This project is envisioned as two films:
(1) A documentary feature entitled, “The Ghost of Daydream Believer: John Stewart’s American Spirit” and
(2) A concert film entitled, “Daydream Believer’s 50th Anniversary: John Stewart’s American Spirit Celebration”.
“The Ghost of Daydream Believer” looks at the long shadow the song, “Daydream Believer” cast over singer-songwriter John Stewart’s life and his music and how he ultimately came to terms with not only its monster success, but the demands of the music industry as well.
“Ghost” will take the John Stewart Band and others close to him on a musical bus adventure across America to discover the man they thought they knew by visiting iconic people and places in Stewart’s life such as:
- NASA for a magical friendship and Stewart space music tour [“Armstrong,” “To Ride the Lightning (One More Time)”] with John Glenn;
- Max Kennedy and Maria Shriver at the JFK Library to discuss John and Robert Kennedy and Stewart’s relationship with RFK and Stewart’s performing at whistle stops during the Senator’s 1968 presidential campaign;
- Brandywine River Museum of Art at Chadds Ford, Pennsylvania to meet artist Jamie Wyeth at the Wyeth family of painters’ ancestral home and talk about how the artists inspired several of Stewart’s songs, including, “Daydream Believer;”
- Graceland, Elvis Presley’s famous home for a special performance of the song Stewart wrote for Elvis, “Runaway Fool of Love” on the steps of the home for Presley fans;
- Hotel Del Coronado in San Diego—the city Stewart was born and died in—to meet with Leslie Reynolds (former Kingston Trio mate, Nick Reynolds widow) at Stewart’s favorite hotel; and
- Radio station KDKB FM in Mesa, Arizona to meet with former station personnel, where the late Bill Compton, the station’s popular DJ, made Stewart a household name across the state.
Like John Steinbeck before him in print, John Stewart wrote songs that chronicled America’s people and its cultural history.
Although Steinbeck is associated mostly with pre‑World War II America, Stewart composed songs during its later tumultuous social and economic growth starting with Vietnam and the civil rights movement to the recent corporate greed and social injustices in the new millennium.
A musical career that spanned almost fifty years allowed Stewart to not only record America’s cultural history over a long period of time, but also permitted him to grow as a songwriter and performer as he looked inward for answers he could not find elsewhere.
Stewart initially followed popular American music from the birth of rock-and-roll in the 1950's to the country’s fascination with folk music in the latter part of the decade, but his desire to grow as an artist and performer caused him to follow his muse and emerge as a solo performer in 1969 with a unique style which couldn't quite be categorized.
Was he folk?
Was he country?
Was he pop?
For record companies and radio stations who liked to pigeonhole product to sell to the masses this presented a problem and they rarely gave Stewart the musical platform he so richly deserved.
Although he never became a household name, Stewart’s unique talents allowed him to develop a large cult following around the world that continues to this day.
Legendary performers such as the Mamas and the Papas’ founder, John Phillips, Fleetwood Mac’s Lindsey Buckingham, The Eagles’ Timothy B. Schmit, John Denver, Linda Ronstadt, and Rosanne Cash, who either worked with Stewart and/or recorded his songs, have tremendous admiration for him and his songwriting abilities.
There are few people in the western world today who cannot sing the lyrics to “Daydream Believer” since it was first released by the Monkees in 1967.
The song’s title even holds a place in popular American vernacular and the song has appeared as the score for several television commercials in recent years.
But “Daydream Believer” is just one of six hundred songs in the John Stewart canon.
Other recordings of his songs that charted over the years include “Runaway Train” by Rosanne Cash, “Strange Rivers” by Joan Baez, “Never Goin’ Back (to Nashville)” by the Lovin’ Spoonful, and “Sweet Dreams Will Come” by Nanci Griffith.
