" and "Rock Me, Grandpa" on his CD for children, "Friends."
"Children make me a
little nervous, because they look beyond. Kids are at face value."
Bailey composed and
performed the soundtrack music for the PBS specials, "Block Island - A Gift of
the Glaciers" and for "Smith Island - Land Water People Time."
He co-wrote the
theme for the Johns Hopkins Children's Miracle Network telethon.
Bailey has opened
for some of the country's top performers, among them Brooks & Dunn, Randy
Travis, Mary Chapin Carpenter and Alabama.
With his on-stage
charisma and two-octave tenor voice, critics have praised him as much as the
"With his voice
from heaven and wonderful stage charisma, he moves audiences from tears to
laughter," wrote Karen Tupek.
Philpot, Bethesda, Md., Acoustic House Concerts, wrote: "He has an absolutely
gorgeous tenor voice and he knows how to combine songs to do a great program. If
he performs in your area, he is not to be missed."
Montgomery County, North Carolina
September 25, 2002
"Thank God I'm a Country Boy"
Rocky Mountain High comes to the
Uwharrie Mountains next week.
Troy native Mack Bailey, Kenn Roberts and the Hard
Travelers, along with two former members of John Denver's band, will bring their
talents to West Montgomery High Auditorium at 7 p.m., Friday, October 4.
Though the names of the two Denver associates might
not be familiar to the county audience, their music will be.
John Sommers, a former Navy pilot, stopped in Aspen
for a winter before starting flight training with TWA. He never made it to
the commercial flight school. Instead, Denver happened into the Aspen club
where Sommers was playing with a band called Liberty. Impressed with a
Sommers composition, "The River of Love," Denver flew the band to New York to
record the tune on a new album.
Sommers eventually joined Denver's band and his
song, "Thank God I'm a Country Boy," has become embedded in American music
history. Since his years with Denver, Sommers has continued to be a part
of the Rockies music scene and a participant in the annual John Denver tribute
concerts that raise funds for local and national charities.
Bill Danoff is the second John Denver band member
in next week's show. Among Danoff's contributions to Denver's repertoire
are "Take Me Home Country Roads" and "I Guess He'd Rather Be in Colorado."
In addition to his association with Denver, Danoff was the driving force behind
the Starland Vocal Band, and the author of its hit single, "Afternoon Delight."
Bailey's association with Denver, whom he met and
performed with in Baltimore just a couple weeks before Denver's death in a plane
crash, is really much longer lived. Bailey credits Denver with "teaching
me how to sing a song," and he has continued to be friends with and perform with
members of the Denver band over the years.
The October 4 performance is a "smaller version of
the big John Denver tribute in Colorado later in the month," Bailey said.
"not all the band members will be there, but the two key ones are coming."
In addition to Denver's music, original music from
the other performers will also be featured. "That was one good thing about
John," Bailey commented. "He liked other people's music. Even if
you're not a big John Denver fan, it will be a great show."
Tickets for the performance, a benefit for the
Trinity Music Academy Scholarship Fund, are available at $12 for adults, $6 for
students 18 and under. Call 910-576-4186 or email
Washington Post's Style Section
Monday, September 9, 2002
"Out and About" by Roxanne Roberts
The following is from:
D'Angelo - For The Washington Post)
Patriotism Is On This Menu
Maybe it was the
gorgeous sunny day: Yesterday's Pentagon Memorial Fund brunch at Cafe Milano was
a quietly upbeat occasion. As patrons sipped champagne and munched on antipasto,
folk singer Mack Bailey (left) performed "On the Sunny Side of the
Street," the Redskins celebrated their first win and the restaurant raised more
than $8,000 for a memorial to the victims of last year's attack on the Pentagon.
The Pentagon memorial, recently
authorized by Congress, will be placed on the west side of the building near
the impact point. An open design competition will close this week; a
jury panel will select five finalists next month and announce the winner in
December. No budget has been set for the project, but the goal is have it
built as soon as possible. "I would say within the next year -- probably
September," said Bob Miller from the Defense Department.
