John Velghe
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John Velghe

Rolla, Missouri, United States | Established. Jan 01, 2011 | INDIE

Rolla, Missouri, United States | INDIE
Established on Jan, 2011
Band Rock Americana




"After ‘miserable’ hiatus, John Velghe back with new CD, band"

The Kansas City Star
He’d been done with music for several years — didn’t write a song, didn’t pick up an instrument — before John Velghe admitted he was unhappy and there was only one cure.

“I quit music because it had become about everything but music,” Velghe said. “But I woke up one morning and said, ‘I’m miserable.’ And the only thing I used to do that I’m not doing is making music. I wasn’t writing songs.”

In 2007 he started writing again, beginning with music for films, including a documentary about Kansas City and urban renewal called “The Next American Dream.” Then he returned to songwriting and recording.

Saturday night he will celebrate the release of “Don’t Let Me Stay,” his first full-length album by John Velghe and the Prodigal Sons, the seven-piece band he fronts. The album represents Velghe’s renewed commitment to music, he said, but it also represents a renewed perspective.

“I’ve learned to become more honest, musically and lyrically,” Velghe said. “And that has allowed me to trust other people. I learned something from everyone who was on this record.” And from a couple people who weren’t.

Velghe has been a part of the local scene since the mid- to late 1990s, in a band called the Wilsons, then a trio called Famous FM. Along the way, he made some well-known friends: Texas singer/songwriter Alejandro Escovedo and Dan Wilson, of Trip Shakespeare and Semisonic (and co-writer of three songs on Adele’s “21” album, including “Someone Like You”).

“Al and I have been friends since I met him when he played a show with Son Volt at the Granada,” Velghe said. “One time after his band Buick McKane played a show at the Hurricane we went over to It’s a Beautiful Day and played some songs for some hippie kids. After that, Al listened to a tape of one of my old bands. He was the first person to tell me that I have a voice, that I should never stop singing. He has become my mentor.”

In 2002, Velghe joined the Daybirds, a Kansas City pop band that was flirting with some big-time success after it drew some management interest from Celine Dion Associates.

“We got told at the beginning of the year: ‘Stop taking clients. Quit your jobs. Wind up your affairs. Your lives will change,’?” he said. “The process got dragged out and music became secondary to everything else. Instead it was about management deals and contracts. It was all very real. We’d submitted a $200,000 budget. We’d ordered custom-built road cases. Then the deal got shot down.”

And the band fell apart, musically and personally.

“We were four guys who were going to spend the rest of our lives on an 8-foot-by-20-foot bus,” Velghe said. “And then it got to the point where if we’d see each other on the street, we’d turn and walk in the other direction.”

That same year, Escovedo collapsed after a show. He was subsequently treated for a near-fatal bout of Hepatitis C.

“I was miserable,” Velghe said, “My mentor nearly dies. I thought, ‘Man, music is killing people I love and ruining friendships.’ So for three years I was done. I needed to clear my head.”

Escovedo helped change Velghe’s psychic weather in 2005, when he released “The Boxing Mirror,” a comeback album that addressed the demons that nearly killed him. The album eventually inspired Velghe to emerge from his funk.

“I thought, ‘Look at Al. He has every reason to be done,” he said. “So I called him and told him his record made me start writing again.”

Velghe would release a self-titled EP in 2010. The next year, he started work on the more ambitious “Don’t Let Me Stay.”

“After I made the EP, I talked to Al about producing a full-length,” Velghe said. “He was going to do it, but schedules got in the way. But initially it gave me license to ask people if they wanted to play on a recording Alejandro Escovedo was going to produce. So in a way he helped me bait-and-switch them.”

The core of the band became drummer Dan Dumit, bassist Chris Wagner and go-to guitarist Mike Alexander (Hipshot Killer, Starhaven Rounders and formerly of the Architects). When it came time to start planning the full-length, Velghe said, he started thinking larger.

“I remember telling Chris when we were down at SXSW last year, ‘We’re going to get vocal harmonies and horns on this next record,’?” Velghe said.

He re-enlisted Mike Walker (trombone) and Sam Hughes (sax), who had played on the EP and who also performed with Velghe at a Replacements tribute at the Record Bar in 2011. He also enlisted trumpeter Hermon Mehari.

