View Full Version : John Cooke, Charles River Valley Boys; RIP

Feb-22-2018, 2:12pm
My Harvard alumni magazine ran an obit for John Cooke, Harvard '62, guitarist and lead singer for the Charles River Valley Boys in the 1960's. Cooke, son of writer and TV personality Alistair Cooke, left the CRVB before their well-known Elektra recording, Beatle Country, being succeeded by Jim Field. He became personal manager for Janis Joplin, until her 1972 death, and later wrote Western novels and book reviews, plus a memoir, On the Road With Janis Joplin. According to his Wikipedia page, (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/John_Byrne_Cooke) he died last September, at age 76. In his last years he lived in Jackson Hole WY.

Through most of their history the Charles River Valley Boys featured the mandolin of Joe Val (Valiente). along with Bob Siggins on banjo, and first Fritz Richmond on washtub bass, then Everett Allen Lilly on bass fiddle. They were one of the more influential "city-billy" bluegrass bands, playing frequently for college coffeehouse audiences in the Northeast. I made many of their regular monthly shows at Club 47 in Cambridge, and have three of their LP's, two with Cooke as lead singer.

With the recent death of Bill Keith (2015), the decreasing numbers of "folk revival" musicians who played bluegrass become more evident. I thank John Cooke for many memorable hours of music, sitting 15 feet away from the little Club 47 stage.