John Gorka returns to Nisswa for Nov. 18 concert

NISSWA--John Gorka returns to perform in the next Grassroots Concerts at 7:30 p.m. Nov. 18 in the Live Well Nightclub and Coffee Bar in Nisswa. After his 1987 Red House release "I Know" introduced Gorka to the public, his wit and honesty have mad...

John Gorka is one of the musical artists scheduled to play the Grassroots Concerts stage this fall at the Live Well Nightclub and Coffee Bar in Nisswa. Gorka will perform in November. (Submitted)
John Gorka returns to perform in the next Grassroots Concerts at 7:30 p.m. Nov. 18 in the Live Well Nightclub and Coffee Bar in Nisswa. Submitted

NISSWA-John Gorka returns to perform in the next Grassroots Concerts at 7:30 p.m. Nov. 18 in the Live Well Nightclub and Coffee Bar in Nisswa.

After his 1987 Red House release "I Know" introduced Gorka to the public, his wit and honesty have made him one of the most beloved artists currently carrying on the folk tradition, organizers stated in a news release.

Gorka said his latest album, out in July, is the cover of his newest/oldest recording entitled "Before Beginning-The Unreleased I Know, Nashville, 1985."

"It was recorded and mixed in five days in Nashville and was produced by Jim Rooney," he stated. "With a new mix by Rob Genadek 30 years later here in Minnesota I thought it was ready to see the light of day."

Nine of the 10 songs here were re-recorded on Gorka's 1987 debut record.


A native of New Jersey, Gorka started his career in the 1970s at Godfrey Daniels, a neighborhood coffeehouse in eastern Pennsylvania.

Although his academic coursework at Moravian College lay in philosophy and history, music began to offer paramount enticements. He found himself living in the club's basement and acting as resident emcee and sound man, encountering legendary folk troubadours like Canadian singer-songwriter Stan Rogers, Eric Andersen, Tom Paxton and Claudia Schmidt. Their brand of folk-inspired acoustic music inspired him, and before long he was performing his own songs, mostly as an opener for visiting acts.

He started traveling to New York City, where Jack Hardy's legendary Fast Folk circle, a breeding ground for many a major singer-songwriter became a powerful source of education and encouragement.

Performing at Texas' Kerrville Folk Festival, where he won the New Folk Award in 1984, and in gigs around Boston, Gorka turned heads with his baritone voice and original songwriting. Those who had at one time inspired him-Suzanne Vega, Bill Morrissey, Nanci Griffith, Christine Lavin and Shawn Colvin-had become his peers.

In 1987, Red House caught wind of Gorka's talents and released his first album to popular and critical acclaim. When an offer came from Windham Hill's Will Ackerman in 1989, he signed with that label's imprint, High Street Records. He proceeded to record five albums with High Street over the next seven years. His albums and his touring on more than 150 nights a year at times brought new accolades for his craft.

Organizers stated his "rich multifaceted songs full of depth, beauty and emotion gained increasing attention from critics and audiences across the country," as well as in Europe where his tours led him through Italy, Belgium, Scotland, Ireland, the Netherlands, Switzerland and Germany.

In 1998 Gorka returned to his musical roots at Red House Records. The choice was driven, in part, by the artistic integrity that the label represents in an industry where the business of music too often takes precedence. The 1998 release, "After Yesterday" and his next recording, "The Company You Keep," hold fast to his tradition of fine songwriting, yet move forward down new avenues. These albums showcase his use of lyrics and attention to detail.

"Old Futures Gone," the next LP, is informed by his life as husband and father of two young children and also contained the colorful experience of many hard years on the road. "Writing in the Margins," in 2006, is a collection of sweet and serious songs that spanned many musical genres-folk, pop, country and soul-and features guest vocalists Nanci Griffith, Lucy Kaplansky and Alice Peacock.


His 11th studio album, "So Dark You See," takes Gorka back to his roots and was dubbed his most compelling and traditional album to date. In addition to his 11 critically acclaimed albums, Gorka released a collector's edition box featuring a hi-definition DVD and companion CD called "The Gypsy Life."

Windham Hill also released a collection of his greatest hits from the label called "Pure John Gorka."

In 2010, he also released an album with his friends and Red House label-mates Lucy Kaplansky and Eliza Gilkyson under the name Red Horse. Organizers stated it received high praise from critics and fans alike and landed on the Billboard Folk Charts and was one of the most played albums on folk radio.

Many well-known artists have recorded and/or performed Gorka's songs, including Mary Chapin Carpenter, Nanci Griffith, Mary Black and Maura O'Connell.

His "Where No Monuments Stand" is featured in the documentary "Every War Has Two Losers" about activist and Oregon Poet Laureate William Stafford (1914-1993).

Gorka lives in Minnesota and continues to tour, playing festivals, theaters and clubs all over North America and Europe.

This will be his eighth appearance in the nonprofit Grassroots Concerts series. Grassroots Concerts, a nonprofit, are made possible in part by a grant provided by the Five Wings Arts Council with funds through the Minnesota State Legislature.

Concert general admission is $10 for adults and $5 for children under 12 with listening attention, when accompanied by an adult. Doors open at 6:30 p.m. for seating preference.


At each concert, non-perishable food and cash donations are welcomed, with donations delivered to local food shelves by Grassroots volunteers.

For information go to or visit Grassroots Concerts on


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