Jon Gailmor

“Dear Jon,

…So the wife says, ‘How would you like to celebrate your 60th - y'know, move into your anecdotage?’ Says I, ‘I most want my friend Jon to sing me through.’ So we filled the house with good friends and the best music Vermont has to offer. What a year for Boston, first the Stones and now Jon Gailmor. Great concert, Jon!”

— Nelson Jaquay, Tinmouth, VT

 

My story

Seeds, roots & branches: beginnings

It so happens that in the Sindarin language (an "elvish" language modeled after Welsh, and developed by J.R.R. Tolkien for Middle-Earth, his fantasy world, "Gail" means "light", and "mor" means "darkness". So in English, "Gailmor" means "light-darkness". There are two wizards by that name in "The Adventures of Qualme", according to Niilo Paasivirta , its producer. They are both somewhat crazy, as the name might imply.

All I know is that I was born in New York State and failed to grow up in Philadelphia. I've been writing songs and trying them out on people prenatal through prehistoric since 1971. I've performed in a tennis stadium in Lima, Peru, in theatres in Russia, Latvia and Ecuador, in schools, colleges, child care and senior centers around the United States, in clubs, coffeehouses and prisons and on tour with the Vermont Symphony Orchestra, to name a few settings. My musical locales and audiences continue to expand, and I give songwriting workshops and residencies in schools and at conferences throughout the country.

Some more tidbits -- I'm an alumnus of the University Of Pennsylvania, and host a weekly radio show for immature Vermonters -- Just Kiddin'. In 1996, I carried the Olympic Torch through Brattleboro, Vermont, on its way to Atlanta, and didn't drop it. I'm proud to live in Elmore, Vermont with my wife, son, two daughters, and other creatures with various numbers of legs, or none at all.

I have six recordings out there, including "Childish Eyes", and my latest, Checking In. My earliest was an LP (remember those?) in The Big Apple with Rob Carlson for a big time record company. I found the squalor and hypocrisy of the music business there so repugnant that I fled to Europe for two years, then sought the peace and open arms of the Green Mountain State in the winter of '77, where it felt right to make music my own way. So here I am, still doing it, and very grateful for your visit.

Beneath the surface: what drives me

  • Randy
  • The exhilaration of knowing that I'm here on Earth to make music and help other folks discover theirs.
  • The immeasurable gratefulness I feel to my audiences and others who hire me, for allowing me to make a living doing what I love.
  • A primal need to entertain and touch people. The desire to convey my gratefulness to them.
  • The importance of family to me (something I never realized until I had my own).
  • The death of my father at the young age of 60, and witnessing the birth of my children. These events solidified my determination to live each moment as though it were my last.
  • The rage and sadness I feel that opportunities for every human being are unequal.
  • The contempt I have for war mongers and fear mongers.
  • A childish, often warped, sense of humor.
  • An overriding optimism.

Soil: influential people, places & events

People (other than my immediate family)

  • Bill, Elaine and Wendy, Jacob and Eva -- Parents and grandparents. Words fall short to describe their influence. See "Jacob and Eva" on the GENERATIONS album, and "Daddy Was A Radical" on the DIRT! album.
  • My elementary school teachers, who taught me that it's not only O.K., but desirable, to love myself
  • Ernestine White, my 9th grade choir director, who called me "Galbraith", but also told me that it's better to be loud and wrong than silent and correct. In other words, you've got to be heard.
  • George Weigle (high school) and Bruce Montgomery (college), chorus and glee club directors, whose reverence for music, and penchant for making it fun, rubbed off on me permanently.
  • Pete Seeger, whose honesty and courage taught me the power of music, as long as it is sincere.
  • Aaron Copeland, whose "Appalachian Spring" was the first music that ever made me cry
  • Martin Luther King, whose powerful eloquence and steadfast principles made me want to march and sing, rather than fight and kill
  • Aretha Franklin, who could make a churchgoer out of me
  • The Temptations (the original group, with David Ruffin), whose harmonies I could join, and whose steps I couldn't
  • Julius Erving, who is graceful and eloquent on and off a basketball court
  • Sammy Sosa, who loves his job and doesn't forget his roots

