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Good Old Days:

Irish folk singer, favorite at Muldoon’s dies

January 27, 2008|By Sue Thoensen

Richard Kaplan, special events coordinator for Muldoon’s Irish Pub in Newport Beach, said he’ll always remember what legendary Irish folk singer John Stewart told the crowd the first time he performed at the restaurant in the fall of 2000.

Kaplan said the singer, who died at 68 of a massive stroke Jan. 19, was always entertaining on stage.

“He was getting ready to perform ‘Gold,’ the song he recorded with Fleetwood Mac’s Stevie Nicks. He introduced the selection by saying, ‘This is one of my big hits, and it got me where I am today.’”

Stewart that year was the latest inductee into the Muldoon’s/Guinness Wall of Fame, established in 1999 to recognize those of Irish ancestry who excelled in the arts. He received the award from then-Newport Beach Mayor Dennis O’Neil.

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Stewart’s musical career began in the 1950s, when he formed the Cumberland Three, a folk-style group modeled after the Kingston Trio.

In 1961, Stewart replaced founding member Dave Guard and became a member of the Kingston Trio.

Tom DeLisle was a Kingston Trio fan when he met Stewart at a concert in Michigan in early 1973. The two men began a friendship that lasted for more than 30 years, DeLisle said.

DeLisle said Stewart’s music was perfect for smaller settings because his friend loved to interact with an audience.

“He was very funny, very smart, and he would talk throughout the performance. He’d been on the road, playing in every town in America for 50 years, but he wasn’t in it for mass adulation, he was in it for the art,” DeLisle said.

Stewart left the Kingston Trio in 1967, and during that time composed “Daydream Believer,” a huge hit for the Monkees. The single topped the U.S. Billboard Hot 100 chart in December of 1967 for four weeks.

In 1968, Stewart joined Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Robert F. Kennedy on his campaign trail, appearing with Kennedy at rallies up until the night of his assassination.

Kennedy brought Stewart on the presidential campaign trail because of Stewart’s ability to reach the hearts the everyday American, Kaplan said.

Stewart and fellow Kingston Trio member Nick Reynolds also used to host a three-day, “Trio Fantasy Camp” for Kingston fans in Scottsdale every August.

DeLisle would emcee the weekend camp, which offered about 20 fans the chance to perform with Reynolds and Stewart.

“The camper completes the trio,” DeLisle said, something he described as a “tremendous thrill” for longtime fans of the group’s music.

Stewart’s first solo album, “California Bloodlines,” was released in 1969, and he continued to write and record music until his death, in San Diego.

In what might be described as a twist of fate, Stewart died in the hospital he was born in.

The singer lived in Northern California and was visiting Reynolds and working on an album when he suffered the stroke.

DeLisle said although Stewart wasn’t in “the top tier of musicians,” his death has received quite a national reaction.

“Even though he was my friend, he was my hero,” DeLisle said. “He was the most creative, interesting man I’ve ever been around.”


SUE THOENSEN may be reached at (714) 966-4627 or at sue.thoensen@latimes.com.

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