Folk & Roots-Rock Styles In Today’s World
Johnny Harper

This unusual workshop – part performance, part music history lecture, part sing-along! – should be of particular interest to songwriters... also to all performers of tradition-rooted styles (blues, folk songs, old-timey/ bluegrass/ country, rock & roll, soul, etc.)... to anyone interested in the history and evolution of these styles... and to all singers who care about “songs that make a difference.”

Young songwriters and performers are particularly encouraged to attend!

Although this is definitely not a guitar workshop as such, guitarists who attend will also find much of interest! – in Johnny Harper’s command of, and approach to, the guitar in the styles he covers.

In this workshop, Johnny makes a compelling case for in-depth study and learning of traditional folk-roots styles, as a basis for writing powerful songs which address the complexities of today’s world. He will discuss and document the deep traditional roots which Bob Dylan had absorbed and mastered before he made his world-changing songwriting breakthroughs of 1962 – breakthroughs which forever changed the horizons and the role of popular music. Also discussed will be the way Woody Guthrie (Dylan’s original songwriting hero and role model) made a similar use of his traditional sources... and the ways in which ’60s-’70s musical giants like the Beatles, The Band, Curtis Mayfield, Johnny Cash, Jimi Hendrix, and many more, absorbed Dylan’s influence while also drawing on their own roots in older musical styles. Fascinating handouts on Dylan’s sources and related musical topics will be available to those who attend.

Johnny will extend this theme up to the present date, in examining recent songwriting by Bruce Springsteen, local “living legend” Barbara Dane (who performs with Johnny on this year’s Festival and will likely make an appearance in this workshop), and Johnny himself – showing how all these artists use traditional musical and lyrical themes in creating powerful new songs dealing with our lives today.

Johnny’s performance style emphasizes involving the audience, and there certainly will be fun, uplifting sing-along opportunities in the songs presented! Come expecting to learn – and to have fun!

Johnny Harper has been a respected performer and bandleader (Hot Links, Johnny Harper & Carnival, Alternate Roots, more) in the Bay Area since the early ’80s. He has toured as lead guitarist with Maria Muldaur’s band, has worked for 12 years as guitarist with the great Barbara Dane, and has performed and recorded with such well-known artists as Katie Webster, Kathy Kallick, Ernie K-Doe, Charlie Musselwhite, Michael Doucet, Bobby Black, Laurie Lewis, Queen Ida, and many more. He has produced numerous albums by independent artists. He is also well known as a guitar teacher and as a music historian – he co-founded the great record store Down Home Music, did roots music programs on KPFA for many years, has written important articles on blues musicians, and in this workshop draws on his research for a forthcoming book on the evolution of American folk/roots styles.

See more information at You can also contact Johnny with questions at, or at 510-710-5969.