John Wallace (musician)

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"Big" John: Standing at far left in the photo (with Harry Chapin, next to him) during a curtain call in the 1970s

"Big" John Wallace is a bassist and singer who became known as a backup for singer-songwriter Harry Chapin. John gained membership to Harry's band by responding to an ad placed in the Village Voice in 1971.[1] Other responders to the ad include cellist Tim Scott and guitarist Ron Palmer.

When Harry Chapin and his brothers went on tour in 1971, Harry asked Wallace to continue with his backing band as bass guitarist and backup vocalist. John Wallace performed with Harry for ten years - throughout the 1970s, until Harry's death in 1981. In live concerts, Wallace would sing very high head tones on songs such as "Taxi". However, John displayed a remarkable vocal range, as he also sang the baritone parts in "Mr. Tanner" and "30,000 Pounds of Bananas".

Wallace also sang the role of "Bluto" on the soundtrack album for Robert Altman's 1980 film Popeye, starring Robin Williams. Actor Paul L. Smith acted the role with Wallace providing the singing voice.[2]

Career changes[edit]

After Harry's death, Wallace founded a computer graphics company. Prior to that, Wallace formed another band, The Strangers, that included himself, Doug Walker and Howie Fields (from the Harry Chapin band) along with newcomer Malcolm Ruhl. The band played more conventional rock music, as opposed to 'Harry Chapin-type music, but was short-lived. It did perform at Clarence Clemons' Big Man's West on December 18, 1981. In 1991, the band he spent ten years with was reunited with Steve Chapin at the helm. Steve, Harry's drummer Howard Fields, and John continue to perform as the Steve Chapin Band. They also perform occasionally in a larger ensemble including Tom Chapin and other Chapin Family members.


  1. ^ Pore-Lee-Dunn Productions. "Harry Chapin". Retrieved 2011-10-21. 
  2. ^ McCarty, Linda (Winter 2004). "Hitting All The Right Notes: An Interview With Big John Wallace". Circle!. Retrieved 27 February 2013. 

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