In 1974, John Denver was American music’s best-selling artist. Between 1974 and 1975, he had four number-one singles. His “John Denver’s Greatest Hits” album was a staple in American homes, selling 9 million copies. His songs had a decided country flair, including “Thank God I’m a Country Boy” and “Take Me Home, Country Roads.” But he was also a pop music phenomenon, selling more than 33 million albums in his career. He was a prolific songwriter, composing two-thirds of his 300-plus song catalog.
His folksy sound and his country look came to pop music about a decade after the era of 1960s folk-pop, yet people loved him for his cheery attitude and his optimistic lyrics. Denver died in 1997 at the age of 53 when the experimental aircraft he was piloting crashed into Monterey Bay near Pacific Grove, California.
On Sept. 18, his music and his legacy will be highlighted at Hayward’s Park Center when The Layne Yost Trio brings “The Music of John Denver” to the stage.
Don’t expect Yost to don a pair of round glasses and wig to impersonate Denver. That’s not what this show is about. Instead, the trio will present more of a musical documentary, which will “capture the simple soul of Denver’s music through guitar, fiddle and upright bass arrangements,” according to the group’s website. “Woven within the music are stories that give insight into Denver’s life and legacy.”
In addition to Yost, the trio includes Jon Shimoda and Carol McDowall.
Doors open at 7 p.m. and the concert will begin at 7:30.
Denver was known for his philanthropic efforts, and the trio carries on that tradition of giving.
“Each year the group selects just one nonprofit group that could use some assistance and offers to play a ‘Music of John Denver’ show at no charge,’” Yost said. “The organization can use these funds to further their program needs. We’ve helped raise thousands of dollars so far.
“We do this to thank those who support our efforts to bring our music to appreciative ears and to thank our creator for giving us such talent as we possess,” Yost said.
This year the trio has chosen Hayward’s Park Center as the recipient of a benefit concert — every penny of ticket sales will go to the Park.
Park Center president Ron Hobart said the gift of music couldn’t come at a better time.
“When COVID hit, the Park Center was shuttered and shattered,” Hobart said. “As a result our ability to generate income evaporated before our eyes. For the last 18 months we have been able to eke out utilities and mortgage payments and other expenses thanks to our amazing patrons and the support of our lender, Johnson Bank.
“Hopefully our upcoming shows will be the catalyst to get back on track. In the interim, we need cash to keep the lights on. Over the darkness of the past months our furnace quit working and had to be repaired. Our utility room water pump decided to quit working, and after being shuttered, we had to have the interior deep-cleaned.”
The Layne Yost Trio’s offer of a benefit show came at a time when The Park Center needs every ticket dollar it can get.
“The coffers are extremely low right now,” Hobart said. “We are in a desperate place and need a big boost to get back on track. This show, ‘The Music of John Denver,’ will help a lot to jump-start our comeback.”
Because Sawyer County is now in a red risk level for COVID, the Park Center will be following CDC guidelines and require that all people in the Park Center wear masks. Patrons who don’t wish to wear a mask will be asked to patronize shows once masks are no longer required.
Information provided by the Park Center.