Stewart charted with his own recordings of “July You’re a Woman,” “Armstrong,” and “Survivors,” among others, and had hits with his 1979 recordings of “Gold,” “Midnight Wind,” and “Lost Her in the Sun” which featured Lindsey Buckingham and Stevie Nicks from his album, “Bombs Away Dream Babies.”
The lovers, the liars, the heroes, those who look the other way, those who cannot and those who search for themselves on the road—Stewart wrote about all of them as he experienced the American landscape and its people during his travels over the years on Route 66 and with Robert F. Kennedy on his 1968 presidential campaign.
But the one person Stewart drew upon most for material was himself and it was the well he would return to most often, particularly late in life as he looked back at promises delivered and those broken by the American Dream.
Stewart learned to play the only musical instrument that America can call its own, the banjo, by reading a how-to book in the 1950s that the late, great folksinger, Pete Seeger, had written.
In turn, Lindsey Buckingham, learned to play his guitar with banjo licks by listening to John from his collection of Kingston Trio records.
Who knows what musical prodigies Lindsey Buckingham has in turn influenced?
But everyone should know the part John Stewart played in this musical history chain.
There are other reasons so many popular musicians admire Stewart: his love of country and all of its people, his talent as a performer, and his playful sense of humor, usually a pithy quip or knowing remark from the stage, which said so much about the man and aroused gales of laughter from audiences.
In addition to his songwriting and performing skills, Stewart was also a painter, a sketch artist, a writer, a record producer, arranger and recording engineer.
He even acquired dental skills demanded by ongoing problems with his teeth and the high cost of dentistry and offered to fix those of others close to him, but had few takers.
John Stewart’s songwriting and performing talents demand that his legacy not only be remembered by those who experienced him firsthand, but introduced to those who never knew the man or his music to find their common humanity in his songs and pass them on to future generations.
This project requires either one executive producer who can finance a substantial portion or the entire project or a few executive producers who can make a substantial donations to launch this project.
The likely candidates are wealthy baby boomers who were/are John Stewart fans and most likely lived in Arizona during the 1970s where his popularity was concentrated.
They may well have attended his historic “Phoenix Concerts” album recording at Phoenix Symphony Hall in March 1974.
The anticipated concert film celebrating Mr. Stewart’s music is envisioned to be recorded at the same venue not only as a 50th anniversary celebration of “Daydream Believer,” but also the 40th anniversary of the “Phoenix Concerts” recording at the Hall.
If you are interested in supporting this project or know someone who might, please contact Producer at the following:
TV Man Productions
2425 3rd Street #L
Santa Monica, CA 90404
The film will incorporate interviews with Stewart’s widow, singer Buffy Ford and the John Stewart Band members including Chuck McDermott, Dave Batti, Dennis Kenmore, and Dave Crosland, musicians and friends Chip Douglas, Bill Mumy, Tom DeLisle and rock photographer/musician Henry Diltz; performance clips of the band with these special friends performing Stewart’s songs on the bus, at stops along the way outdoors along Route 66 and other iconic locations and indoors at clubs he frequented; and interviews conducted during production of both films with other celebrity musicians Stewart worked with, family members, and friends.
Producer suggests that Moo Studios in Los Angeles work with Director to create a unique visual effects design for “Ghost,” possibly incorporating postcards from Route 66 locations and original artwork by the Wyeth family and Stewart. Producer suggests shooting the film in 2.35:1 aspect ratio (Cinemascope) to capture the epic American landscapes Stewart loved and allow for multi-screen use (for example, a clip of Stewart singing “Armstrong” on the “Glen Campbell Goodtime Hour” in center of the screen with Neil Armstrong walking on the moon [from archival 35mm color film] on either side with visual design and effects animation by Moo Studios [since both TV clip of Stewart’s performance and film of moon walk were shot in 4:3 aspect ratio they can create a triptych within ‘scope format]; in another sequence for the song, “Clack Clack,” starting with archival photos and footage of Stewart singing on Robert Kennedy’s presidential campaign trail and train in motion on single 4:3 shot in center of screen suddenly enlarging to full cinemascope when strings in recording dramatically begin during stanza, “Dakota sky made us feel like the river, runnin’ free, runnin’ free”).
