John Bassette

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A longtime luminary of the Cleveland folk scene, singer/songwriter John Bassette was one of the first local artists to record and produce music for his own independent label. Born December 28, 1941, in…
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A longtime luminary of the Cleveland folk scene, singer/songwriter John Bassette was one of the first local artists to record and produce music for his own independent label. Born December 28, 1941, in Hampton, VA, Bassette was the son of a Baptist preacher. After attending Virginia Union College, he relocated to New York City in pursuit of a music career, and became a fixture of the thriving Greenwich Village folk scene during the mid-'60s. After appearing on Broadway in 1968 in the Sammy Davis, Jr. vehicle Golden Boy, Bassette signed to United Artists, at least according to the introduction to "How to Copyright, Publish and Record a Song," an essay he published in the magazine Mother Earth News in 1970 -- no official releases were forthcoming, however, and eventually he settled in Cleveland, forming his own Tinker Too Records and self-releasing a series of wry and often eccentric folk LPs including 1972's This Time Around, 1976's Another Alternative, and 1978's John Who?, the latter featuring a bizarre acid-fuzz rendition of the Fleetwood Mac pop smash "Don't Stop."

A regular on Cleveland radio station WMMS, Bassette enjoyed a number of local hits, including "Hessler Street" and "Weed and Wine," but as punk forever altered the city's club landscape and folk's popularity plummeted, he found himself relegated to the clubs lining Coventry Street, the fading epicenter of the northeast Ohio hippie culture. During the late '90s, Bassette was beset by a series of financial and medical problems, culminating in a stroke that left him homeless. Friend and poet Daniel Thompson eventually helped him move into a local men's shelter, and in 2002 folksinger Alex Bevan organized a tribute concert in his honor. Been Through So Much Together, an all-star Bassette covers collection featuring contributions from Michael Stanley and Marti Jones & Don Dixon was issued in the spring of 2006 -- on November 9 of that year, Bassette died of heart failure at the age of 64.