Musicians are kind of like turtles…they carry home on their backs…or in a guitar case.
They usually are found in towns and cities far away from their native homes.
That’s because they are always in search of something.
John Galbraith finds himself in Columbia, a good four hours away from his hometown roots. Like most musicians, when you ask him how he ended up in Columbia, it’s a long story. It’s always a story that involves dreams, broken dreams, new dreams, and a lot of musical brethren.
“I was born in western Kentucky and raised in Southern and Southeast Missouri,” he answers.
And, of course, being a boy from South of I-70, his background involves family, church, and other musicians from the same neck of the woods.
“I grew up listening to the country radio that my mom would listen to in the 70’s. Then the classic rock my brother would listen to. He would leave his electric guitar lying around, and I’d pick it up and work out a few melodies, but really I didn’t know what I was doing,” confesses Galbraith.
His dad was a Pentecostal minister, so John started playing in his dad’s church when he was 13.
“We would play southern gospel in the morning and night services, but then after everyone left, we’d show each other the rock songs we’d learned that week,” he laughed. It was somewhat akin to sneaking out to the barn to smoke, playing classic rock like Rush, Led Zeppelin, Black Sabbath, and Van Halen within those hallowed church walls.
During his teen years, he then started playing in a metal band with a friend from Dexter, MO.
“We were taking it up a step because we played only originals,” he noted. But finding gigs took persistence. They played at every county fair they could find, in Cape Girardeau, and even at The Landing in St. Louis.
“We even recorded some cassette demos and sent them everywhere we could think of,” said Galbraith.
When he was about 15, Galbraith started playing with another now well-known Columbia musician, Eddie Boster.
“We would practice at his Salt of the Earth record store. They played mostly covers of The Pretenders, Lone Justice, Neil Young, and Stevie Ray Vaughn.
“We practiced a lot,” he recalls. “But we got the chance to actually play only a few times, one of which was at my high school homecoming dance.” Ironically, most of his classmates didn’t know any of the songs they were playing. The group did get good exposure at a Farm Aid show with a couple of new Nashville “new wave, cowpunk” bands.
As is often the case, the band struggled when Eddie moved his record store to Columbia. John and several friends helped him make that move back in the Summer of ’86.
“I liked Columbia, so I stayed for a few months before I headed back to Poplar Bluff where I played in cover bands for a couple of years. We did play a lot,” Galbraith recalls. “There were a lot of weeks where we played five nights a week.”
But friendship and music brought John back to Columbia, to play with Eddie’s band, “Dreams About Guns”. He described the band as a roots rock band, and much of their music was written by Boster and James Kamp. They played at The Blue Note, and sometimes even did weekend tours in St. Louis, Kansas City, Springfield, and even reached into Kansas, Illinois and Indiana.
“We got the chance to record with the late, great Lou Whitney of Springfieldat his studio in Kansas City,” added Galbraith.
In 1991, Galbraith moved to Austin, where he found a musical home in power pop and alternative rock bands. He even played the SXSW festival.
Then back in 2001, Galbraith again found himself in Columbia. With a newborn son, he wanted to be closer to home
In 2006, he formed The Goldbugs, a power pop, alternative country, garage rock band. The group recorded five albums, and were frequently players in the Columbia Music Scene, including The Blue Fugue, Eastside, The Blue Note, and Mojo’s. But…the drummer moved to Louisiana, so again it was time to make a change.
Galbraith started a six-piece original country band known as The Harrows. But that group morphed into The Broken Promises, which recorded a CD a couple of years ago. He also formed an alternative rock band called Mondo, which also recorded a CD a few years ago. With a new bass player, that group morphed into The Grievances. He also recorded an acoustic album, “Souvenir” and another one, “Running Out of Time”.
Galbraith is considered one of Columbia’s hardest working musicians. He loves Columbia. Not only is he a regular solo musician around town, he also frequently is the lead guitarist for Two Bit Steve.
“Columbia has a very vibrant and always changing music scene,” he explained. “The Blue Note has always been a major part of Columbia as a music town, and it continues to do so.
“Richard King had a giant part in making this town the cool music town that it is. He still has a huge role in the Roots and Blues Festival,” noted Galbraith. Columbia radio has also had a large role in promoting the town’s musical heritage, too.
“Columbia has some fantastic musicians and song writers. And it has great music venues like The Blue Note, Rose Music Hall, The Social Room, and Berlin Café. And since this is a college town, there are always new musicians and bands cropping up. It’s kind of a transitory town, because some bands don’t last long, but others stay here and keep playing,”
It’s an interesting recipe of musical heritage and a constantly moving musical population that makes Columbia unique, with a multitude of influences as varied as the people and musicians who come here.
“I totally understand that,” concludes Galbraith. “I was one of them who came, went, came back, and now it’s my home.”