Michael Johnathon

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Michael Johnathon
Born (1963-01-22) January 22, 1963 (age 55)
Occupation(s)Musician, producer, author, playwright

Michael Johnathon (born January 22, 1963)[1] is an American folk singer-songwriter, producer, author, and playwright.[2] He is a performing songwriter, SongFarmer and folksinger, released sixteen albums, published four books, a playwright, composed an opera, performs with symphony orchestras and in coffeehouses, completed a motion picture script, created three fully operating volunteer organizations and tours nationwide. While the great majority of his recordings[3] are his own compositions; he has recorded many traditional and cover songs.


Originally from the Hudson Valley in New York State, Johnathon moved to the border town of Laredo, TX right out of high school after getting an invitation to work at KLAR-AM. Late one night, he played an older record by Roger McGuinn and The Byrds called Turn, Turn, Turn which he noticed was written by hometown folksinger Pete Seeger. Johnathon called Seeger up, who encouraged him to move to the Appalachian mountains to learn folk music. He landed in rural Mousie, Kentucky (in Knott County) during in order to learn about the folk tradition. He began his career performing at schools and fairs and touring with established artists including David Gates, Odetta, Janis Ian, Tom Paxton, Billy Dean and the legendary Judy Collins.[4] Because Appalachian counties are mostly dry and have no place to perform, Johnathon began performing "Earth Concerts" in schools. In a four-year stretch, he performed over 3,000 concerts attended by nearly 2 million people in 14 states. Another series he created was "The Passing" that dealt with the sensitive subject of teenage suicide, performed at 108 high schools and colleges in 12 weeks, attended by over 250,000 kids. Other concert tours were in support of farm families (WagonStar), battered women and children (The Mountain) plus hundreds of concerts in support of his albums and books.

He has recorded and released 17 albums released by PoetMan Records USA, published four books, most recently the Dazed & Confuzed studio album and 176-page WoodSongs III as well as the Mousie HiWay children's book, which introduces kids to bluegrass music. The audiobook of Mousie HiWay was recorded with the McLain Family Band.

Among his recordings is New Wood recorded and filmed with Odetta; The Dream recorded with a 61-piece symphony orchestra and four children's choirs singing in Russian, English, French, and Spanish. Among the guest artists who have recorded on his albums include Sam Bush, Rob Ickes, Odetta, Homer Ledford, the McLain Family Band, John Cowan, Michael Cleveland, Guy Davis, JP Pennington of EXILE, and banjo master JD Crowe.

The live album Looking Glass was recorded in concert at several theaters from Arkansas to Ireland, many songs feature his wife Melissa. MichaelJohnathon.com

His CD release of SongFarmer was the first national album to be entirely recorded on an iPhone. It received the "ROOTS ALBUM OF THE YEAR" Award by the National Traditional Music Association in 2018.

Johnathon produces the all-volunteer, community-run Troubadour Concert Series[5] at the Lexington Opera House, Kentucky Castle, the Lyric Theatre, Kentucky Theater in Lexington, Kentucky and the Paramount Arts Center in Ashland, Kentucky. As of 2018, the volunteer organization has produced over 400 national level concert events including BB King, Steve Martin, Joan Baez, Arlo Guthrie, Lindsay Buckingham, Keb Mo, Taj Mahal, Brian Wilson, Gregg Allman and many others.

He also is the founder, producer and host of the WoodSongs Old-Time Radio Hour, a folk/roots/Americana multi-media program. The weekly show is a live public radio, public television and live webcast from the Lyric Theatre & Cultural Arts Center.[6] in Lexington, Kentucky which is also recorded for broadcast internationally on 537 radio stations. The broadcast is heard by over two million listeners and is carried by the American Forces Radio Network (AFN) which broadcasts it to 175 countries and all US naval ships at sea.[7] The live webcast which has both audio and video streaming, can be accessed weekly at the Woodsongs website.[8] There is also a related archive page which allows downloading.[9] The TV broadcast reaches at least 96 million TV homes nationwide on public television stations from Los Angeles to Vermont and nationwide on the RFD-TV Network.[10] Some of the hundreds of artists to appear on the broadcast include Tommy Emmanuel, Chris Thile, Judy Collins, Big Bad Voodoo Daddy, Asleep at the Wheel, Richie Havens, Peter Yarrow, the Avett Brothers, Chris Stapleton, Dr. Ralph Stanley, Elle King, Lee Ann Womack, Preservation Hall Jazz Band, Mark O'Connor, Bela Fleck & Abigail Washburn, JD Crowe, Edgar Meyer and Roger McGuinn who performed on the 900th broadcast. Visit: WoodSongs.com

WoodSongs Classroom Programs arranged a partnership with the University of Kentucky to send select broadcasts of WoodSongs to teachers and homeschool families to help encourage roots music education in schools. All have lesson plans available free of charge for middle, high and college level students. WoodSongs.com/classroom