“I asked Hermon if he wanted to play on my record,” Velghe said. “He said, ‘Absolutely.’ I said, ‘It’s rock ’n’ roll.’ He said, ‘Whatever suits the song.’?”

Because of too many personal commitments, including a baby daughter, Dumit had to leave the band. He was replaced by Go-Go Ray.

“He plays drums for the Death and Whisper,” Velghe said. “I was producing their album in my studio and Go-Go sat down and played my drum kit like no one has ever played it. So I asked if he wanted to play on my record. He said, ‘Sure.’ He has been a natural. But he’s a natural for everything.”

Thus, his band, the Prodigal Sons, is now a six-piece, including a three-piece horn section. “Brass is sexy on stage,” he said. “Those guys have become a huge part of the show.”

For the album, he brought in Kirsten Paludan for background vocals, and a three-piece string section that included Whitney Williamson, whose husband, Wade Williamson, is also in the Starhaven Rounders with Alexander and Paludan.

Before recording began, Velghe consulted with Escovedo and Wilson about his approach.

“Al asked me what I wanted to do with this record,” he said. “I told him I want to be more honest lyrically and more edited in terms of arrangements. Al told me to think about doing it as live as possible. As much as I love his early records, I really love (Escovedo) albums like ‘A Man Under the Influence,’ which Chris Stamey produced. Al said, ‘That’s the first record I recorded live with everyone in the room. You need to think about laying it down live, like a show.’

“Dan Wilson gave me almost the reverse advice. He’d listened to the demos and said he wasn’t hearing an emotional connection to my voice. He told me something he’d picked up from Rick Rubin, which is when doing the vocals, turn everything off but the drum kit. So half of the vocals I cut are Go-Go playing drums and me singing. Hopefully, that connection comes across.”

Velghe said he listened to several albums for inspiration, especially when it comes down to the use of horns, in particular the Rolling Stones’ “Exile on Main Street.” But the primary goal, he said, was to convey something basic and honest.

“I didn’t want the honesty of the songs to get lost in the shuffle,” he said. “At the end of the day, I wanted to sound like a Townes Van Zandt song, not a Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band song. Or either one, because some of the stuff here is hugely produced.”

“Don’t Let Me Stay” conveys a wealth of influences, many of them Velghe’s heroes and inspirations: Paul Westerberg, John Lennon, R.E.M., John Lennon, Alex Chilton and Big Star.

It is a gem of a pop record, rich in melodies and harmonies, embroidered tastefully with strings, guitars, horns, keyboards, the occasional mandolin. It rocks hard and sways gently. It is softly lit in some places, bright and brash in others.

Velghe credits everyone who worked on it for making it better, especially Wagner, who helped with vocal arrangements.

He also credits his friends with reminding him why he was in music in the first place.

“Back in the Daybirds, the music got lost; the stakes became only about getting a contract from management,” he said. “Now the stakes are only about making great songs.” - Kansas City Star

"ALBUM REVIEW: John Velghe & The Prodigal Sons, “Organ Donor Blues”"

It makes me feel good to know that there is this whole new crop of musicians from the mid-West releasing quality music. I’ve had the pleasure of hearing many of these groups and here again is another, John Velghe and The Prodigal Sons. This new collection, Organ Donor Blues, is their sophomoric bow and it’s been a joy to listen to. A taut, crisp production; rich, full-bodied songs with strong arrangements, brass, backing singers – even a guest appearance from the now-legendary Alejandro Escovedo adds up to a beefy pop album that’s full of melody and warmth.

“Beaten By Pretenders”, featuring the aforementioned Mr. Escovedo, is a tight blast of pure rock and roll with chiming guitars, mournful organ and soulful horns; “On The Interstate” is a nice mix of acoustic picking, some country-fied guitar twang and sweet harmonies (may be my favorite track). “Set It Fire” kicks in with mournful harmonica and a fine double-tracked vocal (another choice track); “Pyramids and Counterfeits” comes roaring and punching with its prime pop arrangement with horns and riffs. Finally, “Love’s No Place” is another hook-and-brass laced piece of pop perfection.

Eleven tracks and no filler. The first sign that an album is good. Quality songs and top-notch arrangements are the second sign. Organ Donor Blues fits the necessary requirements perfectly and then some.


