When the Berliner Morgenpost, one of Germany‘s major newspapers, chose John Vaughan‘s Postcards From The Road CD as its coveted album Pick Of The Week it was because they recognized that it was much more than another recording by a singer/songwriter with a guitar. Working together with the gifted Sri Lanken producer/musician Ramesh Weeratunga, John Vaughan created something truly fresh, a blend of natural contemporary acoustic folk/rock and progressive world music. While taking advantage of up-to-the-minute computer and studio technology the songs still never lost their comfortable familiarity for fans of both western melodic songwriting and more exotic tech/world styles.
It is no coincidence John Vaughan titled his CD, Postcards From The Road. Born the son of a U.S. Army officer from Philadelphia and a mother from New York City in 1951, John has virtually spent his entire life `on the road´. By the time Elvis Presley released Love Me Tender in 1957, John had lived in Europe, the United States and Asia. He had also crossed the Atlantic Ocean once and the Pacific Ocean twice on troop ships. Along the way his parents introduced him to the music of Frank Sinatra, Errol Garner, Eartha Kitt, and other jazz greats. His musical appreciation widened further when his sister spun Elvis, Everly Brothers and Kingston Trio records. By the time he was in high school he was into The Beatles, Bob Dylan and Donovan and was already playing guitar, singing and writing.
In the summer of 1969 eighteen year old John Vaughan found himself in London, England. "Every time I hear The Boxer by Simon and Garfunkel it’s THAT summer again and I’ve just left home, amazing!". John started playing any small gig he could to pay the rent. Then it was Paris, Amsterdam, Ibiza, Morocco and Spain, where he was contracted to write a song promoting an area of Madrid for the Spanish Tourist Board. After arriving in Munich, Germany he was signed to Warner Brothers Records by producer Michael Kunze, who was also producing the German star Peter Maffay. A cover version of Mr. Bojangles was released as a single. Shortly thereafter he was given the chance to show his skills as an entertainer when he was offered the role of Simon Zelot in the rock musical Jesus Christ Superstar. It was with the show that John first came to Berlin and performed at the world famous Deutschlandhalle in 1972. As part of the cast John recorded the Jesus Christ Superstar LP for Decca Records in Cologne but the tour ended in Berlin and John stayed in town. He would not have left if you had paid him!
Around the world Berlin has always been synonymous with decadent nights, political intrigue, military tensions, sexual permissiveness and strange walks of life. A perfect environment for artists like David Bowie, Iggy Pop … and John Vaughan. The city’s music scene during this vibrant period lived up to Berlin’s famous reputation in everyway. A musician could play more gigs in a year than there were nights …and John did !
Among the artists from all corners of the globe performing in Berlin were a group of American and English singers, songwriters and musicians who became known as the `Hagelbergers´. The name originated from the address where they lived, the legendary Hagelberger Strasse 14, located in the working class district of Kreuzberg. John is one of ist founding members. Many years later, in 1996, the lives, times and music of these young, brash Cold War 1970’s West Berlin musicians were beautifully documented in a CD with accompanying booklet that John and other Hagelbergers recorded and wrote together. Titled Hagelberger Street - Americans In Berlin, the sessions took place in Los Angeles, Toronto and Berlin and were produced by Hagelberger Brother Tom Cunningham.
During the 70’s and early 80’s, John played countless clubs, concerts and festivals throughout Europe. Although mostly solo, he also collaborated with other gifted artists. In the group Tattoo he teamed up with English female vocalist Chris Parsons and Germans Klaus Weiland and Joerg Suckow on guitar and cello, respectively. John also did session guitar work for the group Gebrüder Blattschuss who enjoyed massive success with their song Kreuzberger Nächte Sind Lang. Later, band member, author and show master Jürgen von der Lippe asked him to play guitar on his first solo LP. John also found himself back on the road with another rock musical. This time he had one of the lead roles in Hair playing Claude.
This period also marked the release of John’s classic debut LP `Somewhere In Europe´. Produced by Hagelberger Jesse Ballard, the record captures the atmosphere of Berlin at the time. To this day at least two of its songs can often be heard performed by other acts throughout Berlin’s music clubs, Sundown Waker, the autobiographical tale of a denizen of the night, and Me And Whiskey, the lament of a repentent man who has come to face his mistakes.
During these years John also returned to England and shared the stage with a number of notible artists, including Elvis Costello, Paul Millns, Wizz Jones, Derroll Adams, Eric Burdon, John Sebastian, Loudon Wainwright III, The Spencer Davis Group, The Golden Earring, Julian Dawson, Johnny and the Drivers and The Yardbirds.
When the acoustic scene slowed down in the late 80s John Vaughan pulled away from peforming and returned to traveling for it’s own sake with his wife Petra. It was from these adventures that John collected the stories, places and characters that would later inhabit the songs of his `Postcards From The Road´album. John and Petra stayed in cool, mysterious hotels, discovered wonderful, strange, beat groove bars, and soaked up lots of weird music. He filled countless notebooks and voice recorder tapes with poetry and song lyrics. Loaded with material, in time he returned to his music.
In June of 2000 John enjoyed a highly successful comeback with the Hagelberger Street, Americans In Berlin reunion concerts. It was a classic extravaganza. Twelve Hagelberger brothers and sisters coming together again to perform ten concerts in eleven days in Berlin, Prague, in the Czech Republic and Krakow, Poland.
John Vaughan is again now fully engaged in creating new music. He performs solo and with his band State Secrets, comprised of fellow Hagelbergers Joe Kucera from Prague (saxophones/flute) and from the great German rock group Karthago, Bolivian Tommy Goldschmidt (percussion). Work has also commenced on his follow-up to Postcards From The Road with the inspired and inventive Ramesh Weeratunga once again sitting in the producer’s chair. It is bound to take some time to complete but it will surely be worth the wait.