(with and without
others in the John Denver Tribute Band)
20, 1997, just weeks prior to John's death, Mack had the rare privilege of
singing with John Denver in the finale of one of his last concerts. John was
a huge influence on Mack's musical upbringing, as he learned to play the
guitar using John's songs. Further, he credits John with
"teaching me how to sing a song." Now, Mack has been
included in the elite musical cast comprising John's former band mates
and musical partners, in paying tribute to him though concerts around the
country and in Europe.
Mack draws on these friends to tailor a John Denver tribute
to the needs of concert producers or venues. Contact Mack to
inquire about a John Denver tribute concert.
John Denver's 60th Birthday New Year's Eve Celebration (CD)
Recorded on location in Scottsdale, Arizona on 12/31/03 at the Casa.
A live concert celebration of John Denver and his legendary music
performed by friends and former band members of John's.
Included are Mack Bailey, Molly Weaver, Jim
Salestrom, Chris Nole, Jim Horn, Pete Huttlinger and Mike Ziffer.
following is a transcript of Mack reminiscing about his experiences with
I literally learned to play the guitar learning John’s
songs. I was never a fan in the sense of learning all about him, or anything
like that, but I just learned all his music. And I really respected him as
somebody that I could learn from. I spent a lot of time trying to have the
opportunity to meet him.
There was one time in New Hampshire I was working at a
resort hotel and he came to do a concert up there, which was kind of
surprising. It was a small place, with the concert on one tennis court and they
had a stage set up. So you can imagine that’s just how many people were there.
And I had gotten really good seats and I had put together a package – a cassette
tape of some of my songs and a letter. It was a great show and he had just
started working with James Burton and those guys and at one point, he started
introducing everybody on stage and he mentions Barney Wyckoff, who’s his stage
manager at the time. So, as soon as the show was over, I ran up to the limo
behind the stage and I opened the door, and I threw my package in and said,
“Barney said ‘make sure John gets this.’” And then I shut the door and I ran.
Sure enough, a couple of weeks later, I get this little
note from “John Denver Music” and it said, “we listened to your tape and didn’t
find anything we could use and don’t ever do that again.” So that was pretty
But then, on September 20, 1997, that changed. A group I
work with, The Hard Travelers, does benefit concerts for Cystic Fibrosis every
year, and we are the opening act to big-named country stars. For the 10th
anniversary, we were able to get John. We had talked to John and we’d tried
many times to put the show together but it just never worked with his schedule,
but this was going to work. So, at the 7th inning stretch of every
Baltimore Orioles baseball game, they play “Thank God I’m a Country Boy.”
So that day began with us going to the Baltimore Orioles
game and we were in the Governor’s box and this was going to be the first time
that I met John. So, I walked in and saw him standing over there and I was
really nervous. BUT, I knew one thing for certain and it was kind of
comforting. I knew, without a doubt, that I was going to say something very
stupid. I just wasn’t sure what it was going to be. So, with that confidence,
I decided what I would do is turn the tables to my advantage. I waited until he
took a bite of something and then walked up and said, “John, my name is Mack
Bailey, and I just wanted to thank you for teaching me how to sing a song. And
I’ll be in the band tonight.” And I turned around to walk away.
He said, “Wait a minute. Mack Bailey. Didn’t you record
“Potter’s Wheel” before I did?” And swelling with pride, I said, “Why, yes. I
did.” And, so we talked for a little bit and it was really very cool. And
then he went down for the 7th inning stretch and mouthed the words to
“Thank God I’m a Country Boy.”
Then, we went on up to sound check. We had asked him if
he would sing, “Thank God I’m a Country Boy” because we have a great fiddler in
our band, and he agreed. So, we get to sound-check and he said, “I’m going to
save my voice for later on.” He looked at one of the guys in our band and said,
“Kenn, you sing the verses during sound-check and I’ll do them during the
show.” Kenn said, “I don’t know them, but Mack does.” So, he said, “OK,
Mack. You do them for sound-check and I’ll do them in the show.”
I was thinking, “you know what? I could care less if this
show’s tonight or not. This is what it’s all about. This is like my full
circle - right here.” So, I sang my butt off during sound-check and when it was
over, he came over and said to me, “You know, why don’t you and I just trade
verses on this thing.” So, during the show, we actually traded verses and it
was quite a thrill.
And then, of course, two weeks later, we get hit with the
tragic news. So, now we get some of his former band members together and we do
a tribute show in Aspen every year. It’s a wonderful emotional tribute. It’s
not sappy or schmaltzy at all; it’s just a nice tribute by his friends and
people who had a chance to make some music with him. And it’s so touching that
people come from all over the world and there were a lot of tributes. It’s a
great weekend tribute to a wonderful man.
This page was updated:
Friday, January 17, 2014 12:49:45 PM