Donald's Encyclopedia of Popular Music

A B C D E F G H I J K L M N O P Q R S T U V W X Y Z

WINCHESTER, Jesse

(b 17 May 1944, Shreveport LA) Singer-songwriter. Son of a serviceman, he was studying in Munich when draft papers arrived in 1967; he made his home in Canada and became a Canadian citizen in 1973. He became one of the most famous 'draft dodgers' of the Vietnam era, but mainly on the basis of his poignant and finely wrought songs. His eponymous debut album '70 was produced by Robbie Robertson, who played on it along with Levon Helm; like the best work of the Band, its emphasis was on a bygone America: 'Yankee Lady' and 'Brand New Tennessee Waltz' were covered widely.

Third Down, 110 To Go '72 (referring to Canadian football) was produced by Todd Rundgren (all these albums were on Ampex/Bearsville, where Rundgren was the house producer); semi-a cappella Learn To Love It '74 found him in mellower mood, with a gospel touch carried over into Let The Rough Side Drag '76. Nothin' But A Breeze '77 and A Touch On The Rainy Side '78 were well-crafted country rock, with Emmylou Harris, Anne Murray helping on vocals.

He was pardoned in President Carter's amnesty for Vietnam, and toured the USA; Talk Memphis '81 was produced by Willie Mitchell (Al Green, Hi Records, etc) and added R&B bite to thoughtful lyrics, including 'Say What', his first top 40 single. Humour Me '88 came out on Sugar Hill; there was a best-of on Rhino. His songs were being covered by the Everly Brothers, Tim Hardin, Joan Baez, Elvis Costello, many others.

Since the 1980s there has been as much as ten years between studio albums; Winchester obviously has not bothered to try to become a big-time recording star, letting his excellent songs speak for themselves. Gentleman of Leisure '99 was also on Sugar Hill, Rough Ideas 2001 on Great Big Island, and Love Filling Station 2009 on Appleseed. There have also been live albums on Blue Plate, Country Stars and Acrobat.