Jim Connor

b. June 12, 1938 / Gadsden, AL

Member (The NEW Kingston Trio) 1968-1972

Bob Shane (kneeling,) backed by Pat Horine, Frank Sanchez, Stan Kaes, and Jim Connor

Bob Shane (kneeling,) 
backed by Pat Horine, 
Frank Sanchez, Stan Kaess, 
and Jim Connor

Down the Page: 
From other WebPages . . .   CLICK HERE
Musing from Jim . . .   CLICK HERE
Discography . . .   CLICK HERE

Musician reunites with stolen banjo
The custom instrument turns up on eBay, and is reclaimed

Monday, August 21, 2006

Jim Connor's banjo once was lost, but now is found, thanks to eBay and a sharp-eyed friend.

The Vega Vox Deluxe, made especially for Connor, was stolen 35 years ago during a New Kingston Trio tour, when Connor was a member of the group.

Last year, the banjo turned up on the auction Web site, where a former music student of Connor's spotted its distinctive decoration and stopped the sale.

With the cooperation of the seller, the prayers of the congregation at Browns Presbyterian Church -- where Connor now serves as supply pastor -- and $5,000, the musician and his banjo are making music together again.

This time, the stage is often the pulpit.

It's hard to say just where the banjo was all those years. While it was missing, Connor, perhaps best known for his hit country song "Grandma's Feather Bed," got tired of a musician's life on the road and settled in Goochland County, where he lives now with his wife, Cynthia. He has five children, three grown and two teens.

Since 2001, he has been studying for the ministry, spending the past year as temporary pastor at the church in Cumberland County.

Connor, 68, lost the banjo one night in 1971, when the New Kingston Trio was too exhausted to unpack their van after a performance in New York City. The group left the van parked in the hotel garage with all their instruments and equipment inside. In the morning the van was empty.

Connor particularly liked the Vega banjo. He had designed it, asking the Vega banjo builders for a carved heel and special neck decoration.

He told them exactly what kind of tone-ring he wanted in the banjo's resonator, which is enameled in a geometric design with flowers.

"It was a one-time banjo. The company even called it the 'Jim Connor custom banjo,'" Connor said.

Connor, who joined the New Kingston Trio in 1968, drew his favorite curlicue decoration on the head of the banjo. He'd had it only a year when it was stolen.

Connor, who was born in Alabama and graduated from Harvard University in 1960, stayed with the New Kingston Trio until 1973, then went his own way. He played with John Denver and laughingly wonders if his experiences on the road with Denver led to a career in the ministry.

Hundreds of people moved by Denver's songs wanted to go backstage and ask his advice, Connor said. The fans weren't allowed to see Denver, but they often saw Connor, who said he gave them the best advice he could.

"Some man would say he was having trouble with his wife, wondering if she was having an affair, wanting to know what he should do, and I'd say, 'Go home, be so good to your wife she wouldn't ever want to have an affair,'" he remembered.

Denver and other musicians recorded Connor's song, "Grandma's Feather Bed."

"Worldwide, it's been on 50 million albums. You wonder why I'm not a millionaire," Connor said. He continues to get small bu

steady royalty payments from a number of other countries.

"It helped me get out of being on the road and get into church work, which as you know, doesn't pay a lot," Connor said.

He got over the loss of the Vega banjo, but he never forgot it. Then one day last year, his friend and former banjo student Austin Rogers saw the instrument on eBay.

"I said, 'Austin, how could you know it? You weren't even born then,' and he said, 'It's got your doodles on it,'" Connor said.

EBay stopped the sale of the instrument. With the help of the Goochland County Sheriff's Office, Connor contacted New York City police.

The seller, who said that a relative had bought the banjo in a used-furniture store in Harlem, called Connor.

"He said, 'If the instrument is really stolen, I want to cooperate,'" Connor said. Connor proved with pictures and affidavits that the instrument was his.

Connor considered how much he would have to spend for a lawyer and for trips to New York, where the original police report had been filed. He decided to pay the seller for the banjo, although less than the seller had wanted at auction. The two men agreed to meet.

"Church members prayed that things would go well. I think they were eager to hear the banjo. It was like waiting for a baby to be born. I felt exhilarated. I thought, 'Can this be happening? What if the guy doesn't show up,'" Connor said.

