Jonathan Byrd – vocals, acoustic guitar

photo by Lisa Macintosh

“Well traveled rugged rail rider of the south land”- Matty McKechnie from Ears To The Ground

“One of the top 50 songwriters of the last 50 years,” says Rich Warren of WFMT in the Chicago Tribune.

Scott Alarik of the Boston Globe says, “This rootsy North Carolinian may be the most buzzed-about new songwriter in folkdom. He displays John Prine’s gift for stark little songs that tell big, complex stories, Guy Clark’s lean melodicism, Lyle Lovett’s wry mischief, and Bill Morrissey’s knack for the revealing image.” Byrd grew up singing in the Southern Baptist church, where his father preached and his mother played piano. After four years in the Navy, he returned to home to play in rock bands. It was at an old-time fiddle festival in the mountains of southwest Virginia where his writing began to change. Assimilating the sounds of southern traditional music, Byrd wrote new songs in an ancient style. After 10 years as a full-time touring songwriter and 7 acclaimed albums, it seems this native of Cackalacky is getting the attention he deserves.

Johnny Waken – electric guitar, mandolin, saw, harmonica, washboard, banjo, harmony vocals

photo by Lisa Macintosh

“He’s got more rock ‘n’ roll in his mustache than most major cities. He’s made out of wood shavings, bear grease, and Russian vacuum tubes.”  -J.Byrd.

  Johnny Waken aka ‘Showtime’ hails from the rolling hills of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. After years of playing blues guitar in the clubs along the east coast, he engineered and co-produced Norman Nardini’s original blues-rock record “This Old Train” in 1991. This led to a tour in Austria, Germany and Switzerland opening for the Blues Brothers in 3,000-seat halls with the likes of Steve Cropper, “Duck” Dunn, Matt “Guitar” Murphy and Eddie Floyd.

Not long afterward though, Waken decidedly quit the business for personal reasons and began to write and record his own songs. He also began to study woodcraft. He taught himself the art of walking long distances carrying very little weight, traditional wooden bow making, hide tanning, friction fire, eating & using wild plants and other outdoor living skills. In 2000 he became known as ‘Dandelion John‘ when he thru hiked the entire Appalachian Trail- carrying only an 11 lb pack.

In 2006 he joined Paperhand Puppet Intervention. Renowned for their beautiful giant puppets, stilters and live music, Paperhand gave Waken an opportunity to help create magic through art and sound. As well as performing as a puppeteer for many years, Waken began to develop into a multi instrumentalist. He wrote and performed many of the award winning songs for the theater troupe.

In 2009 he began to play with the great Jonathan Byrd. Always the consummate side guy and ‘pickup cowboy’, Johnny Waken continues to aspire to colorize and bring the best of his art to Byrd’s amazing songs.

“My best note is the one I don’t play.”

Paul Ford cello 

photo by Lisa Macintosh

“He’s a total professional, a true blue friend, and a badass bottom end – AND he recommends great books…” – Corin Raymond

After graduating high school, bassist Paul Ford played music from 1985 to 1990 with notable NJ artist James Deely, along the Jersey Shore and in the surrounding NYC/Philadelphia Tri-State Area. The band recorded two successful independent albums at E Street bassist Garry Tallent’s studio in Long Branch, NJ. 

 Paul left the Jersey Shore for Pittsburgh, PA in late 1990 to join long time touring artist Norman Nardini, with whom he would record two albums, including the 1991 hit, “This Old Train”. This album yielded two top ten singles in Germany, and led to an opening slot for The Blues Brothers Band on their Red, Hot & Blues tour in 1992. 

 Paul left music in 1993, but returned again in 2001; this time in Chapel Hill, NC with The Community Music Project, an independent collective which helped record and produce unsigned, local artists. 

 In 2006, Paul joined the local theatre troupe, Paperhand Puppet Intervention and worked through 2012 with the group’s band, switching from bass to cello in 2009.  He helped to write the score for nine shows over seven years, winning 4 Indy Awards for best original music along the way. 

 Paul has been playing with his good friend, singer-songwriter Jonathan Byrd since 2009, and is also currently working with his longtime friend, James Deely, on his latest album, A Harder Road. 


2 thoughts on “Personnel

  1. Jonathan, I just got your e-mail earlier in the evening about Paul Ford. When you were at the Bright Box in Winchester, I spoke with Paul Ford. I was shocked and saddened to learn of his cancer. I will be praying for him. I am in Elkton, Virginia now, and in a location with a very unreliable internet connection, but hope to be able to stay informed of Paul’s health.

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