Montgomery County, North Carolina
Friday, August 30, 2002
Bailey has had lots of thrilling moments in his musical career, singing with or
opening for the likes of Kenny Rogers, Kathy Mattea, the Oak Ridge Boys,
Alabama, Lee Greenwood and more.
someone who grew up listening to his dad’s Limeliter and New Christy Minstrels
albums, getting to sing Glenn Yarbrough’s parts with Limeliters in a Washington,
D.C. concert ranks near the top. But the biggest moment came in September 1997,
when John Denver, “the man who taught me how to sing a song,” invited him on
stage to trade verses to one of Denver’s signature songs, “Thank God I’m a
later, Denver was dead in a plane crash. Tentative plans to do more with his
idol died, along with the granny glassed, tousled blond American music icon.
Bailey, son of Troy residents Morgan and the late Gerri Bailey, has kept up his
ties with Denver’s band members and performed with them in a series of tribute
shows in Colorado and around the country, most often to the benefit of charities
such as the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation, National Dyslexia Foundation, and
4, he’s bringing a few friends, including two of Denver’s close associates, home
for a concert to benefit the Trinity Music Academy Scholarship Fund.
to come and play at home,” Bailey said. “And I love introducing friends I work
with to the people of Troy.” One of those friends is song
writer and musician Bill Danoff. Danoff and then partner Taffy Nivert cowrote
the song that would catapult Denver
to fame in the 1960s, “Take Me Home Country Roads.” Another of the duos’
efforts, “I Guess He’d Rather Be in Colorado,”
was recorded by Denver and became the Colorado theme song.
70s, Danoff was a major part of the Starland Vocal Band, and his song,
“Afternoon Delight,” won two Grammy Awards and a place in the Rock & Roll Hall
appearing in the October show is John Sommers, author of “Thank God I’m a
Country Boy.” Sommers, who also wrote “The River of Love,” said he doesn’t
consider himself a songwriter. “To me a songwriter is someone who’s continually
writing and I’ve never done that. I’ve just been incredibly fortunate with the
ones I’ve written.”
however, is a musician good enough to have played harmonica, fiddle, mandolin,
banjo and guitar with Denver’s
band in its heyday of the 1970s.
Danoff, Sommers has continued to be part of the Colorado and national music and
annual October Denver tribute concerts in Colorado.
coming home with Bailey are several members of The Hard Travelers, with whom he
has played for many years, and top Nashville
bluegrass musician Mark MacGlashan. “John Denver fan or not, it’s going to be a
great evening of music,” Bailey said, including plenty of John Denver material,
but also original music from Bailey and the other performers.
the concert a benefit for music scholarships is typical of Bailey and his
friends. “There has to be a reason to bring people together, and for the
performers it feels good to know we’re doing something for the community. And
they had all met mom, who was a big supporter of the academy,” he said.
lives with his wife and daughter in Maryland.
He was named Best Male Vocalist in the Traditional Folk category in the 1992
Washington Area Music Awards, sung the national anthem numerous times at
Baltimore Orioles and Washington Capitals home games, had his song “High Gear”
featured on NPR’s Car Talk program, and most recently received the 2002
Governor’s Citation for Maryland State Arts Council Individual Artist Award.
composed and performed soundtracks for two PBS specials, and co wrote the theme
for the Johns Hopkins Children’s Miracle Network telethon.
still a full-time musician, working in a variety of ways,” he said. One of the
most fulfilling ways is performing for groups and one on one in nursing homes
and Alzheimer units. From that experience he has recorded When I Dream, a
collection of songs he’s shared with patients. “I’ve got a church gig a couple
days a week, and the busy concert season is coming up,” he said. He also works
with school students on songwriting.
what I do, and I love to come and play at home,” he said.
those looking forward to Bailey and friends is musician and long time member of
the local music scene Jim Callicutt. He calls Bailey “a super entertainer,
that’s all there is to it. He’s very accomplished. It’s hard for me to
understand why someone that good hasn’t made it bigger. There’s lots with no
more talent and ability making millions.”
Connelly, acting president of the TMA board, promises “a wonderful show. Mack
and the band are very professional, and bring a lot of credentials.”
for the October 4 concert are $12 for adults and $6 for students (18 and under).
