Welcome to the johngorka.com website! I am out doing shows at the moment and hope to be home soon. This is my general condition. I love playing music and am grateful that I've gotten to do this for a living for so many years. I realize this site needs updating and I hope to learn how to do that myself someday. I am more interested in working on new songs, recording and retrieving older songs these days as well as exploring the electric guitar world. Thank you for visiting and please sign up below for my occasional news letters. I won't abuse your email address. Facebook makes sense to me and you can find a link on the right side of this page. Have fun in the real world, John Gorka
High Standards, Low Overhead and Realistic Expectations
Top Ten for 2012 (in no particular order)
1. World did not end on December 21.
2. Safe landing of Mars rover “Curiosity”.
3. Returned to Lithuania for the Tai-Asch Festival’s 10th anniversary.
4. Returned to the Netherlands and played in new places including Rotterdam and Joosland.
5. Traveled with the G# guitar and got first tube amp, a 1970 Fender Bronco.
6. Multiple shows with Red Horse, Antje Duvekot, Rose Cousins, Lynn Miles and Michael Johnson.
7. Judy Collins’ memoir “Sweet Judy Blue Eyes”.
8. Learned that sitting is the worst position for your health — (so I’m writing this lying down).
9. Learned that none of us is alone, having trillions of microbes inside and out.
10. The gospel music documentary “Rejoice and Shout”.
11. 25th anniversary of my first record “I Know”.
12. Started working once again with Rob Genadek on my 12th record.
13. A venue used someone else’s photo on a John Gorka show poster.
14. People keep coming to the shows and I keep having fun.
15. Probable discovery of the Higgs-Boson particle.
16. Other habitable planets may be closer than we thought and hoping Earth remains one.
Hello, here is the cover of the Red Horse project. The painting is by Tom Russell.
It’ll cost nothing to dream and everything not to
This is available now, here at the johngorka.com website!
PS — The jukebox is working again — JG
Pierogi or pierogies are filled dumplings which come from Eastern Europe.
This recipe comes from my father’s side of the family, which is the Polish side. His parents were both born in Poland. The pierogi we are making here feature two different fillings: potato-cheese and sauerkraut & bacon. Prepare the fillings before making the dough. It is the same for both types.
Potato Cheese (makes 15)
1 lb – ricotta cheese
1/4 head fresh garlic
1/2 bunch green onions (scallions)
2 medium potatoes (boiled and mashed)
3 Tablespoons half and half
basil (use liberally)
oregano (little bit)
salt (go easy)
– Boil potatoes and drain
– Mash potatoes and add half and half while mashing
– Mix cheese into potatoes and add spices to taste
Sauerkraut and bacon (makes 15)
1 can Bavarian style Kraut which is slightly sweet
4 whole strips of bacon crushed or crumbled into small bits
1/2 bunch green onions chopped fine
1/4 head garlic chopped fine
– Fry or microwave bacon until crispy and drain fat, let cool, crumble into 1/4 in square bits (roughly)
– Drain liquid from sauerkraut and add to a 12” skillet on medium heat
– Mix in garlic, onions and bacon
– Simmer until sauerkraut is translucent and slightly brown
– Let cool
The dough is the tricky part for me. I will sometimes use more flour than listed below so I won’t have to roll the dough so thin that the pierogies break when I boil them. I always end up with lots of leftover potato cheese filling.
Dough (makes 30):
3 cups flour
2 Tablespoons butter
1 cup warm water
1/4 teaspoon salt
Mix flour and salt in a big bowl. Make a space in the middle of bowl and put butter and eggs there. Slowly stir up mixture adding warm water to make a stiff dough. Don’t make too loose. You may not need all the water. Knead dough until very smooth. Let stand in bowl for 10 minutes covered by a dish towel. Divide into 2 halves and rollout with a rolling pin. Leave unrolled half in covered bowl. Shape dough by hand and roller to make a large rectangle that is longer vertically than it is wide. Roll out on floured, flat surface until dough is 1/16 inch thick. Roll out from center of dough to the edges. Divide dough in half, scoring but not cutting a horizontal line across the middle with a knife. Use approximately 1 tablespoon of filling for each pierogi. Space fillings evenly in rows and fold top half of dough over the bottom half. Usually I have a more in the top rows than in the bottom row because dough is often more in the shape of a tall oval than a rectangle with precise 90 degree angles. Cut into rows using a pizza cutter or knife. Cut rows into individual pierogies and press edges with fingers then fork to seal in the fillings. Put them on trays covered with floured paper towels. Bring 2 large pots of water to a boil adding olive oil and salt. Add pierogies and boil for 8-10 minutes, slightly longer if your dough is really thick. Serve with melted butter and champagne. Some may prefer one type or another but the two flavors seem to compliment each other well. Take pictures because they are gone really quickly and you may not believe they were real.