“Ghost” ends and sets up the beginning of the concert film, a celebrity celebration of more than 50 of Stewart’s best-loved songs at Phoenix Symphony Hall, the site 40 years earlier where he recorded his iconic “Phoenix Concerts” album. Some of the same performers who played with Stewart in ’74 will be asked to perform in the concert film. Celebrity performers who either worked with and/or admired Stewart will be asked to perform at the gala.
1. Peter Asher (produced Stewart’s “Willard” album)
2. Robert Hilburn (former Los Angeles Times music critic who championed Stewart in music reviews for the paper throughout the 1970s/80s)
3. Valerie Venet (husband produced Stewart’s seminal album, “California Bloodlines” and later, “Wingless Angels”)
4. Mary Kay Place (besides a noted character actress for decades of work, recently on “Big Love,” Mary Kay is also a singer and sang backup on several Stewart recordings.
5. Jennifer Warnes (toured with Stewart in the early 1970s before her monster hit-after-hit career took off)
6. Brian Wilson (a Stewart fan)
7. George Yanok (high school friend)
8. Tom DeLisle (#1 John Stewart fan and friend)
9. John Montgomery (high school friend of Stewart and fellow member of The Cumberland Three)
10. Tim Robbins (Tim’s father Gil Robbins, taught Stewart and Montgomery choir, and Robbins was the third member of the Cumberland Three)
11. Ed Begley, Jr. (a Stewart fan)
12. Tom Waits (played the same clubs as Stewart did, some at the same time)
13. Lyle Lovett (friend of Buffy Ford Stewart)
14. Dave Alvin (fan, friend and performer at JSB gigs)
15. Jason Isbell (Stewart fan? Approach for concert film appearance)
16. Ed Sheeran (Stwart fan? Approach for concert film appearance)
17. Lucas Nelson (Willie’s son, a talented musician in his own right with a great voice and visual appeal. A Stewart fan?)
18. John Paul White (formerly of the Civil Wars duo) (Stewart fan? Approach for concert film appearance)
19. Nanci Griffith (had a hit with Stewart’s “Sweet Dreams Will Come”)
20. Joan Baez (had a hit with Stewart’s “Strange Rivers”)
21. Milk Carton Kids (Stewart fans? Approach for concert film performance)
22. Alabama Shakes (Stewart fans? Approach lead singer Brittany Howard and/or group for concert film performance)
23. John Fullbright (Stewart fan? Approach for concert film appearance)
24. Hunter Hayes (Stewart fan? Approach for concert film appearance)
25. Stevie Nicks (who dueted with Stewart on his hits, “Gold” and “Midnight Wind”)
26. Maria Shriver (friends with both Stewart and Chuck McDermott, she introduced the two men who became lifelong friends and musical partners)
27. Bob Shane (former Kingston Trio member)
28. Annie Martell Denver (John Denver’s first wife)
29. Michelle Phillips (John Phillips widow)
30. Bergen White (Elvis Presely’s—and John Stewart’s arranger for his album, “Canons in the Rain;” suggest White write orchestral arrangements of Stewart songs for both films—score for documentary; live performances in documentary; live staged performances for concert film)
31. Tom Smothers (fan)
32. Clint Eastwood (fan)
33. Bill Murray (fan)
34. Richard Dreyfuss (fan)
35. Timothy B. Schmit (The Eagles) (fan) Tim played at Stewart’s memorial concert in Malibu and would likely join other celebrity musicians for any concert film.
36. Sean Cooper (Cal State University East Bay 2008 graduate who sang Stewart’s “Walk on the Moon” for his senior recital; video appears on YouTube).
