John SaFranko started reading music and playing keyboards at the age of five and never looked back. He performed in numerous rock bands throughout grammar school and high school and started writing his own songs at the age of sixteen. Though playing in the rock band & lounge lizard scene for a few more years he was mentally done with it. By eighteen he was giving performances of exclusively original material.And, 45 years and 23 compact discs later, the writing is still all that matters.
The first kind words came from Mary Martin, then at Warner Brothers. She had been the legendary Albert Grossman's secretary, and had turned Bob Dylan on to The Band, a group from her native Toronto. She worked with everyone from Lightfoot to Van Morrison, and later discovered K.D.Lang. She sent John a couple of letters- she saw potential. He was eighteen.
John next fronted an all-original band, other than, of course, a few Hank Williams covers performed like a musician from Central Jersey.The band was The Cat & Bagpipes, which also included brother Mark, who went on to become a novelist with a following largely based in France- Mark dedicated three novels to brother John over the years,and their paths still cross artistically.The band caught the ear of Don McLean's manager at the time,as well as the executive producer of Janis Ian.Unfortunately they disbanded shortly after.
Solo now, for a long time. Signed a record deal with a new label in Manhattan, a company who did The O'Jays live shows.Three artists on their roster,one long forgotten, one John SaFranko, and a sixteen year old hip-hop artist named LLCoolJ. The producer/president of the label passed away from that killer virus going around NYC in the 80's,and the mastered recordings were never released. The label died a quick death as well.
Then came the abyss, the toiling in the underground. Writing,recording,writing,recording.Solo performances, life, and more writing.A couple of vinyl releases,then the digital world appeared. John started performing actively again on acoustic guitar and piano, aided by a female backup singer. Eventually the backup moved away, and a seven year solo Borders Cafe tour took place from Delaware to New York State. A great venue,since,taking place in a bookstore, strongly implied the audience read books. In the middle of the backup leaving and the Borders tour starting, John ran an ad in a suburban Philadelphia paper,"The Musicians' Grapevine" for another backup singer.One of the singers who responded was a sixteen year old Pink,going by that moniker even then.Because of the large age difference, and in spite of her being such a pleasantly driven applicant,John declined to audition her. A few years later he read about her in Rolling Stone, and occasionally catches a performance on the Grammys. Also sees her on the Forbes list of powerful women.
The first compact disc arrived in 1991,"Flowers In A Run-Down Neighborhood",a strongly autobiographical piece. It featured two tracks produced in Los Angeles by the legendary Emitt Rhodes, featuring Cliff Hugo (Supertramp) on one track.And,of course, the legendary Hirth Martinez on guitar on two tracks.Hirth had been discovered by Bob Dylan and his albums were produced by The Band's Robbie Robertson and John Simon as well. The disc also contained "African Violet", a song that became the theme song for the North American African Violet Society. The next CD, "Dim-Lit Rooms" , was the last full-length CD John recorded in another studio.It contained three instrumental tracks that were incidental pieces for brother Mark's one-act plays , "Chambers Of The Heart", which had a successful run at New York's Samuel Beckett Theatre. John's instrumental, "Prisoner Of The Moon", was the theme song for Mark's play "The Bitch Goddess", which went on to win New York's one-act play festival,and has since been performed from Florida to Ireland.The original cast included Teddy Colucca, an indie-film and Law and Order regular. A four-song EP appeared in 1998,"Haunted",which contained the first version of the title track.Tailored for brother Mark's movie script "Something In The Water", the indie film was never completed. The song surfaced again in 2017 in a movie trailer,and received 70,000 plays on YouTube. Another instrumental from the "Dim-Lit Rooms" CD, "The Final Years Of Louise Brooks" was used in the BBC series 'The Fat Man'.
In 2000,John became totally independent, recording everything up to the present in his August Moon Recording Studio.He had been playing most of the instruments himself up to this point, now it was strictly a one-man band. The first release was an instrumental album, "Music for An Empty Afternoon", European in flavor, followed by a Southwestern-flavored old time-meets-digital sound,"The Spirit of Black Hawk Road". Upon hearing the CD, Hirth Martinez issued a quote-" It went straight to my heart, I think it's beautiful".
The next several years were unwavering- write,record,release,write, record,release. At one point, in 2012, he recorded a CD of ten Rod McKuen songs for his own enjoyment, and, after its' success, recorded another two volumes.At one point all three were in Amazon's top ten best -selling albums in the easy-listening category.The late,great Mr. McKuen even got in touch to thank him. They have now sold in forty countries. His version of McKuen's "Jean" is a staple of BBC radio.
John also recorded some interesting and diverse artists in his studio, one performer being nominated for a couple of Grammy awards.In 2015,he encountered a female vocalist fronting a hard rock band recording an album in his studio.The singer, Yvonne,learned and interpreted one of his songs, "No Fake Blues", and they have been doing recordings and live performances ever since. She has now recorded two full-length CDs of John's songs, the afore-mentioned "No Fake Blues" and the brand new "Love Notes".
John has a 2018 release out, "Lucky Hat", his 23RD CD, not counting compilations. John's entire CD catalogue is available on CDBABY, ITUNES,AMAZON,etc. Both of Yvonne's CDS are available on all of the online stores as well. A 2019 release, "Acousticretrolectric", featuring 2 versions of "Way Beyond The Moon" was recently released as well.
And they will be coming to a town near you.