“Thoughts are like flowers; those gathered in the morning keep fresh the longest” — Andre Gide
2007 Top Ten Favorites
by John Gorka, Folksinger
In no particular order except for #1
- Favorite CD Mavis Staples’ We’ll Never Turn Back
- Favorite New Club: Ragamuffin Music Hall, Roswell, GA
- House Sound Kerrville Folk Festival
- Seeing Anais Mitchell Live
- Visiting the Woody Guthrie archives
- Collaborating with Woody Guthrie
- Collaborating with William Stafford
- One of my all time favorite singers liked my CD
- Beginning the “Longing for Eliza” show with Cliff Eberhardt, & Eliza Gilkyson
- The Sierra Leone Refugee Allstars DVD– should be required viewing for every over-privileged US musician.
- Cowboy stories where the good guys fight and win
- Which means any of the 30 odd Louis L’Amour stories I’ve read this year
- Didn’t have to vote against anyone this year
- Seeing Jonathan Byrd Live
- Finding out that slightly overweight people live longer
- Releasing a hi-def, high resolution surround sound DVD
- Hearing it on my brother-in-law’s home theater system because I do not have one.
- Didn’t get abducted by aliens this year
- Singing with Antje Duvekot
- Getting to hear Cape Breton and other Nova Scotia songwriters & musicians at Stan Rogers Festival, Canso, Nova Scotia
- 360 or so naps taken
- Finding out nappers live longer
- Didn’t bomb Iran yet
- Playing in Jersey City, NJ (land of my people)
- Singing with Rose Cousins
- Public finding out the dangers of optimism
- The bright side of pessimism coming to light (things generally turn out better than you thought they would).
- Angelina, Britney and Paris agreeing not to call more than once a week.
- Seeing, hearing and performing with Michael Manring.
- My Mom turned 90.
- Having more favorites than I can remember
- Our kids still like us
- Singing and doing shows with Meg Hutchinson, Drew Nelson and Amilia Spicer
- Concert for Bob Feldman, St. Paul, MN
- One of my songwriter heroes learning one of my songs
- Seeing how vast and varied the country is and marveling that it is not more divided and fragmented than it actually is.
I was honored to be a part of the celebration of Woody Guthrie’s music entitled “In Woody’s Words” at WXPN’s World Cafe Live in Philadelphia yesterday. The cast also included, Tom Paxton, Jonatha Brooke, Cathy Fink and Marcie Marxer, Sara Lee Guthrie and Johnny Irion. Nora Guthrie and Gene Shay were the hosts. It was big fun. There was a short but moving film about Woody’s impact on the world of music. Arlo also visited by video. The program featured the debut of new songs which combined unpublished Woody lyrics and new music by the participants. We had been asked to say something about what Woody meant to us.
This request triggered a memory I didn’t even know I had in me. Here it is below:
Woody, Cisco and Me
I first met Woody Guthrie in Chico, CA in late July, 1938. He and Cisco Houston had been invited to play at an afternoon rally for a new fruit pickers union. I attended and hovered around afterwards but didn’t have the nerve to try and say hello. Later that evening I followed Woody, Cisco, and a small group of hangers on as they moved to a bar in downtown Chico. The place had an Irish sounding name as I recall — Muldoon’s or Mulrooney’s. Several people offered to buy them drinks. ”Well,” Woody said, “I only drink in two situations — when I’m alone or with somebody.” Since it was a warm evening in July both the front and the backdoors were open so I was able sneak a peek and listen to the grown-ups even though I wasn’t old enough to go inside. After eating sandwiches at the bar they moved to the back room and out came the instruments. I moved to the back entrance to listen and I remember hearing Gypsy Davy, and what would become some of Woody’s dustbowl ballads (recorded in Camden, NJ, 1940). At one point Cisco came out the back to have a smoke and he saw me there and asked if I had eaten lately and would I like a root beer. I said I’d had some jerky and peanuts but I would love the root beer although I didn’t have the money to pay for one. Cisco said “Don’t worry about it kid,” got me the root beer and went back inside to make some more music.