Places

  • Vermont The Bronx Zoo, where I first learned to love animals, with Jacob and Eva
  • The Miquon School, which taught me to revel in my childishness and never lose it, while loving myself and appreciating the natural beauty and the folks around me
  • Kibbutz Amir, Israel, where for ten weeks in 1966 I learned the value of hard work, agriculture and a cooperative existence
  • Philadelphia, where I failed to grow up, discovered how neat it is to be taken to professional sporting events by your dad, and felt really loved by my family. It's because of that association that I still root for Philly teams, which isn't easy when you live in New England. I also returned to the City of Brotherly Love to go to college. It felt like home.
  • The European Continent, England and Ireland, where I travelled many times and was taught how fine it feels to love your country and to come together as a people.
  • The streets of Ecuador and Peru, where our glee club spontaneously got off the bus and serenaded folks who couldn't afford to see us in concert halls. Those were music's most powerful moments
  • Moscow, Leningrad and Riga (Latvia), where we were moved by each other's music even though very few words were understood.
  • Vermont. It feels as though I were meant to live and help raise a family here. See "Long Ago Lady", on the GONNA DIE WITH A SMILE IF IT KILLS ME album.

Events

  • 1950 -- My beautiful, big, red balloon flies out of my car window, as we drive along. I am two and inconsolable. The memory is as vivid as if it had been an hour ago. Lesson: Live for the moment and savor every balloon.
  • 1960-62 -- Seventh and Eighth Grade. It felt impersonal and cold, especially juxtaposed against my elementary school. Add to the mix what my body was doing, and I was a basket case. Thus I truly appreciate, and enjoy working with, Middle School kids.
  • 1962-63 -- Ninth Grade. My initial experience in a viable school chorus. It became imperative for me to sing wherever I was, from then on.
  • 1964 -- Touring the U.S. Virgin Islands with a high school singing group. This was the first time I'd ever sung to folks outside my country. I was never the same again.
  • 1966 -- Being accepted to college. This shocked me as much as it did my entire family
  • 1969 -- A solo with the glee club in Madison Square Garden. First solo, in white tie and tails. I almost overdosed on my own adrenaline.
  • 1970 -- Graduating from college. Major shock #2.
  • 1970 -- Teaching full-time, and attending graduate school in Elementary Education. Found out that I didn't have what it takes to be a full-time teacher, and that it's ridiculous to think you can be taught how to teach.
  • 1970 -- The death of my father, age 60, cancer. Taught me to take nothing for granted, and to be grateful for each day.
  • 1971 -- Seven months in Europe, hitchhiking, and singing in cafes. This is the big one. I found out that I needed to make music for a living. Thanks, Wendy, for the swift kick and the good advise.
  • 1972 -- My big debut as a solo performer, in Westport, Connecticut. In the middle of my opening song, the club owner cuts me off because of a bomb scare. The place clears out, the police search every inch, to no avail. I finish my gig, to only my immediate family. Turns out I wasn't ready to be a soloist, anyway.
  • 1972 -- Joined Rob Carlson as a duo. Toured for two years, and recorded PEACEABLE KINGDOM on Polydor Records in New York City. I found the big-time music industry repugnant, and not for me. I'll never have to wonder.
  • 1974-76 -- Lived in Europe for two years, away from music. As much as I loved living abroad, I learned that I needed to sing to feel alive. So I returned.
  • 1977 -- Moved to Vermont. Something stuck with me about this place from my touring days. This state just seems to fit with who and what I am. I can't see leaving.
  • 1979 -- Meet my wife-to-be while singing at Hunt's, in Burlington. Life changed forever.
  • 1980 -- The Phillies win the World Series! All the Philly refugees in Vermont are ecstatic.
  • 1986 -- Aaron, our first child, is born. Priorities become crystal clear.
  • 1988 -- Maya is born, 19 days late. Worth the wait. Priorities even clearer.
  • 1996 -- Micaela arrives. Our family is complete.