John Wesley Harding (singer)

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John Wesley Harding
Wesley Stace in Paris, c. 2007
Wesley Stace in Paris, c. 2007
Background information
Birth nameWesley Stace
Born (1965-10-22) 22 October 1965 (age 56)
Hastings, East Sussex, England
GenresRock, pop, folk
Occupation(s)Singer-songwriter, author
InstrumentsVocals, guitar
LabelsSire/Warner Bros. Records Yep Roc Records

Wesley Stace (born 22 October 1965) is an English folk/pop singer-songwriter and author, who has used the stage name John Wesley Harding. Under his legal name, he has written four novels. He is also a university teacher and the curator of Wesley Stace's Cabinet of Wonders.


His given name, Wesley, comes from John Wesley, the founder of Methodism, who preached one of his last sermons near the town where Harding was born.[1]

Stace took his stage name from the Bob Dylan 1967 album John Wesley Harding, for which Dylan misspelled the outlaw John Wesley Hardin's name, adding a final 'g'.[1]


Stace was born in Hastings, East Sussex, England. His education included the boarding school St. Andrews School (Pangbourne, Berkshire); Milbourne Lodge (Claygate, Surrey); The King's School Canterbury; and university at Jesus College, Cambridge. He left Cambridge with a First in English Literature, but left before completing his PhD in Social and Political Science. Since 1991, Harding has lived in the United States, most recently in Philadelphia. His sister, Melanie Stace, is a performing artist.[2] His mother, Molly Townson, was for many years, the director of the Hastings Musical Festival.


Stace often plays solo, but has also done concerts with various backing bands. As John Wesley Harding, he has released 17 albums, including 2009's Who Was Changed and Who Was Dead which he recorded with The Minus 5. His subsequent album, The Sound of His Own Voice, featured members of that band as well as The Decemberists and was released in 2011. His songs includes "I'm Wrong About Everything", which was included on the soundtrack for High Fidelity. He has also covered the Madonna song, "Like a Prayer". His early sound has been compared with that of classic Elvis Costello[3][4] and Here Comes the Groom (1990) features two of the Attractions.[5]

Harding was chosen by Bruce Springsteen as his first opening act in 20 years for his solo shows at the Berkeley Community Theatre in 1995.[6]

In 2005, he published his first novel, Misfortune, under his real name, Wesley Stace. It was nominated for the Guardian First Book Award, and shortlisted for the Commonwealth Writers Prize and the James Tiptree, Jr. Award. Misfortune was also chosen by as one of the Ten Best Novels of 2005, and was one of the Washington Post's Books of the Year. Misfortune, translated as L'infortunée, became a best-seller in France,[citation needed] and has also been translated into many languages including Hebrew, Chinese, and Japanese. The movie rights to "Misfortune" were sold in 2008. His 2005 album Songs of Misfortune comprises songs written for, or appearing in, that book.

His second novel, By George, was published in August 2007; it was one of the New York Public Library's "Books To Remember" of 2007, and Booklist Editor's Choice for books of the year. A third, Charles Jessold, Considered as a Murderer, was published by Jonathan Cape in the UK in July 2010 and Picador in the United States in February 2011, and was one of the Wall Street Journal's Top Ten Books of the Year.

Stace has reviewed for the Times Literary Supplement, The Wall Street Journal and The New York Times. Other writings include chapbooks for some of his albums, and essays for various music publications from Creem to Raygun. His essay, "Listerine: The Life and Opinions of Laurence Sterne," published in Post Road No. 5, was nominated for a Pushcart Prize.

"John Wesley Harding's Cabinet of Wonders", his series of variety shows, began in Spring 2009 in New York City at (Le) Poisson Rouge, before moving to City Winery, and has included appearances by Rosanne Cash, Graham Parker, Josh Ritter, Rick Moody, Colson Whitehead, Jonathan Ames, A.C. Newman, Rhett Miller, Steven Page, Eugene Mirman, Kristin Hersh, David Gates, John Roderick, Jon Auer, Tanya Donelly, Martha Plimpton, Todd Barry, Steve Almond, and Stephen Elliott. The spring 2010 series featured, among others, Sarah Vowell, Sondre Lerche, Buffalo Tom, Janeane Garofalo, Robbie Fulks, and Paul Muldoon. Artists in the series included Andrew Bird, Tift Merritt, and David Wax Museum. Podcasts of the series can be heard on NPR's "Cabinet of Wonders."[7] and recently on Live shows continue in New York City and across the country.

