Monday, July 11, 2011

Get well, Jesse Winchester!

My thoughts and best wishes are with my friend of 40+ years Jesse Winchester as he battles cancer of the esophagus.

Jesse has cancelled his concert schedule while he undergoes treatment for the rest of the year.

Jesse is one of the great singer-songwriters of our time and there was a significant period of time when we on the Montreal folk scene had him almost to ourselves.

Three quick anecdotes:

Jesse played often at the Golem, the Montreal folk club I ran in the 1970s and ‘80s. I took over the club at the end of May 1974 and Jesse’s first gig there was at the beginning of August. This was right about the time that his third LP, Learn to Love It, came out and all three nights were sold-out. Jesse, in those days, was not able to perform in the U.S. but was already attracting a lot of attention for his songwriting. A reporter from Rolling Stone magazine showed up and covered the gig as part of a story about Jesse. I believe it was the first time that Rolling Stone had ever covered a Montreal story.

In November 1975, I was a backstage guest of Ramblin’ Jack Elliott (another Golem performer) at the Rolling Thunder Revue's first Toronto concert. During the concert, Joan Baez dedicated a song to Jesse (Dave Loggins’ “Please Come to Boston” which has a line, “I’m the number one fan of the man from Tennessee”). I met Joan for the first time at the Rolling Thunder party after the show. When I mentioned that Jesse was a friend, Joan spent about half an hour grilling me about him.

In 1999, when Jesse released his first new album in 10 years, I was honoured that he chose to debut the album as a guest on the Folk Roots/Folk Branches radio show.

I know that I speak for all his friends and fans in wishing Jesse a speedy recovery.

--Mike Regenstreif


  1. Of course, Joan Baez did "Brand New Tennessee Waltz" on "Blessed Are", which is about to turn forty any day now.

    In that context, the song sounds like a reference to his coming to Canada because of the draft. It's not overtly political, just a subtlety that may not actually be there, but like with "Yankee Lady", the fact that he was in Canada and not the US (and couldn't cross the line) did seem to fuel the songs.

    Or maybe I read too much in it, "Blessed Are" is a political album, complete with one of her songs about David Harris who was either still in prison or just out for opposing the war.


  2. We're big fans of Jesse at Roots Music Canada. He gave us a thoughtful and revealing interview a year ago, and we gave him a Canadian flag.

    We hope he gets better really soon!

  3. What a gentelman, I"ve met him twice, and was so pleased that he took the time to talk to a fan of his from the 60s. We need him around to sing for a long time to come.

  4. I named my son Jesse after Mr. Winchester. My son will be 30 years old on Monday. I had the occasion to introduce my Jesse to Jesse W at a show here in Denver several years back. I explained to Jesse W. that I had named my boy after him, and he looked at me in shock and bemusement that someone would do such a thing. Get well soon, Rhumba Man.

  5. Gail & John LarkinsAugust 25, 2011 at 11:27 PM

    Get Well Jesse from your greatest fans in Australia. Coming to Canada soon and will see Gillian Welch in Montreal. Hope we can catch Jesse as well - my favourite singer in all the world. Meeting him in Melbourne will be forever a highlight.