They are available by calling Marie Andrews at Trinity United Methodist Church,
Bailey and Friends in Concert
Trinity Music Academy Scholarships
Friday, October 4
Montgomery High School Auditorium
Montgomery County, North Carolina
Wednesday, March 8, 2000
For singer, songwriter Mack Bailey, the show’s the thing, giving his audience
their money’s worth
How do you make a folksinger a millionaire? Give him $2 million.
Mack Bailey says he believes and understands this old joke popular amongst folk
musicians. Fortunately, the talented Bailey doesn't yearn to be a
millionaire. "I don't need to be a superstar," he says. "I'd just like to make
enough for myself, my family (wife Lauren and daughter Caroline) and our
future." He hasn't quite reached that point yet, describing himself as a "full
part-time musician," but he's moving in that direction.
Mack grew up listening to all kinds of music in the Troy home of his parents
Morgan and Gerri Bailey. "There was a great respect for music in our home," he
says. Mixed in with the classical and church music albums was the music of
various folk groups. Mack was strongly influenced by The Limeliters' album "Folk
Revival'' and the New Christy Minstrels' "Land of Giants."
“There was something about the way their voices worked that touched me," he
says. “That's how I learned to sing. I like folk music because it expresses
more, it can touch people socially, environmentally." With modern pop and rock
music, he believes listeners may find themselves bobbing their heads in time to
the music, "but they don't necessarily come away with something" as they do with
Mack began training for his career as a professional musician way back in third
grade. After moving to Troy with his family, he first took piano lessons with
Ms. Blanche Bruton. When it came time for music lessons in public elementary
school, he studied trumpet and baritone horn. The guitar, more appropriate for
his chosen genre of folk music, he picked up when his older brother Trip tried
it and decided he didn't really like it. Later, Mack taught himself banjo.
He never minded the hours of practice to master his instrument. "I felt drawn to
play and practice guitar, for hours on end," he says. "It didn't matter if I was
extremely happy, mad, sad or down, I wanted to pick my guitar. I could play the
same song for hours, but it was something different every time, different finger
picking styles, always something new, creative. I just couldn't get enough of
it. Even now, I'm always wanting to make it better. I don't want people to get
tired and feel like, oh, we've heard that."
He sang in church and school choirs through middle and early high school at West
Montgomery, but his first formal voice training came during three summer music
camps at what was then Pfeiffer College.
As part of the local band, The Ivory Images, he played pop songs of the mid 70s
for a few dances at West Montgomery. But he knew from an early age he
wanted to be a professional performer, so he moved in the last two years of high
school to the one place in this area where he could be trained to reach his
goal, the N.C. School of the Arts in Winston-Salem. After high school, he went
on to take a couple years of business courses at UNC Chapel Hill.
"I was still studying music there, was still active in the men's glee club,
doing solo performances and working with the Blue Moon Saloon Band," he says.
He wanted to learn more about music business to help him in his planned career,
but those types of classes weren't part of UNC's offering. He ended up back at
the School of the Arts, from which he graduated at age 23.
After a short stint as a singing waiter at the Mt. Washington Hotel in New
Hampshire, Mack headed back south, at least part way, to Annapolis, Maryland. A
former chef from Mt. Washington offered him a job as bar manager in his
restaurant. "I started playing the bar scene in Annapolis," he says. It was a
busy venue with lots of major jazz performers working in the area. It
wasn't long before a "good deed" led him to the start of a 14-year relationship
that took him touring in Asia and around the United States.
Mack decided to wander over to the Millersville Inn, what he describes as a
"biker type place," to do a couple numbers in a Cystic Fibrosis benefit concert
being put on there. "I was 24 years old, and I saw these four guys in their 40s
on stage, doing old Kingston Trio songs. One guy was from North Carolina and we
got to talking. I asked them to stay and listen to me." And that's how Mack
Bailey started 14 years working with a group called The Hard Travelers.
"I played back up for the group and eventually worked my way up to getting a
microphone," he says. During these years, involved and performing mostly with
the group, though still getting in some solo work, Mack had the opportunity to
meet and perform with every major influence in his musical life. He recalls
singing tenor with The Limeliters once in Washington, D.C. “There I was,
singing Glenn Yarbrough's parts in front of thousands of people. I remember
thinking 'what in the world am I doing here.' I had these childhood dreams of
being that guy, and for one night I was that guy.”