"TVD’s Best of SXSW 2012"

The lineup for 2012 was bigger than usual and included Jesse Malin, Tommy Stinson, and a really great indie band from Kansas called John Velghe & the Prodigal Sons. - The Vinyl

"Laid-back day at unofficial SXSW"

I had pulled up to the back of the restaurant just as a band was finishing its set with a fantastic cover of the Jam's "Town Called Malice." I asked at least four people, "Who was that?" Apparently, everybody else had just walked up, too, so I went over and bugged Escovedo, who replied, "John Velghe and the Prodigal Sons — he has CDs for sale over there." Escovedo seemed to enjoy the role of mentor and curator as well as host.

— Parry Gettelman - Austin American Statesman

"John Velghe, somewhere between Minneapolis and Austin on Don't Let Me Stay"

Austin, Texas, lays claim to being the live-music capital of the world. And if there were a governor of such a province, few would argue that the title belonged to singer-songwriter Alejandro Escovedo. Last week, at South By Southwest, Escovedo's likeness graced the cover of the weekly Austin Chronicle, he shared a stage with SXSW 2012 keynote speaker Bruce Springsteen, and he handpicked the acts for high-profile (but tastefully mellow) parties on Saturday and Sunday.

Peter Buck and Mike Mills of R.E.M., Lenny Kaye, Jesse Malin, Chuck Prophet, the dB's, and Tommy Stinson were among the performers Escovedo selected. Also on both bills: Kansas City's John Velghe and the Prodigal Sons. On Sunday night, at the unofficial closing-night party at the Continental Club, Escovedo got up onstage and joined Velghe and the Prodigal Sons for a cover of the Stooges' "I Wanna Be Your Dog."

"I've known Alejandro since around 1995, when [the late Midwestern Musical Co. founder] Jim Strahm introduced us at a Son Volt show," says Velghe, who is in his 40s but could easily pass for early 30s. "We became friends, and he's been a mentor of mine ever since. But I was still pretty shocked that he asked me to play those shows. Alejandro at South By Southwest is like the father of the bride on the wedding day: You're lucky if you get five minutes with him. I was like, I seriously get to play on a bill with Lenny Kaye?"

In fact, Escovedo almost produced Velghe's new album, Don't Let Me Stay, whose release is being celebrated this Saturday at RecordBar. "Our schedules didn't work out, and I ended up producing it myself, but he was sort of a satellite producer for it," Velghe says.

Don't Let Me Stay turned out all right anyway. Nearly a dozen musicians, many of them local, appear on the album's 12 songs, which reveal Velghe's fondness for what he calls the "American Masters": Iggy Pop, Paul Westerberg, Jeff Tweedy, Alex Chilton, Springsteen and Escovedo. Velghe is an enthusiastic and knowledgeable music fan, and he makes a full stew from the work of his progenitors. The breezy Americana tunes (like the excellent opener, "Time Bomb") are embellished with melodic hooks; the hotter, more electric tracks boast lively brass sections.

"I've always said my heart is positioned midway between Austin, Texas, and Minneapolis, Minnesota, and that's kind of where I write from," Velghe says. "There's a lot of Austin songwriters like Alejandro and Doug Sahm and Jon Dee Graham that have been really influential to me. But I was always a huge Replacements fan. There are a handful of people and bands that I saw and heard when I was younger and said, 'I want to do that for the rest of my life.' And the Replacements were one of them."

There are definitely some 'Mats moments on Don't Let Me Stay, most markedly when the horn section — Mike Walker (trombone), Hermon Mehari (trumpet) and Sam Hughes (saxophone) — emerges. Walker and Hughes played on an EP that Velghe released in 2010, and he wanted even more brass on Don't Let Me Stay. "I wanted to get a sound like the Memphis Horns stuff on Pleased to Meet Me or the brass on Exile on Main St. or the stuff Jim O'Rourke arranged for Superchunk," he says. (Velghe has lately taken to referring to his brass section as the Waldo Horns, a localized reference to their Tennessee forebears.)

"With a lot of bands I play with, the songs arrive at practice half-written," Walker says. "With John, the form and melody is already there, but he's very open to the horn players' suggestions for arranging our parts. The horn ideas he brought in [for Don't Let Me Stay] were pretty solid already, and we just cleaned a few things up. He's got a real vision, and we just try to help realize it."

