By Jean Clark
How does small town Pleasant Hill rate a visit by the talented world-wide singer and songwriter Buddy Mondlock? The secret is that his mother, Joan Katz, lives here. Mondlock comes often to visit his mother when he is not on the road and at home in Nashville. This time he will enchant everyone with his melodious tenor on Sunday, Jan. 27. The Pleasant Hill Community Church, UCC, with its acoustically excellent sanctuary will be the setting for the 3 p.m. concert.
Mondlock writes songs. He does it so well that some great songwriters have recorded his songs on their own albums, including Guy Clark, Nanci Griffith and Janis Ian, to name just a few. But there is nothing like hearing the guy who wrote ‘em sing ‘em.
Mondlock grew up in Park Forest, IL, a suburb of Chicago. He did not have a troubled childhood. His parents were nice to him. They paid for guitar lessons when he was 10 and they never said, “When are you going to get a real job?”
After college, he began playing open microphones at Chicago’s crucible for songwriters in those days, the famed Earl of Old Town. When Mondlock made his first trip to Texas, Clark heard him singing one of his songs under a tree at the Kerrville Folk Festival and liked it. So Clark went back to Nashville, opened the door and said, “Listen to this kid. He’s good!” A publishing deal and a U-Haul headed south soon followed. People were starting to pay attention. In 1987, he was a New Folk Award Winner at Kerrville and he released his first album called On the Line.
Mondlock did some writing with this other new kid in town named Garth Brooks. Ian heard him singing at the Bluebird Cafe and asked him if he’d like to write with her. Their song, Amsterdam, got recorded by Joan Baez. Nanci Griffith asked Mondlock to sing on a show she was taping for Irish television. She ended up liking that song so much that she recorded “Comin’ Down in the Rain” on her Grammy Award winning collection Other Voices, Other Rooms. Brooks became a star and “Every Now and Then” ended up on his album The Chase.
Mondlock was touring all over the country by this time playing coffeehouses and the occasional festival (he was a regular on the main stage at Kerrville by now). There were trips to Europe, too. Mondlock’s second album, produced by Steve Addabbo, got picked up by Son Records, a small label in Ireland started by the lads from U2, and he was well received on the island of poets.
The year 1996 was a good one. Peter, Paul and Mary recorded “The Kid” and then asked the kid himself to sing with them on their Great Performances TV special. He won a Kerrville Music Award for song of the year that autumn for “The Kid.” In 1998, he released his third album, Poetic Justice, and it got picked up by EMI Records in Canada and Ireland and by Proper Music in the UK when British DJ Bob Harris began playing songs from it on BBC radio. Tours with fellow Nashville songwriter Carol Elliott followed to an enthusiastic reception by both sets of fans.
In 2000, Mondlock was approached by producer Billy Mann, who had a unique project in mind. Mondlock collaborated with the legendary Art Garfunkel and the wonderfully musical Maia Sharp. The three of them wrote and recorded an album together called Everything Waits to Be Noticed, released on Manhattan/EMI in late 2002 to critical acclaim. The trio toured all over America and Europe in support, singing together like feathers in a wing. His last concert in Pleasant Hill was in 2007.
Now, Mondlock is back in the area with a new CD called The Memory Wall, hitting the road performing, leading songwriting workshops and, of course, writing songs cause that is what he does and that is who he is. The Community Church Music Committee is sponsoring the concert, which is free and open to the public. A freewill offering will help cover expenses. The church is on Church St. off of Main St. across from the Pleasant Hill Elementary School.