"There's something so special about being on stage with a group like that,
seeing the music being made and realizing you're a part of that picture, that
music. It's an incredible feeling and to do it with those who you grew up
idolizing, . . " and his thought trails off recalling the memory.
For 10 years, Mack participated in the annual Cystic Fibrosis benefits, with The
Hard Travelers performing as the opener for a different big name each year at
the Baltimore Arena. He lists Kenny Rogers, Kathy Mattea, the Oak Ridge Boys,
Alabama, Lee Greenwood, Barbara Mandrell, Emmy Lou Harris, and Glenn Yarbrough.
But the biggest thrill for Mack came Sept. 20, 1997. The date will live in his
That was the night he got to sing with his greatest musical influence, John
Denver. He sets the scene like this. One of Denver's big hits, "Thank God
I'm a Country Boy," was a regular part of every home game for the Baltimore
Orioles. The day of the benefit concert at which Denver was to headline, he
went to the ball game for an appearance. There, Mack got the chance to
"There I was, 37 years old, and just as nervous as I could be. I
introduced myself, 'Hi, I'm Mack Bailey with The Hard Travelers and I just want
to thank you for teaching me how to sing a song.' And he said to me, 'Wait a
minute, didn't you sing 'Potter's Wheel' before I did?' I thought it was great
he'd heard my album."
Later, at the rehearsal for the concert, Mack was called on to sing a few verses
of Denver's "Country Boy" for the sound check. "I sang the verses, he
liked it and suggested we trade verses on the song during the show. When we
finally got to the encore, he sang the first verse, and then said 'Take it,
Bailey's voice drops as he continues his story. "Two weeks later, on 'Good
Morning, America,' I heard the news of the crash." Denver had been killed in
the crash of a light aircraft. "It really put me into a slump for a while,"
Mack says. "It was like every bit of air had been taken out of me. After the
show, we had talked about maybe doing some things together."
What got done, and has been done since then is Mack performing with members of
Denver's band, in several John Denver tribute shows. "I'm grateful to be a part
of the shows, but I don't want people to think I'm capitalizing on John's
death," he says. Nor does he want to be exclusively identified with
Denver, though he names Denver "as the whole major influence on my music and
style during high school and college."
What Mack is looking for is a stronger solo career after the years of
association with The Hard Travelers. He says he's got some good friends who've
given him good advice in Nashville, where his most recent CD, "Through Your
Eyes," was produced. He recalls sitting in the office of one of those contacts
one day, while the man listened to bits and pieces of the over 200 cassettes he
gets every day from hopeful performers.
"I realized then, for every Mack Bailey from Troy, NC, there are hundreds of
thousands of others out there, all trying to do the exact same thing," he says.
The agent at that time gave him this advice, which he's stuck to so far: "Stay
in Annapolis and become so well known there that people who come there looking
for something to do will be told, you've got to go see Mack Bailey. . . Become a
big fish in a little sea."
But now, while still being sensible about not taking on overly expensive
projects, he's still working to get his name out there, to find an agent to
promote his solo career, and to find the right song that could put him over the
He's performed a number of times at The Kennedy Center, composed and performed
sound tracks for two different films shown on Public Broad- casting Service,
written a theme song used in fund raisers for Johns Hopkins Medical Center, done
the John Denver tribute shows, as well as the 10 years of benefits for Cystic
Fibrosis, and taught creative writing to summer campers for the Chesapeake Bay
Foundation. One of his reasons for wanting to succeed has to do with service to
others, perhaps an ideal more closely associated with socially conscious folk
musicians over the years than with any other genre.
"I feel like I could do so much more with my music. Music is a powerful tool to
get people involved in something, to go the extra step. What I want is to be
successful enough to do more of these kinds of things and still be able to
maintain for my family," he says.
Like most musicians, he's had a number of different day jobs to pay the bills
while performing “full-part-time" nights and weekends: landscaping, 1990 census
counting, telemarketing, driving and developing Films for a portable x-ray
company, selling everything from cell phones to food, and for a while running
his own culinary herb business - Herbs and Thyme. "My wife jokes I could have a
good career as a job or career counselor," he quips.
