John McCutcheon

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For the newspaper cartoonist, see John T. McCutcheon.

John McCutcheon (born August 14, 1952) is an American folk music singer and multi-instrumentalist who has produced 34 albums since the 1970s.[1] He is regarded as a master of the hammered dulcimer, and is also proficient on many other instruments including guitar, banjo, autoharp, mountain dulcimer, fiddle, and jawharp.


McCutcheon was born to Roman Catholic parents in Wausau, Wisconsin. He attended Saint James Grade School and graduated from Newman Catholic High School. He is a graduate of Saint John's University in Minnesota. While in his 20s, he travelled to Appalachia and learned from some of the legendary greats of traditional folk music, such as Roscoe Holcomb, I.D. Stamper, and Tommy Hunter. His vast repertoire also includes songs from contemporary writers like Si Kahn (e.g. "Gone Gonna Rise Again", "Rubber Blubber Whale") as well as a large body of his own music.

When McCutcheon became a father in the early 1980s he found most children's music "unmusical and condescending",[this quote needs a citation] and sought to change the situation by releasing a children's album, Howjadoo, in 1983. Originally, he had only intended to do one children's record, but the popularity of this first effort led to the production of several additional children's albums.

Much of his work, however, continues to focus on writing politically and socially conscious songs for adult audiences. One of his most successful songs, "Christmas in the Trenches" (from his 1984 album Winter Solstice), tells the story of the Christmas truce of 1914. In his performances, McCutcheon often introduces his music with a story, and has become known as a storyteller. He has made multiple appearances at the National Storytelling Festival in Jonesboro, Tennessee. He is married to children's author and storyteller, Carmen Agra Deedy.

McCutcheon's music has, since the 1990s, increasingly evolved into heartland rock-influenced ballads, while he still occasionally performs purer folk music, particularly when playing the dulcimer.

In 2011 McCutcheon portrayed IWW organizer and songwriter Joe Hill in Si Kahn's one-man play Joe Hill's Last Will, produced by Main Stage West in Sebastopol, California.


  • How Can I Keep From Singing? (June Appal Recordings, 1975)
  • The Wind That Shakes The Barley (June Appal Recordings and Rounder, 1977)
  • Barefoot Boy With Boots On (Rounder, 1980)
  • Fine Times At Our House (Rounder, 1982)
  • Howjadoo (Rounder, 1983, family album)
  • Winter Solstice (Rounder, 1984, with Trapezoid and Washington Bach Consort)
  • Signs of the Times (Rounder, 1986, with Si Kahn)
  • Step By Step (Rounder, 1986)
  • Gonna Rise Again (Rounder, 1987)
  • Mail Myself to You (Rounder, 1988, family album)
  • Water From Another Time (Rounder, 1989, retrospective)
  • What It's Like (Rounder, 1990)
  • Live at Wolf Trap (Rounder, 1991)
  • Family Garden (Rounder, 1993, family album)
  • Between the Eclipse (Rounder, 1995)
  • Summersongs (Rounder, 1995, family album)
  • Wintersongs (Rounder, 1995, family album)
  • Nothing to Lose (Rounder, 1995)
  • Sprout Wings and Fly (Rounder, 1997)
  • Bigger Than Yourself (Rounder, 1997, co-written by Si Kahn)
  • Doing Our Job (Rounder, 1997, with Tom Chapin)
  • Autumnsongs (Rounder, 1998, family album)
  • Springsongs (Rounder, 1999, family album)
  • Storied Ground (Rounder, 1999)
  • Supper's on the Table (Rounder, 2001, retrospective)
  • The Greatest Story Never Told (Red House Records, 2002)
  • Hail to the Chief (self-published, 2003)
  • Stand Up! …Broadsides for Our Time (self-published, 2004)
  • Welcome the Traveler Home: The Winfield Songs (self-published, 2004)
  • Mightier Than the Sword (Appalsongs, 2005)
  • This Fire (Appalsongs, 2007)
  • Sermon on the Mound (Appalsongs, 2008)
  • Untold (Appalsongs, 2009)
  • Passage (Appalsongs, 2010)


  1. ^ Ledgin, Stephanie P. (2010). Discovering Folk Music. ISBN 0-275-99387-6. 

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