Meet John Hotze 

What do you do when one of your closest friends passes away way too soon, especially a lifelong friend who symbolized what a true free spirit musician is, a real songwriter, a great fiddler, banjo picker, and a wonderful entertainer?According to John Hotze, a 71 year old entrepreneur, visionary, musician, music lover, serious risk taker, cancer survivor and lifelong friend of the late John Hartford, you throw that man a festival, which is exactly what he did. The first John Hartford Memorial Festival was held at Bill Monroe’s famous Bean Blossom Bluegrass Park in Bean Blossom, Indiana, last June, 2011, and the second is coming up at the end of May.


John Hotze' story is far too long to completely cover in this article, but I will elaborate on his colorful, exciting musical odyssey as a teen getting to know John Hartford.

I first encountered John Hotze' presence, unbeknownst to me, while emceeing the instrument contests at the Yonder Mountain String Band’s Mulberry Mountain Harvest Festival near Ozark, Arkansas. He was set up about fifteen feet in front of the stage, filming the contests. It was after talking to Jeff Mankin, of the Steam Powered Preservation Society website, ( who is a good friend of Mr. Hotze and made the trip down to Arkansas with him, that I found out who Mr. Hotze was and what he has been up to. Via email, I feel like we have become friends with a mutual mission, albeit my involvement is just a fraction of Mr. Hotze’, to honor, remember and keep alive the memory and music of John Hartford, who died from cancer June 4th, 2001. This year’s festival mission statement, written by emcee Cary Allen Fields, broadcaster at WICR in Indianapolis, says “The mission and focus of The John Hartford Memorial Festival is to carry John's legacy and influence forward in perpetuity while celebrating his life, music, and ideals.”

So who is this man, John Hotze, and what is his connection to the John Hartford legacy and how do you just haul off and throw a festival? In a recent interview, John Hotze told me a little of his story and association with John Hartford.

Lets go back in time a little. In John Hotze' own words, “My road to Bean Blossom & the Hartford festival started with two young teenagers talking at a corner newspaper stand in Webster Groves Missouri, back in the winter of 1953 as we huddled around a fire, blazing in a 55 gallon garbage can. Times aren't anything like they use to be. I don't know if you ever have watched Leave It To Beaver, Ozzie & Harriet, or Father Knows Best, but these shows really did depict how life was when I grew up. “

John Hotze grew up in St. Louis, as did John Cowan Harford, who would, in the mid sixties, at the urging of Chet Akins, add a “t” to his last name, thus,

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