But the music, or perhaps more importantly, the performing, entertaining is what
drives him. "I want to be a good entertainer, not just a good writer or
singer," he says. "If people are paying money, I need 'to make sure they get
their money's worth." He puts a lot of thought into a show or performance and
speaks with intensity about the two way street, the energy between performer and
audience. It's clear that's a big part of what he loves about what he does.
But it's also clear that what he loves can be hard to deal with. "I've felt
frustrated many times. I've asked myself why do I enjoy this, why do I
keep torturing myself."
Throughout his years as a professional, he's been classified as a folk musician,
a genre that while appealing to many isn't as popular as some other styles. "I
don't know how to classify it really," he says. "It's got flavors of country
and popular folk. With this most recent CD, I tried to make it more
contemporary, but the reviews so far still label it as folk. I don't fight it
And having listened to a sampling of Mack Bailey's recorded music, one wonders
why he would fight it. Clear, tuneful and thoughtful, his music is a pleasure
to hear. And local audiences will be getting their chance to enjoy Bailey's
music in Troy soon.
Along with pianist Chris Nole and guitar player Pete Huttlinger from John
Denver's band, and Nashville base player Jeff Cox, Bailey will be performing,
March 21, in a concert to benefit the scholarship fund of Trinity Music Academy.
For more information about the evening show at West Montgomery High School,
call 576-8742. To listen to a sampling of Mack's music, find out about upcoming
performances, or to order CDs or tapes, check out his website, mackbailey.com.
Meanwhile, Mack will continue to work on what he sees as his strength, "to be
able to get in front of people and let them see what I do. I promise to show
them a good time."
Silver Spring man goes
down Denver’s country roads
by Daryl Khan
Special to The
Mack Bailey, 39, grew up in Troy, a speck of a Southern town in the middle of
North Carolina, just south of Greensboro, where the population was 2,500 on a
shopping day. There, in the bedroom of a modest house, young Bailey would shut
his door, pick up his guitar and practice for hours on end, strumming and
finger-picking the same song again and again until he got it right.
Bailey's artist of choice was John Denver. He would listen to Denver albums and
study Denver songbooks, at least any he could get his hands on. But in the
sleepy town of Troy, it was not easy.
"There weren't that many folk groups coming through Troy. In fact, there wasn't
much of anything," Bailey says, reminiscing from his Silver Spring home.
So Bailey relied on his father's record collection. While most of his
schoolmates were busy jamming to the latest Aerosmith hits or other electrically
charged rock bands, Bailey opted for the subdued, melodic songs of folk.
"Rock never really did much for me," Bailey says. "I remember songs, not
Instead, he would listen to his father's old Limeliters and New Christy Minstrel
albums, enthralled with folk "back when it was a four-letter word."
Bailey had taken piano lessons, but not guitar. He taught himself during those
long hours in his room, playing on an acoustic Fender his older brother
discarded. He taught himself by emulating John Denver. It's an influence that
forms much of the playing in his latest solo CD, "Through Your Eyes." He'll
play tracks from the CD Sunday evening at the Frank Allen Philpot House Concert
Denver's influence pervades Bailey's latest effort. The CD features a Denver
song, a lesser-known piece titled "Eagles and Horses" that is one of Bailey's
favorites. Along with Bailey's guitar playing and singing, the CD features the
work of Denver's band and was produced by long-time Denver producer Kris
Even Bailey's three original songs on the CD the title track "Through Your Eyes"
dedicated to his 5-year-old daughter Caroline, the instrumental " Time to Time "
and “Wades Point," a song Bailey wrote for the processional at his wedding - are
infused with the same mix of nostalgia and quiet yearning, of restrained power
and tender harmonies that mark Denver hits like "Sunshine on My Shoulder."
Bailey had a chance to meet the artist who played such a pivotal role in his
musical development at a benefit concert for Cystic Fibrosis, just three weeks
before Denver’s 1997 death in an airplane accident.
The members of Bailey's former band, the Hard Travelers, went with Denver to
Camden Yards to take in a Baltimore Orioles game. During the seventh
inning stretch, when "Thank God ' I'm a Country Boy" piped through the stadium
speakers, Denver climbed on the dugout and started to lip-synch - much to the
Denver, Bailey and the Hard Travelers performed the song in concert the next
day. For Bailey, meeting and performing with his boyhood idol was an
"All of a sudden, he was a real person," Bailey recalls. "He commented that he
liked my style and he wanted to know who I was. It's something I'll never
Bailey continues to pay homage to Denver on a tribute tour along with 14 other
musicians and a vocalist. The tour has gone to Aspen, Los Angeles and Fairfax.
