Album:Singers & Songwriters 1976-1977
John Sebastian was already famous as the leader of the 60s group The Lovin' Spoonful. But his solo career wasn't going too well when he scored with the 1976 chart topper Welcome Back. It turned out to be his only hit single. He was born Mar. 17, 1944 in New York City. His father was classical harmonica player John Sebastian. His mother wrote radio show scripts. The family lived in Greenwich Village so there were plenty of musicians around like Burl Ives, Woody Guthrie and Lightnin' Hopkins. So it's not surprising that Sebastian was a part of the folk music boom. He started out playing guitar and harmonica on albums by Billy Faier, Fred Neil and Tom Rush. He was in The Mugwumps which split into The Mamas and The Papas and Sebastian's group The Lovin' Spoonful. He could have gone on tour with Bob Dylan. The Lovin' Spoonful were very successful until Zal Yanovsky's weed bust in San Francisco. Sebastian left The Lovin' Spoonful in 1968. After his Broadway musical Jimmy Shine had a brief run, Sebastian made an impromptu appearance at Woodstock. That got him a record deal at Reprise Records. But things didn't go well there. After three unsuccessful studio albums and two live albums, Reprise was going to drop him. He wanted out anyway as Sebastian was making more money in real estate than in music. He owed them one final album. Alan Sachs and James Komack were developing a sitcom for stand up comic Gabe Kaplan. Sachs wanted a theme that sounded like The Lovin' Spoonful. Sachs and Sebastian had the same agent so he set up a meeting. Sachs loved the song so much that he decided to call the show Welcome Back, Kotter instead of Kotter. When the show was a huge hit, folks wanted to buy the theme. But it was never supposed to be a single. Sebastian and producer Steve Barri quickly recorded a longer version of Welcome Back and an album. The single topped the charts. Sebastian still left Reprise. Edsel Records has released all of Sebastian's Reprise albums in a box set. But I think most fans will only want Welcome Back and you can get it on this Time Life 2CD various artists comp. Sebastian hasn't recorded much since then. But he worked a lot for the Nelvana animation studio, most notably their Care Bears movies and TV series. He still tours and he has also produced a series of instructional DVDs. Here's John Sebastian performing Welcome Back 1976.