Connor and the seller met at a coffee shop in College Park, Md., and Connor traded a cashier's check and cash totaling $5,000 for his banjo. The two men had a good talk.

"I had gotten over the disappointment of having it stolen. I didn't feel like saying anything ugly," Connor said.

The banjo was either well-cared for or never used, Connor said. He's still surprised that he got it back.

"I think I have a kind of spiritual feeling," Connor said, "like 'Thank you, Lord, but it sure took a long time!'"

Jim Connor's instruments from the liner notes of The Lost Masters 1969-1972:

Guitar, Banjo, Vocals, Harmonica, Bones, Jews Harp

From: http://www.union-psce.edu/news/Publications/archive/summer_02/wait/connor.html  (NOTE: this site/page is confirmed closed on 9-26-03) -- Jerry) 

Jim Connor enrolled in seminary after a career as a singer, songwriter, and performer.

Jim Connor
Talk about talent, master of divinity student Jim Connor has dedicated years to interpreting messages through music. A composer, singer, and musician who plays more instruments than most of us can count, Jim is famous for writing “Grandma’s Feather Bed,” a tune recorded by John Denver on the platinum album Back Home Again that includes Jim singing backup and playing harmonica.

Since the 1960s Jim has picked a mean banjo and sung folk and country music around the world. He performed as a member of the New Kingston Trio for five years besides performing with Judy Collins and Linda Ronstadt just to name a couple. Close to 400 of his songs have been recorded by such artists as Grandpa Jones, Glen Campbell, and Brenda Lee.

Still a country boy at heart, Jim seems like he could have walked off the stage at the Grand Ole Opry and into the classroom at Union-PSCE. Stories pour forth in native Alabama cadences like honey from the jar. While he clearly excelled in the world of popular music, the tragic toll of the often self-destructive lifestyle weighs heavily on Jim.

“I knew that’s not what I wanted to do as a career because the road is no place for spiritual weaklings. But if you constantly depend on Christ to guide you, maybe you can make it through,” said Jim.

Though successful, Jim didn’t see himself as a studio musician or a member of a band. More and more he sang solos in churches and composed hymns for church choirs, which he often directed. Jim’s career in commercial music was streaked with Christian witness. He held jobs such as composer in residence at Metro Baptist Church in New York or assistant choir director at 22nd Street Baptist Church in Tuscon, AZ.

CLICK to go to the Alabama Music Hall of Fame HOME PageJim Connor is perhaps best known as a member of the New Kingston Trio and for penning the now-classic gold record hit song, "Grandma's Feather Bed," which was recorded by John Denver in 1974 and later by the Muppet's Kermit the Frog. Connor was a recording artist for Capitol Records in the 1960s. Then, from 1968 to 1974, as a member of the New Kingston Trio he lent his musical talents to such hit records as "Tom Dooley" and "Where Have All the Flowers Gone?"

Connor's work has also been recorded by such country luminaries as Glen Campbell, Brenda Lee and Three on a String. Connor has performed with a diverse assortment of entertainers, including: Barbra Streisand, Judy Collins, Donald O'Connor, Red Buttons, Steve Martin and Phyllis Diller - to name a few. But Connor hardly needs to rely on the talents of others; he has one platinum record and eight gold records to his credit.

Connor's songs include "Sand Mountain Symphony," an orchestrated suite which includes banjo, yodeling, harmonica and vocal work. Another song, "Way Back Home" was introduced by Grandpa Jones on the "Hee Haw" television show. Connor also has a musical play to his credit entitled "Cornstalk Wine."

In addition to hundreds of live club, festival and theatre appearances throughout the world, Connor has appeared on the Grand Ole Opry, Johnny Carson's "Tonight Show," "Hootenanny," "The Jack Benny Show", and "The Dave Garroway Show."

SOURCE: ALABAMA MUSIC HALL of FAME http://www.alamhof.org/connorj.htm 


In the Fall 

Hear & See . . . 