Bailey will join the tour for two weeks in Europe in the spring.
Meanwhile, Bailey wants to concentrate on getting an agent, promoting the new CD
and looking for opportunities to perform as much as possible.
"I'm really proud of "Through Your Eyes,' " Bailey says. "To me it's one of the
most accurate portrayals I have of my music. I hear the singing on it and the
choice of songs and I feel that it is really representative of me as a
And by recording with Denver's band, he feels he completed a circle he started
drawing decades ago in his boyhood home in Troy, when he muttered the words and
played the notes that would send Bailey off on his own musical career.
"Now I get to do something just as amazing, I get to pay homage to him by
playing with his band," Bailey says. "What I hear through the monitor is what
John would hear. It's an incredible opportunity to hear the sounds that he was
Wednesday, February 16, 2000
Community Forum (Letters to the Editor)
John Denver’s spirit lives on
want to express my deep appreciation to The Gazette for printing the article
entitled, “Silver Spring man goes down Denver’s country roads” by Daryl Khan
that appeared in the Feb. 2 issue.
Mack Bailey is an incredible talent . . . one that we discovered during the
benefit concert for Cystic Fibrosis Sept. 20, 1997, at the Baltimore Arena.
His clear tenor voice and guitar capabilities are unmistakable which makes his
CD “Through Your Eyes” one of the most beautiful I’ve ever heard.
Mr. Bailey is a true reflection of the man who is his inspiration. He has
graciously given his time and talent in support of many charitable
organizations, supported / founded by John Denver as well as those that reflect
his own passion. He will once again be participating in A Musical Tribute
to John Denver in October in Aspen, Colorado . . . Denver’s home.
Mr. Bailey’s talent certainly equals that of the man who inspired him. We
all look forward to the day when we can all say “we knew him when he was just a
Mary Ledford, Montgomery Village (Eagleshorses Productions)
The following is
F Philpot (FPhilpot@aol.com)
Tue, 21 Apr 1998 17:22:01 -0400 (EDT)
I first heard Mack
Bailey 10 or 12 years ago when he opened for Glenn Yarbrough at the Birchmere
outside Washington, DC. I don't remember the songs he did that night, but I
loved his voice from the moment I heard it and I determined to find some more
chances to hear him.
That hasn't always been easy. Mack has been lead vocalist with The Hard
Travelers for the last 10 years and has played many local dates, but he
hasn't done a great deal of solo work. When I thought about starting a house
concert series a year and a half ago, Mack was one of the first people I
thought of inviting. Frankly I was tired of driving 40 to 50 miles to attend
his occasional solo show and I thought maybe I could lure him into
performing in my living room.
He did a very well received show last spring and returned for a repeat
Sunday night. We had a full house and it was a great evening.
There are two things that I especially like about Mack: He has an absolutely
gorgeous tenor voice and he knows how to combine songs to do a great
program. Sunday night he did many of his own songs, "High Gear,"
"Through Your Eyes," (among others) along with some songs written by
friends, "Rock Me Grandpa," "Virginia When It Rains," "The Coast Is Clear"
(Tim Malchak), "Eagles and Horses" (John Denver and Joe Henry.)
Mack brought his wife, Lauren, and beautiful four-year-old daughter,
Caroline, to the show and he said he made a decision when Caroline was born
not to tour so he could be home with her. It's a decision I understand, but
Mack is one great performer and maybe when Caroline is a bit older she'll
understand if her dad is gone every once in a while.
If he performs in your area, he's not to be missed.
