John Bassette

John Bassette (December 28, 1941 – November 2006) was a folk singer/songwriter, poet and cable television personality in the Greater Cleveland, Ohio, United States, area. He was born in Hampton, Virginia, USA.

Musical career

Bassette first attracted national notice at the 1967 Newport Folk Festival, where critic Bradford F. Swan singled out his performance of his composition "Brown Boy" as "an immensely moving song, beautifully sung" and "the high point of the evening". [Swan, Bradford. "Festival Singers Folksy", "Providence Journal" July 14, 1967, p. 14.] Later that same year, he performed at Carnegie Hall at a "Sing Out" hootenanny sponsored by the magazine of the same name. He also performed that August at the legendary Bitter End on Bleecker Street, of which the New York Times music critic Dan Sullivan wrote, "Mr. Bassette, who knows what he is doing at all times, obviously enjoys it and ought to be able to make a good living at it in years to come." [Sullivan, Dan "Bitter End Has Good Beginnings", "New York Times", August 31, 1967, p. 27.]

Returning to Cleveland, Bassette eventually produced three full-length albums, two mini-albums, and a self-illustrated book of stories, songs, essays and poetry entitled "Losing Face in America". Bassette was a pioneer in the area of producing his own recordings and releasing them on his own label, something few musicians in the Cleveland area had done before. His first mini-album, "Weed and Wine", produced by TinkerToo Music & Records, featured a cover by underground comic artist Dave Sheridan, and both the cover song and the song "Hello, Cleveland" were local hits. He appeared at many street fairs and events in the Northeast Ohio area, and favored benefits for charitable causes including the Cleveland free clinic. He also appeared as a regular guest on the seminal folk-music segment, "Coffeebreak Concerts", on the major Cleveland Rock station, WMMS. [Olszewski, Mike. "Radio Daze: Stories from the Front in Cleveland's FM Air Wars", p. 71. Kent, Ohio: Kent State University Press, 2003.] Bassette also appeared alongside Sammy Davis Jr. in the London company of Golden Boy. Under the name Jon Bon he hosted a cable TV show through Viacom in the mid-eighties, and produced two music videos and a documentary on how to create videos on a tight budget.


An article by John Bassette entitled “How to Copyright Your Songs” was published in Mother Earth News in 1970, and he published a collection of poetry and stories entitled "Losing Face in America" in 1978, including the poem "Golden Doves & Dolphins", reprinted in the Changeling Times in 1983 (along with a feature on him and his album "Another Alternative" called "It's So Nice on Hessler Street").

Death and Tributes

Bassette suffered a series of strokes during the 90s, and stayed first at St. Herman’s House of Hospitality, then at St. Augustine Manor. A benefit concert for Bassette was organized by singer/songwriter Alex Bevan on May 19th, 2002 at the Beachland Ballroom & Tavern in Cleveland, OH, featuring Jim Ballard, Charlie Wiener, Michael Stanley, Jim Schafer, and many others. He passed away in November 2006. In 2007, a tribute CD, "Been Through So Much Together", was released by Skyline Productions. It featured many well-known Cleveland-area and other folk musicians and friends of Bassette, including Tom Paxton, Michael Stanley, Jim Ballard, and Alex Bevan.



* 1972: "Weed and Wine" (Mini-Album) Tinkertoo Music & Records
* 197?: "This Time Around" Tinkertoo Record B727 (A full-length LP with eleven songs including "Next Time Around" and "John's Happy Song." At this time, Tinkertoo was still on Hessler Street in Cleveland.)
* 1976: "Another Alternative" Tinkertoo Music & Records (Tinkertoo had moved to Akron, Ohio.)
* 1977 "The Sleeping Poet" EP Tinkertoo Music & Records
* 1978 "John Who?" (aka John Richard Bassette) Tinkertoo Music & Records
* 1979 "The Concert Album" Tinkertoo Music & Records
* 1980: "John Bassette Live at Hessler Street"
* 1980: "The Country Album - The Saga of the Emerald City Cowboy" Busted Penny Limited
* 1986: "Starwood Memories" (live compilation) ACE

Written Works

* 1970: “How to Copyright, Publish and Record a Song” Mother Earth News September 1970, available online [ here] .
* 1978: "Losing Face in America" - Laughing Willow Productions
* 1983: "Golden Doves & Dolphins" - Changeling Times #9 (excerpt from "Losing Face in America")

Performance Venues

* The 1967 Newport Folk Festival
* The Bitter End, New York NY, August 1967
* Hessler Street Fair - Cleveland, OH
* Coventry Street Fair - Cleveland, OH
* 115th St. Fair - Cleveland, OH
* Case Western Reserve University Hillel House () (Cleveland Free Clinic Benefit and Cellar Door Concert Series) Cleveland, OH
* AmazingGrace Coffeehouse – Northwestern University, Evanston IL. 1973 & 1974 []
* Benefit concert for the Cleveland Urban Learning Community, WHK auditorium, 1977
* May 4th Kent State University Commemoration (1979) Kent, OH
* Starwood Festival (1982, 1984, 1985) New Philadelphia, OH
* Arabica Cafe - Cleveland Hts., OH
* Peabody's - Cleveland Hts., OH
* Boulder Junction - Uniontown, Ohio
* Room One Coffeehouse, John Carroll University, University Hts., Ohio
* Turkey Ridge Tavern - Cleveland Hts., OH

Articles about Bassette

* "It’s So Nice on Hessler Street" – Jeff Rosenbaum Changeling Times #6
* "Beloved Singer John Bassette is Dead at 64" – Michael Heaton – Cleveland Plain Dealer (Tuesday, November 14, 2006) []
* "John Bassette 1941-2006" - Larry Bruner, et al. (November 2006) []
* "John Bassette: Big Baritone, Big Heart" - Bill Gruber Akron Life & Leisure (February 2007) []

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