Writer, Composer, Instrumentalist, Soloist
on 18 Gold and Platinum Records
Most Famous Composition:
"Grandma's Feather Bed"
Nominated for Grammy Awards


John Denver
Concert Band


New York


"The finest living traditional banjo player, and perhaps the best that ever lived." -- Earl Scruggs

John Denver invited Connor and his banjo onstage to do "Grandma's Feather Bed" -- he brought the house down. -- Variety

"He's a knockout." -- Leonard Bernstein

Sand Mountain Symphony . . . one of America's landmark musical compositions. -- The SUN, Flagstaff, Arizona




1962 Richard & Jim Sing  American Folksongs (LP) CLICK HERE
1964 Folk Songs & Country Sounds  (LP)
1965 Two Boys From Alabama  (LP)
 circa 1970 Try To Remember (Japanese LP) 
The New Kingston Trio
WebPage: Kingston Trop Place site
 circa 1972 The World Needs a Melody (LP)
The New Kingston Trio
1994 The Lost Masters 1969 to 1972 (CD)
The New Kingston Trio
1974 Back Home Again
John Denver 
1975 Personal Friend of Arthur Kuykendall, Monk Daniel and Cluny Rakestraw (LP) CLICK HERE
1975 Prisoner In Disguise
Linda Ronstadt (LP) harmonica

R & J Sing American Folksongs

Folklore Records (UK) # F-LEUT 5 (1962)
Featuring Richard Lockmiller & Jim Connor, and Pete Maynard 

Tracks: House Of The Rising Sun; John Henry; Aunt Rhodie; Railroad Bill; Cruel War’s A’ Ragin’ (nine more for 14 total)




RETURN to Discography


Capitol Records #  (S)T 2058 (circa 1964) 
Featuring Richard Lockmiller & Jim Connor 

Now Richard and Jim, they come from Gadsden, Alabama. They were born there, and made a fuss there when they were kids, and grew up together, and went to school there, and caught pigtaily girls in the haystacks there, and ever since they started singing songs, a whole bunch of people around the world, when asked what's all this jumping around, busting-out folk music, can only answer that's where Gadsden is.

Not that the boys had all that much to say about what they'd been doing for their hush-puppy money. For one thing, Jim Connor has a Grandmother. We all get to have Grandmothers sooner of later, but Jim's, her name is Florence Drucilla Setzer, and she id from Caney Fork River, Tennessee. She sings like you might think she would; she's been doing it for 88 years, and there's talk in Alabama that says she's about ready to change gears. Then there's Richard Lockmiller's dad. He hasn't been singing anywhere near that long, but he hasn't started to le out the clutch, either. Back in the 1930s when the breed of music represented here was finally taking form and finding expression, he picked up his guitar and minstreled through the South for his living. He must've been pretty good, too. The folks at the Grand Old Opry said come on around, we got a job for you. Thing is, he's just met this girl and the way he figured, he had to get tied up with one or the other. He picked the girl and she turned out to be Richard's mother. That's a true story.

So Richard and Jim learned their songs. They learned them in Gadsden, and brought their first  instruments in Gadsden, and got cloth for their neck straps at the Gadsden J.C. Penney's and their mothers did the stitching up., and the boys grew to look just about the way they do on the cover here.

They stopped growing one day and started making more music than the town's Union Grange Hall and High School Auditorium could possibly contain. They moved from old WAAX Radio in Gadsden to Birmingham and WBRC-TV, and people in the colleges wanted to listen some, so they made their music in places that had never heard anything more jump-up than chamber recitals. But you couldn't hold them. On nearby Sand Mountain they began rising Cain and up there Jim learned to rap and flail a banjo from Arthur Kuykendall. They sat around and listened to the old-timey music of Foncy Maddox. They were out to whoop it up, and they whooped it right into New York, to Gerde's Folk City, and The Bitter End, and the Blue Angel uptown, and Club 47 in Cambridge where the Radcliffe girls and the Harvard boys went poking their heads out the windows to try and figure out all that sound. Then with a bit of steam behind them and not much more than they had on, they lit out for Paris and Amsterdam, and all over England, and finally Hollywood, California, where they put this record together.

There's a story there too. They'd stopped off in Gadsden to pick up Steve Young, an old guitar playing buddy; then headed West just in time to make a wedding on the coast and give the guests a chance to hear what they'd been up to. They'd carried an old wrought iron kettle all the way from Alabama. They gave it to the bride and groom, said so ling and sang their way right into the Capitol recording studio. If the boys sound spirited and full of fun, well there's mighty good reason.

Songs like TRAVELIN' KIND, with more finger-dancing flatpicking than you'll hear in a long time, have a way of celebrating what Richard and Jim are all about. You can nearly hear their hominy-grit roots out there vibrating with the knife guitar as it slides up and down the steel strings on MIDNIGHT SPECIAL and MUDDY WATERS. Even old Dave Jackson on bass, who'd never worked with them before, had big enough ears to know what they were into after the first one or two choruses. He couldn't keep out of the fooling in STAY ALL NIGHT and nobody wanted him to.