"I have always wanted to play on a record like this one," guitarist Mike Alexander says. "I had done similar things with the Roseline and the Buffalo Saints but never anything with the scope that the Prodigal Sons record has, what with all the horns and strings. And I really like that John wants to get more than just a performance out of the guys in his band. He wants your personality in the shows and on the record."

Don't Let Me Stay comes across as a very complete, polished product. It took about two months to record from beginning to end, but it's far from overproduced or self-serious. "Bloodline," an upbeat, alt-rock jangler, was written in about five minutes. "I was laying down guitar parts for another song, and I started playing the riff that became 'Bloodline,' so I set up a new track, played that part and sang dummy lyrics into the mic. I wrote 80 percent of the song in the process of just recording the idea," Velghe says, then draws on a musical hero to decorate his point. "You know that thing Westerberg said about how the best songs are written in a few minutes when you're bored and have nothing else to do? It was sort of like that." - The Pitch Weekly

"SXSW 2012: Finale has R.E.M. member sightings"

Earlier in the evening, the Austin-based Alejandro Escovedo took the stage prior to his own late-night set to join Kansas City, Mo.-area band John Velghe & The Prodigal Sons to perform a slowed, dreamy version of The Stooges' I Wanna Be Your Dog.

An earnest songwriter and frontman, Velghe also sang a song entitled Austin (You Sorta Stole My Heart) that he says he wrote the year before out on the street on which the Continental Club resides. "Made a wish upon South Congress, pray to neon they might have us throw a penny in that pool of soul, let's go," the song went.

Velghe & The Prodigal Sons were just one of the more than a dozen bands and performers who took the stage during the 13 hour-plus music marathon. - USA Today

"Stole My Heart, John Velghe and the Prodigal Sons Build a Bigger Home"

"I've had the chance to say a lot of cool things into the microphone over the past couple of weeks but nothing as cool as what I'm about to say," John Velghe stated, smiling and looking at the back of the house mid-set Saturday night. Just returned from the South by Southwest (SXSW) Austin music conference, where he played with his old friend Alejandro Escovedo in a show with guests like Lenny Kaye and Garland Jeffreys and a surprise appearance by Peter Buck and Mike Mills, Velghe knew how much weight he was putting on whatever came next.

"I'd like Abigail Henderson and Chris Meck to come up," he said, and the crowd at the Record Bar broke into applause, hoots and hollers. Henderson and Meck are the first couple of the largest community of interconnected musicians I've ever seen in Kansas City. Their organization, the Midwest Music Foundation, also just hosted its third annual MidCoast Takeover--this year featuring 32 of Kansas City's finest performing for two straight days at Austin's Shangri-La. The buzz from those shows has reverberated on many levels (32 band stories for starters), and they received a sizeable mention (and picture) in USA Today.

But this moment was about the stand-out performance on John Velghe's debut solo EP released last year, his duet with Henderson on a cover of Iggy Pop's "I Wanna Be Your Dog." Everyone on earth plays that song for the broiling assault it wants to be, but Henderson and Velghe hold back. Saturday night, as on the record, they luxuriated in the sensuous simmer of the thing, Meck providing an equally controlled guitar part, shimmering stardust, hinting at a crown nebula.

Eventually, Velghe's guitarist Mike Alexander [I hope a relation] began to push the song toward a rock crescendo, and everyone--Henderson and Velghe included--performed the final refrains with building bravado. Almost as soon as the song began to sound like the Stooges (or Jett or Escovedo), it came to an end. This was the Henderson/Velghe version, and nothing outshines that thing they can do. [I hear Escovedo did Henderson's part at SXSW, and I'm sure it was great, but it wasn't that.]