Frank Allen Philpot
Bethesda Acoustic House Concerts
Mack is mentioned in this
Palisades Café Friendly to Folk
The Washington Post
Weekend, Friday, April 10, 1992
THE COFFEEHOUSE revival has become so widespread that a new division has begun
to take shape in between the amateur/local and national circuit leagues—a sort
of semi-pro venue, with an established regional-draw act serving as host and
The Washington area is already plentifully supplied with good "minor-league"
coffeehouses, hosted by popular local artists and lending exposure to talented
beginners. The long-running Hard Travelers & Friends shows at the King of France
Tavern in Annapolis and now Bill Danoff's new Sunday showcase at the Palisades
Cafe on MacArthur Boulevard NW are just one step more prepossessing; but in the
case of Fat City/Starland Vocal Band veteran Danoff, it's particularly
comfortable — more like a busman's holiday than a concert. These Triple A clubs
have some advantages over general acoustic "listening rooms," since a well-known
performer can develop a pool of frequent if not regular patrons—thus ensuring
bottom-line security and a friendly, semi-participatory atmosphere—and serve as
a guarantee of quality control. (In fact, Mack Bailey has cut his Thursday night
jams at King of France from weekly to monthly in part to maintain a high level;
this week's show co-stars Pete Kennedy; call 301/263-2641.)
Particularly for those audiences who don't follow the circuit closely enough to
be familiar with guests' names, and who have limited enthusiasm for watching
inexperienced performers learn the ropes, the semi-pro showcases are better
musical bets than open mikes (which, to continue the baseball analogy, are where
mediocre musicians get peeled of dreams).
Also, while many Washington restaurants have a laissez-faire attitude toward
performers that bends to an exuberant clientele, the coffeehouses involve at
least some collaboration between club owner and entertainer, so the service and
the music tend to coexist on a more friendly basis.
The community atmosphere of the Palisades Cafe is no accident, nor is Danoff's
being so at home there an affectation. The cafe really is his neighborhood
restaurant; he and his wife Joan held their wedding reception there, and Joan,
who is general manager of the Occidental Grill, tends to fall into habitual host
mode, shuffling chairs and friends around the dining room (a neat trick, since
it's not large— 10 or 12 tables).
The cafe itself is quite pretty, with a front dining room that looks like one of
those great-homes foyers done up as an Italian piazza—half columns, hanging (but
not accessorizing) greenery and lots of windows—and a pleasantly understated
main room in a warm neutral mode. Being up a flight of steps from the boulevard
improves the view and the exhaust level, so the veranda view is fairly pleasant.
The food is not haute, nor particularly hot, but it is hearty without being
heavy. The menu is a mix of Greek, Italian and basic restaurant cuisine:
kebabs, taramasalata, gyros, grape leaves, moussaka; veal piccata, pastas (egg
noodles, in some cases) with seafood, alfredo or pesto; and mixed grills, roast,
charbroiled or Dijon chicken, blackened redfish (which has risen to requisite
status), calf's liver and shrimp—plus burgers, clubs, fried zukes, buffalo
wings, quiche and a kid's menu.
The wine list is short but suitable; the actual bar is a homey one with a few
stools and a pleasant outlook. The major drawback is that the back room where
the performers set up is a smoking area; it also opens onto a food prep area, so
that the bell to announce finished dishes sometimes provides unexpected
Danoff's shows have been such friendly affairs that one night it seemed at least
half the crowd (including the owners of a Rockville club) was in the music
business one way or another. By the end of the evening he had a mini-hootenanny
going, with songwriters Doris Justis and Carey Creed, Mack Bailey (the
"official" special guest), steel guitar star Danny Pendleton and Hard Traveler
Kenn Roberts all crowded around the mikes singing "Country Roads."
Danoff's own self-deprecating humor is part of the fun; he admits to harboring
more affection for the songs that have made him money—"Roads," "Afternoon
Delight" and "Potter's Wheel"—and dropping them into the shows allows fans with
even the most limited radio knowledge of Danoff's career to hook in. (Other
grades of familiarity include those who know Danoff as co-author with Emmylou
Harris of the first cut off her first album, "Boulder to Birmingham"; and those
who know the words to everything he sings, and sing along.)
The acoustics are surprisingly good for a stucco shoebox (thanks to the
soundman), but to be frank, that's less important than the kitchen-table
atmosphere. This Sunday, Danoff's guests are Alaska's JoAnn & Monty; the
Keating Five are booked for April 19 and Kerrville Festival winner Steve Key for
The Palisades Cafe, at 5125 MacArthur Blvd. NW, is open seven days a week; call