I've got somewhat of a mystery on my hands. Unfortunately, solving it isn't really going to benefit much of anyone, but it's piqued my attention lately.
Here's how the story begins:
I was at the record store a month or so ago, looking through the country records, and came across a record in the bargain bin that wasn't in too good of shape. It was a self-titled release by a guy named John Braden, recorded in 1968 and released in 1969 I think. I had never heard of him, but it was from A&M records, the label co-founded by Herb Alpert, of Tijuana Brass fame, so I took a second look at it. Looking through the musicians that played on the album, I first saw Ry Cooder's name as playing guitar on a few songs, and thought, "hmm, might as well buy this (for $2.99) and see what it sounds like." I haven't mentioned yet, but the cover art was well done, and from the back cover, you can see that the guy just plain looks cool.
(I had a heck of a time getting a decent picture (where's Julie when you need her?), but you should be able to click these to see a bigger version of the image)
(And yes that is the LP itself poking out from the bottom of the sleeve - the whole thing is about to disintegrate)
When I got to the counter, a 40-something year old guy, who I think is a collector who just hangs out at the record store trying to get the inside scoop, asked me who John Braden was. I replied that I didn't know, but that I was buying it because Ry Cooder played on it and I wanted to check it out. He asked to look at it, and started talking about all the other "names" on it. I didn't recognize them at the time, but it turns out that Chris Ethridge (bass) and Sneaky Pete (pedal steel) from the Flying Burrito Brothers played on the album. I guess they played on the album just before they started to gain notoriety, as Gilded Palace of Sin came out just after Braden's album in 1969. Also, as I've come to find out, Henry Lewy, who also produced the aforementioned Gilded Palace of Sin for the FBB, was one of the producers on this album. The list goes on and on - also on the album are Paul Horn, a renowned jazz flutist, Bruce Langhorne, apparently a fairly well known folk musician, Richard Bell, a keyboardist/pianist for Janis Joplin and The Band, and a couple of other guys who I think were session musicians that have been on various and sundry albums of some import.
Long story, I know, but stick with me. So finally, I get home and listen to the record. Doesn't blow me away. It's not terrible, but it's got the 60s folky sound, mainly characterized by the high pitched voice. It's not quite falsetto, but just very high. However, the more I listen to it, it has grown on me, and as you might expect, the musicianship is really strong on the album. Whether John Braden knew it or not, he ended up with some of the best rock musicians of the era on his record. The songs are mostly originals, with Dylan's "I Want You" and the traditional "What a Friend We Have in Jesus" as the only 2 covers.
As it has turned out, I've developed a growing appreciation for these songs as I've listened to them, but even more so, I've become intrigued to find out more about where John Braden ended up. And this gets close to where my story ends. As best I can tell, there was a John Braden who was a lyricist and actor on Broadway, and a John Braden (a different one) who did some work in the TV industry and apparently put out some records related to the Atari gaming system and some generally kid related music on Kid Stuff Records. Kind of crazy, I know. Both are deceased, although both were born around the same time (around 1946 and 1949). From what I can find on either of them, there is no mention of a previous record release. The guy in the picture is clearly young, early 20s probably. The only connection I can make is that Arkansas is mentioned in one of the songs, and the John Braden that worked in TV and for Atari was born in Arkansas, but that's not really solid information to close this cold case.
Regarding the record, about the only mention I can find is on the discographies of some of the musicians (Cooder and Langhorne), and also one band called Autumn that covered the song "Song to Raymondo" and apparently named an album after the song, which was penned by Braden and appears on his album.
Otherwise, this record seems to have fallen into obscurity long before the digital age, and thus, there's almost nothing else around about it. I have seen one copy of the LP up on ebay for $40, but with no additional information, and I recently found that Braden recorded some demos (pictured below) in the early 1970s with A&M, and apparently they were never released. In demo form, they aren't as good as the album, and clearly don't have the level of musicianship as the LP.
Beyond that, I'm at a loss. I think the online search is almost exhausted. I don't know why I am so intrigued by this subject, but it's probably a combination of the obscurity of it and also how cool he is dressed on the back cover of the album. A&M Records was absorbed by Interscope, and I can't even find a place on Interscope's site to write them, much less ask if they still have any info on an A&M artist from 40 years ago. I wrote to the A&M/Ocotone (Maroon 5's label) subsidiary of Interscope, and they basically told me they are not really A&M, but some sort of branch of Interscope that I guess kept the A&M name for appearance sake. I'm coming up with dead ends everywhere. My hope is that someone who is smarter or more knowledgeable (or both) than me can help me fill in the blanks a bit at some point. I'm hoping to get the LP converted to mp3s some time to pass along just for history's sake, and while I know it's not that hard, I haven't had the time to mess with it lately and haven't wanted to pay to have it done either.
New update: Progress made, and updates will be posted soon. I'll leave this post as is. There was a blog with a link to his music, but it has since been shut down, so his work remains in relative obscurity at this point.