Arranger, guitarist, producer and singer-songwriter from Hometown, Illinois, who started playing guitar when he was about ten or twelve and was playing the club circuit when he was only fifteen.
The Belands moved to L.A. and John found himself right at home at The Troubador, a hotbed of country-rock, frequented by artists such as Glenn Frey, Bernie Leadon, Larry Murray, and Linda Ronstadt.
Linda asked him to help her put together a backup band, and it was called Swampwater. The band comprised John, Gib Guilbeau, Stan Pratt, and Eric White. Needless to say, it worked out pretty well. Linda was well on the way to a staggeringly successful solo career, and Swampwater even got to record a couple of albums under their own name. They opened for established artists and groups such as The Byrds, Arlo Guthrie, The Nitty Gritty Dirt Band.
Arlo was so impressed that he asked them to leave Linda and come and tour with him. They appeared with him onstage at the Hollywood Bowl for a concert tribute to his father, Woody Guthrie, which was immortalized on vinyl in 1972. (A live version is also enshrined in The Library of Congress.)
In 1973, John quit the band and went on the road with Johnny Tillotson. Their adventures took them all over the globe, including a stop in England, where Johnny put John in touch with Apple Records bigwig, Tony King. Tony was enamoured of John’s singing and songwriting and, with Ringo Starr’s OK, awarded him with a recording contract. Unfortunately, Apple was entangled in a legal mess at the time, and John Edward Beland was released on Scepter Records, instead. John does have the dubious distinction of being the last act signed by Apple, however.
In 1974, Kris Kristofferson asked him to join his band, and John performed and recorded with him until being snapped up by The Bellamy Brothers. This is where John’s incredible streak of luck really begins: He performed on “Let Your Love Flow”, which was a massive crossover hit, and took part in the subsequent, nation-wide tour. Then Kim Carnes asked him to play on her album, Sailing, which resulted in another series of live dates, opening for Neil Sedaka, no less.
In 1976, John nearly wound up in Elvis Presley’s band, but was left odd man out when James Burton decided to stay on-board as guitarist to The King. Mac Davis hired him, instead, and although it was not the best experience of his musical career, it did result in a friendship with Mac’s opening act, Dolly Parton. Dolly asked him if he would like to go on tour with her, and he did, right at the time that “Here You Come Again” was making waves on the country and pop charts.
Then, John received an offer he couldn’t refuse: An opportunity to perform with one of his childhood idols, Ricky Nelson. He joined Ricky’s band in 1978, appearing on TV shows such as Saturday Night Live and performing live dates throughout the United States. John also arranged Ricky’s last big hit, a re-working of Bobby Darin’s “Dream Lover”.
In 1979, Swampwater reunited briefly for one more album, simply titled, Reunion. It indirectly led to John being asked to join The Flying Burrito Brothers, just in time for a tour of Italy, of all places. John had an immediate impact on the band, which shortened its name to “The Burrito Brothers”, penning a number of hits, such as “She Belongs to Everyone but Me” and “She’s a Friend of a Friend”.
During his tenure with the group, they charted nine times and were awarded “Best New Vocal Group of the Year” (ironic, as they had been around since the late ‘60s) and “Number One Crossover Group” kudos from magazines such as Billboard, Cashbox, and Record World. In 1982, they were asked to help induct another one of John’s childhood heroes, Lefty Frizzell, into The Country Music Hall of Fame. John and Gib Guilbeau, also of The Burrito Brothers, splintered off to form The Pick-Ups and went on a tour Down Under in 1983. In 1984, The Burrito Brothers aired their swan song on Music City Tonight, a huge television program at the time in Nashville, Tennessee.
John did a brief stint with Nicolette Larson’s backing band, while planning to move back to L.A. and get his old job back with Ricky Nelson. On 31st December 1985, one day before John was set to return, Ricky Nelson and his band were all killed in an airplane crash. John was obviously devastated by the news, and decided to stay in Nashville.
It turned out to be a good non-move: Soon he found himself working on the hugest country and western hit ever, a Garth Brooks cover of Mark Chesnutt’s “Friends in Low Places”. John, who clearly had a knack for making friends in high places, focused on his songwriting and found his works being recorded by acts as disparate as Mark Farner and The Whites.
Following a short-lived collaboration with Bobby Bare and Pulleybone, John re-joined The Flying Burrito Brothers for a tour of France and Spain. This resulted in the recording of the live album, Encore – Live in Europe 1990.
In 1990, another reunion took place, this time with John performing on The Bellamy Brothers’ hit, “She Don’t Know That She’s Perfect”. John also co-wrote “Cowboy Beat” with the Bellamys, and it peaked at #23 on the country chart and garnered him an ASCAP award in 1993.
The Flying Burrito Brothers flew around the world again in 1994 and played live dates throughout Europe, including concerts in Austria, Germany, and Switzerland. They also entered the recording studio again for a pair of albums, California Jukebox and Sons of the Golden West. Unfortunately, while working on California Jukebox, Gib had a heart attack and subsequently retired. The band continued to tour Australia and Hawaii in 2000, then decided to call it a millennium.
In September of the same year, John returned to the stage with Severin Browne. Then he released his first solo album in decades, Bare Bones, in 2001. He has continued to perform on and produce records, and still enjoys an international fan base in countries including Canada, England, Ireland, Norway and Scotland.
In 2007, he appeared at Norway’s Ose Festival and then released a concert video entitled Lindesneshallen. December 2009 found him performing several live dates at the Stone Cellar in Round Top, Texas.
John has been working on the biography, Best Seat in the House and contributes book and music reviews to amazon.com.
The Burrito Brothers recordings
Blue and Broken Hearted Me (Buddy Cannon/Raleigh Squires)
She’s a Friend of a Friend (John Beland/Gib Guilbeau)
Here he is performing “Johnny B. Goode”….