Michael wrote the script for the play Walden: The Ballad of Thoreau, performed in over 8,900+ colleges, community theaters, high schools and home schools in nine countries for Earth Day since its release.[11] The play is set during the final two days Henry David Thoreau spent at his cabin in Walden Pond. The production explores the roles we play in the protection of the earth, challenging the audience to live more simply, thus preserving the natural environment of their home communities.[12] A film of the play that aired nationwide on PBS stations [13] was one of ten winners of the 2009 John Muir Award for Feature Film.[14] WaldenPlay.com

He also wrote the script [15] for the motion picture project, Caney Creek: The Ballad of Alice Lloyd.[16] It is the true story of the educator, Alice Spencer Geddes Lloyd. All the proceeds from the release of the motion picture will be administrated by a selected overseer, and will contribute to or pay the costs of eligible Appalachian students to attend the college of their choice.[17] CaneyCreekMovie.com

His compositions of the songs "Front Porch" with the lyric "... we need a front porch 'round the world" and "SongFarmers Blues" inspired the creation of the WoodSongs Front Porch Association, whose members are called "SongFarmers." The group brings front porch pickers from around the nation together and has active chapters from Hawaii to the Virgin Islands, Arkansas to Florida, Vermont to Kentucky. SongFarmers.org

Beginning in October 2018 he begins a tour of symphony orchestras with a musical concept called SONGS OF RURAL AMERICA. Fully orchestrated, the 17 song concert celebrates the front porch spirit of rural communities, merging the roots audience with the classical world. The orchestration was written with Michael Johnathon and Joshua Carter, who also does orchestration for Ben Folds. The concert with the Ohio Valley Symphony Orchestra in Gallipolis OH is being filmed as a public television special for broadcast in 2019.


  • The Blast (1986 INDIE out of print)
  • Troubadour (1989 INDIE out of print)
  • Dreams of Fire (1992, Global Pacific out of print)
  • Assassins in the Kingdom (1995, PoetMan out of print)
  • WoodSongs (1998, PoetMan)
  • WoodSongs I Book & CD Gift Set (1998, 176 pages plus WoodSongs CD, PoetMan)
  • The Road (2000, PoetMan)
  • Homestead (2003, PoetMan)
  • WoodSongs II Book & CD Gift Set (2004, 176 pages plus Homestead CD, PoetMan)
  • Michael Johnathon and the Folkboy Orchestra-Live! (2004, Poetman)
  • Evening Song (2006, PoetMan)
  • Walden: The Earth Song Collection (2008, PoetMan)
  • Walden: The Ballad of Thoreau DVD & CD Gift Set (2010, PoetMan)
  • Ravenwood' (2010, PoetMan)[18]
  • Front Porch (2012, PoetMan)
  • Woody: For The People arias from the Woody Guthrie Opera (2013 PoetMan)
  • Looking Glass: The Live Concert Album (2014 PoetMan)
  • WoodSongs: In the Beginning (remix 2015 PoetMan)
  • SongFarmer (iPhone album 2016 PoetMan)
  • Pirate (2017 PoetMan)
  • WoodSongs III Book & CD Gift Set (2017 176 pages plus Sampler CD, PoetMan)
  • Mousie HiWay Book & CD (32 page children's book fully illustrated by Michael Johnathon)
  • MoonFire: The Banjo Album (2018 PoetMan)
  • Dazed & Confuzed (2019 PoetMan)


  1. ^ Billboard Feb. 3, 2001 Article by Frank Saxe
  2. ^ Americana Agency bio
  3. ^ Allmusic.com List of his recordings
  4. ^ allmusic.com Bio by Jason Ankeny
  5. ^ History of the Troubador Concert Series Archived 2010-12-11 at the Wayback Machine.
  6. ^ Schedule page Archived 2013-05-19 at the Wayback Machine. at woodsongs.com
  7. ^ woodsongs.com Archived 2010-03-28 at the Wayback Machine. affiliates page
  8. ^ Woodsongs.com webcast page
  9. ^ Woodsongs.com Archived 2008-03-20 at the Wayback Machine. archive page
  10. ^ Chattanooga Times Free Press website Archived 2011-07-17 at the Wayback Machine. June 27, 2008; music reporter Casey Phillips spoke with Michael Johnathon, singer/songwriter and founder/host of the Woodsongs Old Time Radio Hour show, about what grassroots music is and why he loves it.
  11. ^ Walden: The Ballad of Thoreau Free materials for teachers
  12. ^ broadwayworld.com. 11-12-2009 article
  13. ^ waldenplay.com Credits listed
  14. ^ 2009 yosemitefilmfestival.com Archived 2009-11-02 at the Wayback Machine. 2009 John Muir Award Winners
  15. ^ Caney Creek -screenwriter page
  16. ^ "Caney Creek: The Ballad of Alice Lloyd" home page
  17. ^ Financial details of the Caney Creek project
  18. ^ ravenwoodcd.com

External links[edit]