John Oates was destined to be a musician. Singing from the time he could talk and playing the guitar since the age of five, his calling in life was never in question. Born in New York City, his family moved to a small town outside of Philadelphia Pennsylvania in the early 50’s ….a move that would change the course of his life. Like most kids at that time, the impact of the early days of rock left a lasting impression on John. At the age of four he witnessed his first live concert: Bill Haley and the Comets playing their classic rockabilly hits at a local amusement park. Then there were the records…
He began to collect 45 rpm singles …treasures from Little Richard, Chuck Berry, the Everly Brothers, Curtis Mayfield and the Impressions, Gary U.S. Bonds and of course, Elvis. He spent countless hours twisting the dial on his AM transistor radio trying to tune in the local R&B stations and listening to DJs like Jerry Blavat spinning obscure Doo Wop records and B sides.
When it came to influences John was open to more than just the top 40 hits…his friends’ older brother turned him on to the nascent folk music scene that began to sweep the country in the early 60’s. John’s interest in traditional American music began and he immersed himself in the Child Ballads, Joan Baez, Rev.Gary Davis, Dave Von Ronk and all the rediscovered bluesmen who began to make appearances at the Newport and Philadelphia folk festivals. Absorbing it all, he developed a kind of musical split personality. One night he might be wearing a shark skin suit playing everything from Doo Wop covers to the big R&B hits of the day with his band and the next night he would be playing his acoustic guitar in a local coffee house singing Appalachian folk ballads…to this day the very same roots and influences still can be heard in John’s original playing and singing style.
In the late 60’s John moved to Philadelphia to attend Temple University and check out the city’s music scene. In 1966 he wrote and recorded his first single “I Need Your Love” which was released on the label owned by a local music store called the Record Museum. The song was arranged by Bobby Martin who at the time was producing and arranging for Gamble and Huff. The single received airplay on Philly’s R&B radio stations and John began to divide his time between being a student and a professional musician.
Around the same time he met an influential guitar player/ teacher named Jerry Ricks who had spent time on the road with Mississippi John Hurt and Son House. Jerry took John under his wing and introduced him to many of the newly rediscover folk performers, such as Doc Watson, Sonny Terry and Brownie McGee and Mississippi John for whom Philadelphia’s folk venues, like the Second Fret and Main Point, were frequent stops in their concert schedules.
John had the unique opportunity to play alongside some of these seminal musicians learning first hand, their finger picking and flat picking styles.
When John first met Daryl Hall it was their mutual love for urban rhythm and blues blended with the more rural roots of Americana music that created their unique sound.
Since the formation of their partnership in the early 70’s Hall & Oates have gone on to record 21 albums, which have sold over 80 million units making them the most successful duo in rock history. They have scored 10 number one records, over 20 top 40 hits and have toured the world for decades. Their involvement in the original “Live Aid” concert and the groundbreaking “We Are The World” charity recording have further established them as legendary artists who have personally and through their music, stood the test of time. Numerous contemporary bands, like the Gym Class Heroes, the Killers, and the Bird and Bee who have credited and acknowledged H&O’s considerable contribution to American popular music, have cited their influence on modern pop music.
In addition to their numerous American Music and MTV Awards, in 2005 they were inducted into the American Songwriters Hall of Fame and in May of 2008 were presented with the prestigious BMI Icon Award for their outstanding career achievement in song writing.
John, a former member of the board of directors for the R&B Foundation and continues to support many national and local charities. He has just finished recording his third solo album entitled: ” Mississippi Mile ” in Nashville, scheduled to be released in April 2011 on the newly resurrected legendary label: Elektra Records Nashville. This recording, co-produced by John and Mike Henderson, features an amazing collection of some of the world’s top musicians like Sam Bush, Jerry Douglas, Bekka Bramlett and Peter Huttlinger.
In 2008, together with the Historic Wheeler Opera House in his home town of Aspen Colorado, John created a singer/songwriter series entitled: The Stories Behind the Songs”. Performing with Patty Griffin, Tift Merritt, Jimmy Wayne and other well-known songwriters in one of the premier acoustic venues in the country. The series was such an overwhelming success that has now been expanded into an annual event called:
7908’ THE ASPEN SONGWRITERS FESTIVAL
This first annual festival took place September 16-19 2010 with a line up of some of the country’s best writers and performers including Allen Toussaint, Sam Bush, David Bromberg, Richard Butler, Jim Lauderdale, Tift Merritt, Jimmy Wayne, Jeff Barry,
Gary Burr, Jeff Black and Suzi Ragsdale. The next festival will be in March of 2011 featuring Shawn Colvin, Keb Mo, Donovan Frankenreiter, Sam Bush and more.
When, not touring with his solo show or Hall & Oates, he divides his time between Nashville and Aspen Colorado with his wife and son on their ranch along with 3 dogs, peacocks, turkeys, Emus, Llamas and Alpacas. In his free time he enjoys driving his tractor, riding his mountain bike, hiking the backcountry and telemark skiing.