37. Mickey Dolenz (of the Monkees and Stewart friend)
38. Chip Douglas (former Turtles’ bassist who produced Monkee’s recording of “Daydream Believer,” Stewart’s “Armstrong” and friend [approach for interview/performance only if he is not part of bus tour]; Douglas was also considered to replace Dave Guard in Kingston Trio, but eclipsed by Stewart’s selection.
39. Judy Collins (reportedly dated Stewart early in their careers)
40. Elaine “Spanky” McFarlane, formerly of the group, Spanky and Our Gang (which turned down “Daydream Believer” before the Monkees got a hold of it. Does she regret it?)
41. James Taylor (played on “Willard”)
42. Carole King (played on “Willard”—has a home in Sun Valley, Idaho near my sister)
43. Tina Nichols Coury (widow of RSO Records executive Al Coury, who signed Stewart to his last major label contract which produced three hit singles off the first album)
44. Amy, Mikael, Jeremy and Luke Stewart—John’s children. (Mikael Stewart is VP of Special Events for Audiotek such as the American Music Awards)
45. Leslie Reynolds (widow of Kingston Trio member Nick Reynolds and close friends with John and Buffy. Since Leslie and Nick were friends with John and Buffy for over 50 years she can share a great deal regarding Stewart’s career from the Kingston Trio up to the end of his life. She is listed here for a one-on-one interview with director if she is not up to nor wants to meet with group at Hotel del Coronado above)
46. Tom Waits (played the same club circuit as Stewart and referred to by name in one of Stewart’s songs)
47. Rosanne Cash (close Stewart friend who recorded and had a hit record of his song, “Runaway Train”)
48. Johnny Depp (fan of “Daydream Believer”) (host for concert film?)
49. Patti Smith (fan of “Daydream Believer”)
50. Lindsey Buckingham (he learned to play his guitar with banjo licks from listening to John on Kingston Trio records; later, he co-produced, played and sang on several Stewart recordings from the late 1970s/early 80s including “Gold” and “Runaway Fool of Love”.
51. Linda Ronstadt (she played the same small clubs in Los Angeles at the same time Stewart did early in their careers. She sang backup on a few of Stewart’s 1980s recordings, notably the beautiful high harmony on “Queen of Hollywood High.”)
52. Bill Mumy (the former child actor’s music career started just after he finished“Lost in Space”; he played on Stewart’s critically acclaimed “Willard” album in 1970. He recently played with Buffy at McCabe’s in Santa Monica; if he is not part of the bus tour, he should be interviewed at McCabe’s)
53. Henry Diltz (noted rock music photographer and musician photographed Stewart over decades (as well as most of rock’s royalty) and played on many Stewart albums and at many of his gigs; he recently took to the McCabe’s stage with Buffy and Bill Mumy)
54. John Andrew Tartaglia (arranged orchestra for Stewart albums, “Signals Through the Glass” and “Willard”)
55. Jimmie Haskell (arranged orchestra for Stewart albums, “Sunstorm” and “The Lonesome Picker Rides Again;” many of the song arrangements on these albums are beautiful, but Stewart rarely sung these songs in live performances. He once said the albums were made during a bad time in his life. What happened? Maybe Haskell knows.)
56. Phil Everly (knew Stewart because of their long history in the music industry only recorded once with him on the “Dream Babies Go Hollywood” album)
57. Studio/Band Musicians: Arnie Moore (“Phoenix”), Bryan Garofalo, Russ Kunkel, Chris Darrow, Buddy Emmons, Glen D. Hardin, Loren Newkirk (“Phoenix”), Ralph Schukett, James Burton, Dan Dugmore (“Phoenix”), Waddy Wachtel, Ron Tutt, Mike Settle (“Phoenix”), Jon Douglas, Denny Brooks (“Phoenix”), Chris Whelan, Joey Harris, Kenneth Buttrey (“Bloodlines”), Norbert Putnam (“Bloodlines”), Charlie McCoy (“Bloodlines”), Lloyd Green (“Bloodlines”), Hargus “Pig” Robbins (“Bloodlines”), and Joey Carbone.