That's the idea, too. These fellas want you right smack dab into the middle of their music. They want to keep right on going until people can hear it all the way back in Gadsden. Which by now, they probably do.

-- Dick Fariña

side one

Travelin' Kind 3:05
Railroad Bill 2:40
Sun Don't Shine 2:05
Tell Old Bill 3:15
Midnight Special 2:17
Stay All Night 2:35

side two

Charming Betsey 2:10
Journey Afar 3:10 
Muddy Waters 2:40
Freight Train Blues 2:03
Columbus Stockade Blues 2:37
Rabbit And The Log 1:56


http://www.wfmu.org/Playlists/Jeffd/j.010113.html (Charming Betsey at 2:46:38)
http://www.wfmu.org/Playlists/Jeffd/j.010210.html (Tell Old Bill at 1:39:30)

RETURN to Discography


Capitol Records #  (S)T 2287 (circa 1965) 
Featuring Richard Lockmiller & Jim Connor 

Now Richard and Jim, they come from Gadsden, Alabama. They were born there, and made a fuss there when they were kids, and grew up together, and went to school there, and caught pigtaily girls in the haystacks there, and ever since they started singing songs, a whole bunch of people around the world, when asked what's all this jumping around, busting-out folk music, can only answer that's where Gadsden is.

side one

Watermelon Hangin' On the Vine 1:55
"219" BMI 3:05
Streamline Cannonball BMI 3:05
Cripple Creek BMI 2:31
Them Poems BMI 2:31
Stay All Night BMI 3:15

side two

East Virginia BMI 2:12
Oh Baby, It Ain't No Lie BMI 2:16 
Cluck Ol' Hen BMI 2:16
Old Home Place ASCAP 2:04
Ragtime Anne BMI 2:09
Mule Skinner Blues BMI 3:00

Produced by MARVIN HUGHS

RETURN to Discography 

Personal Friend of Arthur Kuykendall, Monk Daniel and Cluny Rakestraw

RCA Records #  APL1-0874 (circa 1975) 
Featuring Jim Connor 


  1. Banjo Set
  2. Long Way to Hollywood
  3. No Mo Cane
  4. Grandma's Feather Bed
  5. Mist on the Red Rocks
  6. Parchman Farm
  7. Them Poems
  8. Grits Ain't Groceries
  9. Welfare Check
  10. Ol Monk Daniel
  11. Sand Mt. Holler

RETURN to Discography 



RETURN to Discography 




January 2001

Dear Fans and Friends,

We are back on the mountain (Sand Mountain)! For those of you who didn't I know we left the mountain, here is a brief story: 

In February of '99 Jim became Artistic Director of Lime Kiln Theater in Lexington, Virginia for the season Spring to Fall '99, and Cindy took a years leave of absence from her special ed teaching position at John Jones Elementary in Rainbow City, AL and taught special ed for a year at the high school in Lexington (Rockbridge Co. High), It was an expanding experience for us all and we returned to a totally renovated farm house (due to a lightning fire in July of '99) on Cox Gap Road. In August of '00 Cindy returned to her former teaching job, and Jim resumed freelance music and writing Cathleen (12) and James (9) are both back in St. James School in Gadsden. We one rabbit (Bubba). 4 dogs (including our newest, a registered female Siberian Husky, 'Nichole' whom James hopes will bring us wealth and fame via her puppies), 6 cats and one wild pig roaming in our woods: plenty to love and plenty to do,

Note from Cindy; Throughout this time God blessed us in many ways: When the fire hit no one was home (we were all in Virginia) and no one- was hurt. A neighbor saw the smoke and called 911 so we did not lose the house. Many of the things we had not yet moved were not badly damaged. Cindy was blessed by two neighboring families and Jim's Aunt Edith that gave her support and shelter while She Went through the mess with the cleanup crew from (he insurance company the week after the fire. (Jim was tied up with the theater and could not come at first). We were blessed by a gifted contractor (Andy Alsobrook) who worked with us during the following months and did a fabulous job-the house is better than it ever was. Most of all, during our time in Virginia we were blessed with many friends and the fellowship of a wonderful! church-New Monmouth Presbyterian. We lived in a lovely house that God provided the means for us to buy and a buyer when it was time to sell Cindy had a successful year at her school, and we wore able to visit many colonial sites and learned much about America's early history (note picture)


