Singer Charlie Barnes, writer Dan Jewell, and other Nashville area musicians and singers have collaborated on a beautiful and stirring concept album – JFK 50: A Memorial Album of Original Folk Songs -- which is a memorial to our 35th President John Fitzgerald Kennedy on the 50th anniversary of his assassination. This album will take you back emotionally to that black day in November of 1963 when President John Kennedy was assassinated and the world changed.
The album features eight tracks of original folk songs interspersed with four tracks of recreated Radio Newscasts of the time.
Charlie Barnes, who sings seven of the eight song tracks, has been singing folk and country songs since the early ‘60s. In the ‘70s he toured as a sideman with country music star Jeanne Shepard. A man of many talents, Charlie has built many custom autos over the years and has built and flown his own kit airplane. He continues to perform with his band throughout middle TN.
Jerry Webb, owner of The Project Room Studio in Hendersonville, TN, is a producer and side guitar player. As a sideman, he’s toured with great country artists Moe Bandy, David Church, David Frizzell, and Helen Cornelius.
Joe Pointer, a native of Algood, TN, has played harmonica in the bands of many well-known country artists, including Uncle Josh Graves, Wilma Lee Cooper, David Church, and Benny Martin during his successful music career.
Joyce Jewell, who sings the final cut on the album, started singing in talent shows and churches in early childhood. In her teens, she studied classical voice for several years with a University of Chicago Music Professor and sang in local clubs and on radio and TV shows. Now a retired psychologist, her work on this album has rekindled her love of music.
Joyce’s husband, Dan, besides reading the recreated newscasts from 1963, also wrote the lyrics and most of the music for the songs on the album. He is a retired college professor and drama director and has been a fan of folk music all his life. The concept album grew out of his work on a reader’s drama, the similarly titled "JFK 50: A Memorial in Drama, Poetry, and Song," which is available in ebook format through Amazon and most other distributors.
All the contributors to JFK 50: A Memorial Album lived through those tragic days in November of '63, and like most Americans of that time, have vivid memories of where they were and what they were doing when they first heard the news.
Charlie was working in a body shop in Highland, Illinois, when he heard the news on the radio. He remembers the owner of the vehicle and the type of car it was, a 1958 Chevrolet Impala. Charlie says that he and his fellow workers were shocked into silence when they heard about JFK’s assassination. They tried to keep focused on their work but found themselves instead anticipating the radio updates that continued to come in throughout that bleak afternoon.
Webb was 9 years old and in a fourth grade classroom in Greeneville, TX, 40 miles from Dallas, when he heard the news about Kennedy. The school principal announced it over the intercom. Over the ensuing years, Jerry has read many books and articles about the assassination (including the 889 page Warren Commission Report) and has a collection of old newspapers from that time.
Pointer was 18 at the time and a student at Tennessee Tech in Cookeville, Tennessee. He was sitting in a study hall area when some other students came in and told everyone that they had just heard on their transistor radio that President Kennedy had been assassinated. Joe remembers leaving the study hall and walking across campus, thinking about when he had first paid attention to Kennedy, back during JFK’s campaign for the nation’s highest office; he also remembered that Kennedy was the youngest president elected up to that time. Kennedy being cut down like that in his prime, when he had a lot of living left to do, made Joe consider his own mortality.
Joyce was in a Laundromat in Richmond, Kentucky, doing the family laundry with her two year old son, Barry, when she heard the news on an old black and white TV set on a shelf above the washing machines. She gathered up her clothes, and she and Barry met her husband Dan at home. Barry was too young to understand exactly what had happened, but Joyce and Dan sat transfixed in front of the TV for the next three days, alternately weeping at some of the images appearing on their TV screen, and, as they viewed other scenes, trying to come to grips with what they were witnessing.
Dan was teaching a noon class in World Literature at Eastern Kentucky State College (now a university) in Richmond, Kentucky. As the class ended, other students rushed in with the tragic news. He made his way through a murmuring crowd of anxious students and climbed the stairs to his next class, a 1:00 Composition course. Many students had already left campus after hearing the news, but there were a few waiting forlornly in the small classroom. As the class began, they discussed what had happened. Kennedy’s death had not been announced and he and his students clung to the slim hope that the president would survive. As he drove home to be with Joyce and his son Barry, he heard a radio report that JFK had died.
A fledgling writer at the age of 23, Dan sat on the steps of their rented mobile home that Monday evening after the burial and tried to write his feelings and thoughts on a note pad, but soon gave up. The enormity of the event overwhelmed him.
Later, as the 20th anniversary of the assassination approached in 1983, he began writing a play which focused on ordinary people recalling what they were doing at the time they got the news. This earlier play included versions of two of the songs on the album. This version of the play (The Day Jack Kennedy Died) won third place in the Lavergne Owenby original drama competition. Still unsatisfied with the finished play in that form, he filed it away.
Thirty years later, in the spring of 2013, he was cleaning out his files and found the old play. As the 50th anniversary of JFK’s assassination approached, he began work on a major revision which included several more songs.
When he completed the reader's drama, Dan began work on a concept album featuring the songs from the play. He wanted the album to be a fitting memorial and tribute to our 35th president.
He contacted his friend, singer Charlie Barnes, and asked him to be a part of the project. Charlie had been a student of Jewell’s in the early ‘80s and later, after he completed his B.S. degree, had worked as a math instructor in the college's instructional lab which was supervised by Dan's wife Joyce.
Charlie arranged studio time with his friend, Jerry Webb, guitarist, producer, and owner of The Project Room in Hendersonville, TN. As work on the album began, Jerry laid down guitar tracks and worked as co-producer with Jewell. Charlie recorded several interpretations of each song and also called his old friend, harmonica player Joe Pointer, and asked him to be a part of the project.
“Charlie is an amazing talent,” says Jewell. “He has a fantastic voice and his own style. His interpretation of the all the songs is exactly what I had in mind. But I especially like his brilliant take on “The End of November, 1963.” The way he sings it captures the fear and grief of that tragic weekend in November of 1963. I wasn’t planning on placing that song in the first position until I heard Charlie sing it. I was blown away. In 1963 as Americans watched those unbelievable events unfold, the world was changing and we knew it. Charlie’s vocal artistry and chilling interpretation of the song brings all of that back.”
Dan has high praise for Jerry Webb's work on the album as well. "There are many guitar pickers and music producers in Nashville, but there's no question that Jerry is one of the most respected. He's a fantastic guitarist and an unbelievably creative producer. He's patient, he knows how to get the best out of everyone involved in a project, and his skill at the big board is simply amazing."
Dan says that Charlie's old friend Joe Pointer was a godsend to the project. "Joe is a true pro. He knew just what we were looking for and sensed right away that we wanted something in a clean and simple style."
As the studio work was winding down, Dan knew exactly who to call on to record the final track. He asked his wife Joyce to record her interpretation of "The Golden Cup." The song, with its familiar "Londonderry Air" melody, taps into Kennedy's Irish roots and underscores the 35th president's ability to inspire his fellow Americans. Dan says that Joyce's moving rendition of the song captures the mix of hope, tragedy, inspiration, grief and unfulfilled promise that JFK has come to symbolize to many Americans.