That music went on and on and eventually I fell asleep listening. When I woke up I had my head on my pack and someone had put a red and white checkered table cloth over me as a blanket. I stirred as they left the bar, still singing. Woody and Cisco’s ride to Los Angeles never showed up so a guy who wrote under the name “Mick Inkmann” for the local paper said he could give them a lift out to the main highway. From there they planned to hitch hike to Los Angeles or at least to Sacramento. The newspaperman’s car had a rumble seat that was open & unoccupied so I jumped in and kept my head out of sight. At a railroad crossing the car stopped for a freight train moving slowly south out of town. At the north end of the train we saw a boxcar door open and 4 men jumped out looking like certified hoboes. Woody and Cisco quickly decided a change of plans was in order, jumped out of the car, thanked Mick and hopped up through the open boxcar door. I scrambled out, startling the Local Press, and ran for the train. Woody saw me and pulled me up into the car. They asked my name and I told them and we sat and talked or rather shouted over the sounds of the moving train. I told them of the many places I had been and all the people I had met but that more than anything I wanted to do what they were doing. It quickly dawned on Woody that the account of my travels was not technically factual and he stopped me and said “How old are you kid?” I said that “strictly speaking I won’t be born for another 20 years or so”. There was a pause then Woody said “What’s a preconceived notion like you doing on a train like this?” I said that “the musical standard that you and Pete and Leadbelly were setting was so high that the aspiring folksingers of the future needed to get as early a start as possible. So that’s why I’m here – to observe my heroes up close and personal, even though it did take some doing to make the arrangements.” Woody looked at Cisco. Cisco looked at Woody. Without saying a word they both picked me up and heaved me out of the boxcar door.
Somehow they must have known they could not harm my immortal soul in the process.
As I tumbled eastward down the embankment they yelled that I should be more careful in picking my heroes. I waved and sang a little bit of the chorus of “So Long It’s Been Good to Know You” which prompted rude, synchronized gestures from the two of them.
I smiled to myself and continued to roll slowly and steadily to the east, rolling up the Sierras and down through the desert, then up the Western Slope of the Rockies and down into the Plains, only stopping on a summer Sunday afternoon in Newark, NJ where I was born, again – so to speak, bound to sing, if not actually bound for glory.
Hello. I just wanted to drop a quick note to let you know “The Gypsy Life” DVD is now available here at the www.johngorka.com website store. All will be personally signed by “the artist” as is everything that is sent out from this bustling center of music making and mayhem. The website store will now be accepting credit card orders from around the world. Previously we only shipped to the US and Canada. I was thinking calling this post “Gorka Goes Global” but I thought better of it.
“The Gypsy Life” is a 2 DVD set produced by AIX Records. The centerpiece of the set is a 19 song performance recorded in high definition video and high resolution audio at the Zipper Auditorium at the Colburn School of the Performing Arts downtown in Los Angeles last December. The show features some longtime musical cohorts and friends Michael Manring on bass, Russ Rentler, from the Razzy Dazzy Spasm Band on mandolin, Amilia Spicer on vocals and Susan Werner on piano, guitar and vocals. Recorded in a beautiful hall without a live audience the effect is like a private concert. One disc is a 2 sided video dvd and the other is a dvd-audio in surround sound on one side and cd audio on the second side. The “interactive” side includes this performance, and other sections with interviews, a photo gallery, discography, artist bios, song intros, and some live club footage recorded at McCabe’s Guitar Shop in Santa Monica. The second side of the video disc is what I’m calling the “Linear Show” which puts parts of all of the above and more into a single 2 hour long program. I still don’t really know how to talk about this thing yet. If you have a home theater set-up I think you will be pleased with the quality of the video and audio. I don’t have one of these systems so I might have to come to your place to watch it. For more information about “The Gypsy Life” please visit http://www.aixrecords.com
Special thanks to Mark Waldrep of AIX for making this whole thing happen. The DVDs ordered from AIX are signed and numbered. The DVD is also available from http://www.redhouserecords.com
I’ve been working on new songs on my own and with some interesting collaborators. I hope to record the songs next year and put them out in early ’09 if not sooner.
All for now,
If you are not paranoid, you are not paying attention — JG
I got to see my friend Cliff Eberhardt play in Saint Paul the other night and he was great. I’ve known Cliff a long time and he was as good or better than I’ve ever seen him. He’s been on the road constantly since early May and all those shows have put him at the top of his game. It was a real joy. He asked me to come up and sing at the end of his set and we had much fun. I hope I didn’t overfool around. It’s a very fine line between irreverence and disrespect and I hope I didn’t cross it, and if I did I hope I got back in time. Opening the show was Anais Mitchell. She is so talented and was so good. She has a limitless future. Her new record is called “The Brightness” on Righteous Babe Records. I said to Cliff after the show about Anais “She’s the future. We are not, Cliff. We’re between the future and the pasture.”
I’ve also been listening to Jonathan Byrd, Meg Hutchinson, Antje Duvekot, and Rose Cousins recently. They are just a few names to remember and investigate musically. They are the future or at least the part that gives me hope.
I’ll write soon about the availability of “The Gypsy Life” dvd from this website. If you can’t wait you can go to www.aixrecords.com or www.redhouserecords.com. Those are the only places you can get it that I know of so far.
I also want to talk about the Stan Rogers Folk Festival in Canso, Nova Scotia at some point. They are really growing their own there. It is a very inspiring part of the world. It starts with the fiddle music…