Jerry - I've always loved this! I've given away thousands! - JC

From an old country preacher down South, USA, Early 20th century


The Greatest Sin Fear
The best day Today
The biggest fool The boy who will not go to school
the best town Where you succeed
The most agreeable companion One who would not have you any different from what you are
The great bore One who will not come to the point
A still greater bore one who keeps on talking after he has made his point
The greatest deceiver One who deceives himself
The greatest invention of the devil War
The greatest secret to production Saving waste
The best work What you like
The best play Work
The cheapest, stupidest and easiest thing to do Finding Fault
The greatest comfort The knowledge that you have done your work well 
The greatest mistake Giving up 
The most expensive indulgence Hate 
The greatest trouble maker One who talks too much 
The greatest stumbling block Egotism  
The most ridiculous asset Pride
The worst bankrupt The soul that has lost its enthusiasm
The most dangerous person The  liar
The most disagreeable person The complainer
The meanest feeling of which any human being is capable Feeling bad at another's success
The cleverest man One who always does what he thinks is right
The greatest need Common Sense
The greatest puzzle Life
The greatest mystery Death
The greatest thought God
The greatest thing, bar none, in the world Love


Songs Credited to
Jim Connor
Song Title
1. Accordion Reels (B.M.I.)
2. Banjo Set (B.M.I.)
3. Charming Betsy (B.M.I.)
4. Cluck Ol' Hen (B.M.I.)
5. Covered Dish Supper (B.M.I.)
6. Cripple Creek (B.M.I.)
7. Do You Think Of Me (B.M.I.)
8. East Virgina (B.M.I.)
9. Gathering Of The Clan (B.M.I.)
10. Grandma's Feather Bed (B.M.I.)
11. Grits Ain't Groceries (B.M.I.)
12. He Does So Many Things (B.M.I.)
13. I'm On My Way Back Home (B.M.I.)
14. Irish WasherWoman (B.M.I.)
15. Lonely World (B.M.I.)
16. Lunch Toter (B.M.I.)
17. Mist On Red Rocks (B.M.I.)
18. Muddy Water Blues (B.M.I.)
19. My Love Is But A Lassie Yet (B.M.I.)
20. No Mo Cane (B.M.I.)
21. Oh Babe It Ain't No Lie (B.M.I.)
22. Ol' Blue (B.M.I.)
23. Old Monk Daniel (B.M.I.)
24. One For Jeru (B.M.I.)
25. Railroad Bill (B.M.I.)
26. The Rakes of Mallow (B.M.I.)
27. Sand Mountain Hollar (B.M.I.)
28. Song For Wayne (B.M.I.)
29. Tell Old Bill (B.M.I.)
30. Two One Nine (B.M.I.)
31. Watermelon Hanging On the Vine (B.M.I.)
32. Welfare Check (B.M.I.)


CLICK HERE to go to theHOME page of the Kingston Trio LINER NOTES.
Last revised: August 22, 2006.

In response to inquiries as to what's he up to, I had an exchange with Jim in late October of last year, he enclosed the following note regarding pending personal appearances . . . Good news for west-coast fans:

JK- I'll be at "Claremont Spring Folk Festival," Saturday, May 4, 2002, for 7pm concert & daytime banjo/harmonica, bones workshops -

referral CSFF / Doug Thompson, Dir
8755 La Vine Street
Alta Loma, CA 91701

In meantime I gig, play, & speak at churches etc. in Virginia & Southern environs . . . 

Also I been doing pick up jobs with Ray Bouin of "The Wayfarers." who also lives in Virginia now.

Yesterday I discovered this archive of Jeffery Davison's "Shrunken Planet" music program that airs on WFMU-FM in New York. Each program in the archive runs 3 hours and features the "folk music of England, Scotland, Ireland, and North America. Blues, country, bluegrass, old-timey, Cajun, Celtic, singer/songwriters, etc." Many of the programs also offer complete play lists for reference. 

I've been listening while I work and am loving it. Haven't heard such good programming since our bay area folk dedicated station left the air some 35 years ago.

If there's a down-side, it's that I haven't found any Trio yet.

Follow the LINK below.