John Henry’s Sunshine

What an inspiring night!

A capacity crowd at Strange Brew was treated to a phenomenal performance by John Henry McDonald who played guitar and harmonica, sang, and told remarkable stories last night (Sunday, May 4).

It was the release party for John Henry’s first CD recording called Sunshine in My Suitcase.  An original collection of authentic, ragtime “classic blues and Americana” songs and stories by one of the most inspiring and generous men I know.

Before I describe the evening, John Henry would want me – I’m sure – to talk about why he created this CD.  John Henry spent several years writing, recording, practicing (working with Austin guitar great Matt Smith) to make a project that benefits, 100%, the work we do in education at Austin Classical Guitar and our scholarship for graduates to attend Austin Community College.

The CDs are free, John Henry asks, however, that you consider a donation to the Sunshine Project, and likes to mention that the first track on the CD is called “You Can’t get Something for Nothing!”

In my introductory remarks I said: “John Henry is a man of many passions, vision and generosity.  One of the things that sets him apart from almost everyone I know is his ability, through perseverance, tenacity and willpower to pursue his passions and make manifest his visions.  Fortunately for Austin Classical Guitar, for myself, personally, and for the thousands of kids we serve in education, our work rose to the top of his list of passions in 2006, and has stayed there ever since.”

John Henry’s songs are often funny but there is always incredible depth.  The life experience he pours into the writing, the lyrics, and performance, is undeniable.  I particularly enjoy the words which capture, in a way totally unique in my experience, a combination of life-lesson truths that are translatable – I would imagine – for most of us, with a totally personal expression of the psyche of the artist that makes you feel like you’re peering into his thought process at the moment of realization. 

Almost everyone in the room last night knows John Henry, or knows of him, as a self-made man who founded Austin Asset Management Company (now Austin Asset).  Many had not seen him perform before however, and the comments I heard were representative of, I’d say: joy, awe, and inspiration.

John Henry told, in words and in song, stories ranging from returning to the US badly wounded as a Vietnam veteran and spending time in great struggle without a home in the 1970’s, to settling down with the love of his life in Austin, Texas in the 1990’s.

If you’d like John Henry’s CD, they are available by making a contribution of any level to a program he has found worthy enough to devote years of his artistic passion. 

Donate to the Sunshine Project today.

Here’s a picture I snapped right before the show began last night!  Love that crisp new linen suit he purchased just for the show!