Stace was artist-in-residence at Fairleigh Dickinson University, where he curates the Words & Music Festival. On 6 May 2010, the Festival ended with "Jersey Rain: Robert Pinsky and Bruce Springsteen in conversation with John Wesley Harding" in the Dreyfuss Theater; the conversation was later published in the journal Radio Silence. The series also included a presentation by Harding and Paul Muldoon on their collaboration. In the Spring of 2013, the two writers taught a course at Princeton University entitled "How To Write A Song".[8]

In Spring 2013 at Central Connecticut State University, the English Department offered a course dedicated to Stace's songs and novels ("The Allusive John Wesley Harding/Wesley Stace," ENG 214).[9]

Harding returned to his given name for the release of his album, Self-Titled.[10][1] Two of the tracks are co-written with The Fiery Furnaces' Eleanor Friedberger, and alternative versions also appear on her album Personal Record. Stace co-wrote all of the songs on Personal Record with Friedberger.[11] Stace reveals the new album is autobiographical in nature, one of the reasons he chose not to release the new material under the moniker of John Wesley Harding.[12] The self-reflective songs are also influenced by Stace's love of Seventies singer-songwriters, the softer sound a change he felt was a natural transition in his career.[13]

Stace's fourth novel, Wonderkid, was published in February 2014 by The Overlook Press.[14] On 24 February 2017 Yep Roc Records released Wesley Stace’s John Wesley Harding, backed by The Jayhawks.[15]



As John Wesley Harding

  • It Happened One Night (1988) (live)
  • God Made Me Do It: The Christmas EP (1989)
  • Here Comes The Groom (1990)
  • The Name Above the Title (1991)
  • Why We Fight (1992)
  • Pett Levels: The Summer EP (1993)
  • John Wesley Harding's New Deal (1996)
  • Dynablob (studio outtakes, fan club release, later commercially released) (1996)
  • Awake (1998)
  • Dynablob 2 (live recordings, fan club release, later commercially released) (1998)
  • Trad Arr Jones (a tribute to Nic Jones) (1999)
  • Dynablob 3: 26 March 1999 (live, fan club release) (1999)
  • The Confessions of St. Ace, Mammoth Records (2000)
  • The Man With No Shadow (unreleased, later issued as Adam's Apple with slightly different tracks) (many promotional copies exist) (2002)
  • Dynablob 4: Swings & Roundabouts (studio, new material, fan club release) (2002)
  • Garden of Eden: The Fall EP (EP) (2003)
  • Adam's Apple (2004)
  • Songs of Misfortune (as the Love Hall Tryst) (2005)
  • Who Was Changed And Who Was Dead (with The Minus Five) (2009)
  • John Wesley Harding Sings to a Small Guitar, Volumes I & II (previously unreleased demos) (2010)
  • The Sound of His Own Voice (2011)
  • * The Man With No Shadow (Record Store Day release) (Combines unreleased version with Adam's Apple) (2020)

As Wesley Stace

  • Self-Titled (2013)
  • Ovid in Exile (2014) (Record Store Day vinyl only release)
  • Wesley Stace’s John Wesley Harding (2017)
  • Greatest Other People’s Hits (Covers compilation) (2018)
  • Late Style (2021)


Year Title Chart positions Album
US Modern Rock
1990 "The Devil in Me" 17 Here Comes the Groom
1991 "The Person You Are" 8 The Name Above the Title
"The People's Drug" 29



  • Misfortune (2005) ISBN 0-316-83034-8
  • By George (2007) ISBN 0-316-83032-1
  • Charles Jessold, Considered As A Murderer (UK – July 2010), (US – Feb 2011) ISBN 0-312-68010-4
  • Wonderkid (2014)


  1. ^ a b c Stace, Wesley. "Dropping a Name (Or, Goodbye, John Wesley Harding)". The New York Times.
  2. ^ Joel Selvin (18 August 2007). "Review: Melanie Stace is well worth getting to know better". San Francisco Chronicle.
  3. ^ Boylan, J. Gabriel (28 September 2011). "Wesley Stace, a k a John Wesley Harding, on 'not being a dick', the Cabinet of Wonders and Walter Benjamin". Politico. Retrieved 25 September 2018.
  4. ^ Schwager, Jeff (3 November 2011). "John Wesley Harding: The Sound of His Own Voice". PopMatters. Retrieved 25 September 2018.
  5. ^ Allmusic review: John Wesley Harding at AllMusic
  6. ^ Ouelette, Dan."Renegade Folk: John Wesley Harding Finds Inspiration of the Beaten Track." Acoustic Guitar.November 1997, p. 48.
  7. ^ "John Wesley Harding's Cabinet of Wonders". NPR.
  8. ^ Stace, Wesley (21 June 2013). "Songwriting on Demand". The New York Times. Retrieved 3 May 2019.
  9. ^ GIGLIOTTI. "What do CCSU, Studies in World Literature (ENG 214), Music, and The Student Union Board of Governors Living Room Lecture Series have in common?".
  10. ^ Danton. "Meet The Artist Formerly Known as John Wesley Harding (Song Premiere)". The Wall Street Journal.
  11. ^ Stace, Wesley. "Staring at Two Suns". The New York Times.
  12. ^ Pelusi. "Author/musician Wesley Stace finally puts his name above the title".
  14. ^ "Wonderkid". The Overlook Press. Retrieved 27 February 2014.
  15. ^ "NEW ALBUM: Wesley Stace's John Wesley Harding". Retrieved 20 November 2016.
  16. ^ "Wesley Stace - 30 Days, 30 Songs". 30 Days 30 Songs. Retrieved 22 June 2020.

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