To say Saturday night's show was, first and foremost, heralding the first CD by John Velghe and the Prodigal Sons (Don't Let Me Stay) is also to say the show was about mixing things up. After all, the Prodigal Sons ("and daughters" as Velghe pointed out, since two different women performed with the band live, and three play on the album) features guitars from the punk band Hipshot Killers propelled by the drums that give (first) name to Mike Dillon's self-described "jazz, funk, rock, crunk" Go-Go Jungle, Mr. GoGo Ray. The Sons' three horns come from funky hip hop big-band Hearts of Darkness, reggae's New Riddim and the night's opener, Diverse, a jazz band born out of Bobby Watson's UMKC program and intent on reinvigorating the sound of Kansas City. Lawrence-raised singer-songwriter, Kirsten Paludan joined Velghe on the mic numerous times, as she does on the album, and cello and violin players came from, respectively, the UMKC conservatory and Missouri Western. This intersection between traditional and avant garde jazz, funk, punk, reggae, and classical all merge seamlessly in Velghe's music.

In some ways, that story's in the artists he covers. That night, Velghe and family covered the Jam at that band's greatest pop moment, The Gift, with the song "Town Called Malice"; and they covered the Replacements at that band's greatest pop moment, Pleased to Meet Me, with the song that serves as the apex of that moment, "I Can't Hardly Wait," and they covered Bruce Springsteen with a song that could also be given the same distinction, "Hungry Heart." Velghe introduced that song, dedicating it to the Ramones (for whom Springsteen wrote it), underscoring the pop impulse at the heart of most rock revolutions. The pop impulse is an effort to open the door to those who are shut out. Some punks may not remember why we were drawn to that music in the first place, but Paul Weller, Paul Westerberg and that guy from Jersey do. The rock and roll circus canvas was held open for them by the likes of Chuck Berry, Elvis Presley, Smokey Robinson and John Lennon--the biggest tent artists imaginable.

Velghe descends from that line, particularly the way John Lennon could take all the enormity and raw power of the rock and roll that came before him and deliver it in a lullaby. Both that scope of vision and that intimacy, after all, are the elements that most obviously connect Lennon to Velghe's mentor Alejandro Escovedo in part by way of Ian Hunter and Mott the Hoople (so, then, yes, David Bowie, too). Those same elements tie Lennon to Alex Chilton and both of them to the Clash and Velghe's early and apparent inspiration, Paul Westerberg and the Replacements.

You can hear all those folks in Velghe's CD (which I had to, I mean needed to) buy at the show. But you can't really isolate them. Suffice it to say, "I Can't Hardly Wait"--with all of its punching horn urgency and almost crippling vulnerability--would fit beautifully on this record. For me, though, the song that sums up where this line can go is maybe the record's quietest moment, "Iron Skin." That one is a lullaby, a dark and seemingly ancient lullaby, all the more beautiful for the way it fingers despair.

From beginning to end, Don't Let Me Stay, is a warm and brilliant record. It starts off diffidently flirting with the risk of relationships, having lived long enough to know things tend to end badly. By mid-record, it's finding comfort in the fact of hope on the country-flavored "Heaven's Waitress" and the ability to dream on the exuberant rocker "Austin (You Sorta Stole My Heart)." After the climactic paranoia of "Owe My Soul" and the wounded triumph of "Mumbling Town" (a riot act aimed at indirectness), the last three songs sing of solidarity in the face of loss. The characters in these songs have pieces gone forever, but as this closes, they've found ways to work with the contradictions and the pain. Ghosts, too, are part of this community, a rock and roll town pitted against malice.

I write a lot about community, so much so that I worry about using the word for fear of being cliched. I'm not sure I've ever written the names Abigail Henderson and Chris Meck without attaching that concept, which is one reason they are heroes of mine, so much so I grow self conscious in their presence. As Velghe's record recognizes from verse one, part of life is that we let each other down. Whatever approximates redemption lies in how we fight forward together anyway. John Velghe and the Prodigal Sons, in their live show and on record, embody that vision as only the finest groups can.

Postscript: One of the many highlights of the show that can't go unmentioned came as an opening act. Hermon Mehari's trumpet adds plaintive, searching touches to many of Velghe's songs when he plays his role of Prodigal Son (particularly on "The Occupier," "Assume the Ground," and "Mumbling Town"), but his band Diverse Trio delivered an exciting opening set. Both bassist Ben Leifer and drummer Ryan Lee maintain the urgency of each moment while making sure the band swings. Mehari, meanwhile, manages to eloquently state beautiful melodies while playing with a sense of boundaries as daring as any free jazz. That set closed with Kirsten Paludan and John Velghe coming out for one song before Hearts of Darkness frontman Les Izmore and drummer Brad Williams (Ryan Lee went to keyboards) managed to turn the house out with anthemic KC hip hop. Expect a Diverse blog in the not-too-distant future. I needed to buy that CD, too!

