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Richard Ellers: Bio

Richard Ellers - Songwriter / Singer / Fingerpicking Guitarist

Ellers grew up in Rome, Holland and Saudi Arabia, and circled the globe twice before moving back to the United States during high school. After picking up the ukulele on a family trip to Hawaii,

Ellers discovered his voice and later landed the lead role in his high school’s production of The Music Man. He grew more serious about the history of American folk music while studying philosophy at the University of Oregon, and began playing acoustic guitar. After graduation, Ellers moved to San Francisco just in time for the “Summer of Love”, but was rarely seen hanging out on Haight Street or at the Filmore. Instead he built a houseboat in Sausalito, wrote songs, and played Open Mic night at the Drinking Gourd on Union Street.

When advised by KSAN-FM underground radio DJ icon Tom Donahue to take a year off to work exclusively on his music, Ellers moved out of the Bay Area into the backwoods of Northern California. In 1971 along with his wife Marcie, he settled into a remote cabin on a small lake outside of Nevada City where they lived without electricity and other distractions.

After a year of solid dedication to his music, Ellers returned to the Bay Area only to discover that his mentor-to-be Donahue had expired from a heart attack, and he retreated once more into the Sierra Nevada foothills. He united with fellow musician Mary Naythons and formed Comfrey, an acoustic band named after the medicinal herb. He began promoting local as well as nationally known folk performers, bringing to the area such acts as Utah Phillips, who moved to Nevada City shortly after and never left.

Even as the popularity of folk music began to decline in the 1980’s, Ellers stuck to his craft and continued to compose songs in his acoustic folk-influenced style, writing some of his most memorable tunes in that decade. He drew inspiration from his role as a father, and began writing music for his children. He worked with notable musicians Terry Riley and Supertramp’s Roger Hodgson. He even found himself involved with some young rabble rousers called Mötley Crüe, who later went on to become superstars, much to his surprise. Throughout the 80’s and 90’s Ellers maintained his dedication to classic acoustic guitar, eschewing electrified instruments in favor of his dusty old Martin.

Ellers enjoyed few musical successes in those decades, as there was little room in the Top 40 for a folkie. One notable exception was the track “American Kid on Arabian Sand,” an anti-war ballad based on his years growing up in Saudi Arabia that received regional airplay and on military stations during the first Gulf War.
Although Ellers has changed his haircut, shaved off the mustache and no longer wears paisley, he still explores and incorporates in his songs the elements of American folk music that captivated his imagination in the 1960’s. His new album, “Love Songs, Ballads and Broadsides,” released this year, features new songs and a few oldies from his repertoire never recorded before. Uniting new and old, a classic folk-inspired sound with contemporary innovations, the album’s original compositions bring Ellers’ artistic goals full circle.
As friend and Pulitzer Prize winning poet Gary Snyder writes about the album:
“[The album] reminds us of the primary ancient role of song and poetry, to speak to love, impermanence, joy and sorrow, and inevitable change.” Gary Snyder

John Girton - Musical Director / Electric Guitar / Clarinet

John Girton was the musical director and recording engineer for “Love Songs, Ballads and Broadsides” which was recorded at his Nugget Studio in Grass Valley, CA. He also played numerous instruments on the album including electric guitar, octophone, bass, clarinet and keyboards.

John Girton is well known throughout the world for his work as lead guitarist with the group "Dan Hicks and the Hot Licks." John recorded 3 albums with the group, and also wrote and arranged material for them. He was also featured as guitarist, saxophonist, clarinetist, and occasional mandolinist with the popular vocalist, Maria Muldaur for many years.

After numerous international tours, John started his own group in the San Francisco area. This group, the "Girtones" played a blend of Jazz, Swing and Blues in Oregon and California, sometimes including singer Maria Muldaur as a member.

John has made several solo tours of England, where he performed in concerts and clubs throughout the country. These days he performs locally and is quite active in the Nevada County Music scene.

He currently performs solo jazz guitar at various venues in the Foothills area of California and has recently released a new CD called "You Are There", which was also produced at John's "Nugget Studios".

John has been playing music professionally for over 20 years as an instrumentalist, vocalist, recording artist, studio musician, and composer. His original songs are a mixture of jazz, swing, blues and folk music, with a bit of humor thrown in for good measure. You can hear some of these tunes on his latest CD, "Greatest Hits"