The Prodigal Sons and Daughters, once again (cause a couple only got indirect mention and everyone deserves it)--

John Velghe, singing with a guitar
Mike Alexander, lead guitar
Chris Wagner, bass
GoGo Ray, drums
Hermon Mehari, trumpet
Sam Hughes, saxophone
Mike Walker, trombone
Kirsten Paludan, vocals
James Mitchell, cello
Katie Benyo, violin (live)
Whitney Williamson, violin (on record)
Catherine Root, violin (on record) - Take 'Em As They

"Sweet Sorrow: John Velghe won't ask you to cry with him"

John Velghe is the kind of rock-and-roller you'd order from the catalog.

He's lean, with feathery salt-and-pepper hair, sea-glass-green eyes and forearms sleeved in colorful tattoos. He looks tall even when he sits. At 44, he wears frown lines on his forehead and smile creases around his mouth, and wears them well. And when Velghe speaks — about, say, his new album, Organ Donor Blues, out this month — the sound is a low, soothing rumble.

"This is my second solo release, and it's definitely more deliberate than my last album [2012's Don't Let Me Stay]," Velghe says. "It's trying to tie together things that have gone on in the last 18 months. I tried to be deliberate about documenting some of those things."

As Velghe sketches out the last year and a half of his life, it's clear to me why he turned to music to process the events. He has lost three close friends: Dan, whom he had known since high school and who died from complications of alcoholism; Doug, another high school friend, who committed suicide; and Abigail Henderson, co-founder of the Midwest Music Foundation, who died of cancer last August.

"This album is about people who fought to die and won, and people who fought to live and lost, and the people who were left behind," Velghe tells me. "Abigail was one of those people that fought to live and didn't win, and meanwhile I had these friends who had everything. Dan had a wife, two kids, a great career, and he fought to kill himself, no matter what we did, no matter how much we tried to keep him alive."

Velghe continues: "The album retraces those situations, but it's not so much about those people's stories. It's about the people that are left in the wake of that — what do you hold on to, how you come to grips with that and move on."

What Velghe has found in the wake of these losses is a powerful set of songs. Camouflaged by upbeat ooh-ooh-oohs, swinging trumpet and trombone notes, and joyful sax playing — as well as some deft guitar work by guest star and longtime friend Alejandro Escovedo — half the tracks on Organ Donor Blues could pass for summer-picnic pop. Velghe's songwriting is so conversational that even as he recounts Dan's death in "Poison the Well," he doesn't pressure the listener to share the burden. Velghe's point isn't despair. It's an attempt at reckoning.

"I haven't come to grips with a lot of this," Velghe says, leaning his chin into his palm. "Seeing what happened to Dan, seeing what happened to Abigail, I'd be lying if I said, 'Oh, I've come to grips with these friends that are gone.' But I remember what Chris Meck [Henderson's husband] said at Abigail's remembrance: 'Find the things you love and don't let go of them.' And for me, that's the people you have around you, the people you realize you'd do anything to keep around. If we hang on to the things we love, that's really what will get us through."

So Organ Donor Blues hangs somewhere between mourning ("Maybe I hung on for the wrong reasons," Velghe says) and celebrating ("This is the stuff that pushes us on"). The closest that Velghe gets to a resolution is on "Beaten by Pretenders," in which he recognizes that as much as he'd like to keep these people around, the decision isn't his: If we could write the book, we'd change how it ends.

The rest of the album flies by fast, piloted by Velghe's granular, Tom Petty–leaning voice. Over the explosive electric riffs on "Gold Guitar," as he remembers playing with Escovedo and Jon Dee Graham, Velghe sounds as solemn as a distant thunderstorm. The more you listen, the closer he feels. On "Set It Fire," amid a lonely harmonica and delicate pedal-steel twang, Velghe harmonizes with guest Kirsten Paludan to make a soothing, Midwestern-flavored lullaby.

When people talk about the merits of Americana, a sound that can sometimes feel mail-order anonymous, what they want is the rare thing that Velghe has cultivated: music whose familiarity and honesty pull at your gut instead of just reassuring you. Even the tongue-in-cheek title of Organ Donor Blues — Velghe is an avid motorcyclist — fits this context. And in person, Velghe epitomizes the values heard in his songs. He talks easily about Escovedo's guidance, which he credits with benefiting him over two decades. And he's candid about leading a day-job-versus-night-job double life that took a long time to balance.

"It always ends up coming back to the people and the things that I love," Velghe says, trailing off quietly near the end of our conversation. "I didn't want to be coy or ambiguous or too clever. There's a lot more reality that's occurred in my life that gave birth to this album, and I wanted to keep that." - The Pitch


"Organ Donor Blues" - 2014 Lakeshore Records

"Don't Let Me Stay" - 2012 Lakeshore Records
"John Velghe : ep" - 2010
"The Next American Dream" - Documentary Score Composed by John Velghe 2009
"Shot Down" - The Daybirds 2004 (performer, writer, producer, and Recording Engineer)
"The Celebrated Cost of Leaving" - Saint Jude LP 2003
"The Long and Short of Measuring Up" - famous fm 2001
"Blind Spot" featured on Budweiser France compilation 2002



"An earnest songwriter and frontman," (Mike Snider, USA Today March 2012) 

Over the course of his 18 year career, John Velghe has established himself as a particularly conscientious and talented tender of the Americana Rock flame. The Independence, MO born musician/songwriter has played with several noteworthy bands, but it is his latest work, with the Prodigal Sons, which has given him a big enough vehicle for his ambitious vocal reach and vista-vision poetry. John Lennon and Chuck Berry lie at that core, but the guitars, horns and supportive backing vocals in this band allow Velghe to seamlessly blend other pieces of the greater rock story—from Sun to Stax to 2 Tone and Twin Tone. 

Natalie Gallagher, of The Pitch, writes "When people talk about the merits of Americana, a sound that can sometimes feel mail-order anonymous, what they want is the rare thing that Velghe has cultivated: music whose familiarity and honesty pull at your gut instead of just reassuring you."

"The rock and roll circus canvas was held open by the likes of Chuck Berry, Elvis Presley, Smokey Robinson and John Lennon--the biggest tent artists imaginable. Velghe descends from that line, particularly the way John Lennon could take all the enormity and raw power of the rock and roll that came before him and deliver it in a lullaby. Both that scope of vision and that intimacy, after all, are the elements that most obviously connect Lennon to Velghe's mentor Alejandro Escovedo..." -  Danny Alexander

Born in the midwest, John Velghe (pronounced Vel-jee) writes songs leaning towards personal narratives and accounts of people he’s met over 20 years of playing in bands and touring.

From a four-year-old waitress in Lucas, Kansas to a transvestite railroad worker he met on the banks of Lake Superior in Duluth, Minnesota; Velghe populates his songs with real characters who’ve informed personal allegories about escape, transformation and fear.

Tim Finn, Music Editor of The Kansas City Star says Velghe's latest album, Don't Let Me Stay (Lakeshore Records, Beverly Hills, CA) " a gem of a pop record, rich in melodies and harmonies, embroidered tastefully with strings, guitars, horns, keyboards, the occasional mandolin. It rocks hard and sways gently. It is softly lit in some places, bright and brash in others." (Kansas City Star, March 2012)

In a live performance Velghe and his band, the Prodigal Sons aim to impress. The band -- a full-on seven-piece, complete with horn section, guitars, bass and drums makes the shows move from intimate gatherings to a fervor where 2012 SXSW fans found Velghe closing the showcase from atop the bass drum. One night audiences will find the band performing the Stooges classic “I Wanna Be Your Dog” as a tender-hearted duet with legendary singer-songwriter Alejandro Escovedo, the next the song is drenched in sweat and blood in all it’s raucous punk bombast.

As an independent musician Velghe has written, performed and toured the country in several bands including The Daybirds, Saint Jude, and famous fm. His songs have been released in North America and Europe. As a composer he has scored feature-length documentaries and short films.

He has produced and recorded projects for artists across all musical genres including singer/songwriter Krystle Warren, The Depth and the Whisper, and hip hop artist Blydell (Lone Rider).

Band Members