J.D. Blackfoot was started when Tree member Ben Vandervort (vocals) took a hiatus from performing and came up with the 'concept' of J.D. Blackfoot. Vandervort (who used the stage name Benny Van at the time) created the concept, found a backer and made an offer to do a demo to the members of Tree. Dan Waldron (drums), Jeff Whitlock (guitar), and Michael Wheeler (guitar) took him up on it with the promise that they would be in the group if he could land a recording contract. Ex-Thirteeth Dilemma bassist Kenny May did not do the demos, but was added just before the "Ultimate Prophecy" was recorded. In 1970, Vandervort legally changed his name to J.D. Blackfoot.
J.D. Blackfoot - " I would like to clear up the misconception that I won my recording contract with Mercury in 1969 as a prize for winning the WCOL Battle Of The Bands while I was one of the two lead singers of the group "Tree". One of the prizes for winning that contest was supposed to be a recording contract, but I had already been signed to the Mercury deal a month before the final round of WCOL's Battle Of The Bands. That contest was titled The WCOL Beef & Cattle Battle because it was held inside the Beef and Cattle Building on the Ohio State Fairgrounds each week."
The first J.D. Blackfoot 45 was a catchy song called "Who's Nuts Alfred", which was recorded at Cleveland Recording and got some good regional airplay. It was J.D.'s first Mercury/Phillips release. Mercury decided to do the album based on the success of the 45. Shortly before recording "The Ultimate Prophecy", the group added a well-known coffeehouse singer/songwriter, Craig Fuller of Pure Prairie League fame. Dan Waldron had seen Craig play (rumor has it that the hit song "Amy" was already in his act) and convinced him to join the band (no doubt, having a record deal helped).
The group recorded the "Ultimate Prophecy" at a New York City studio. After the album was completed but prior to its release, Sterling Smith joined the band on keyboards, and Kenny May was fired from the band due to a personality conflict with J.D. Phil Stokes, from Sanhedrin Move, was recruited as the bass player after the recording but got credit on the LP. The LP itself was quickly recorded in a couple of days - if they had not pushed it, Mercury would have delayed the recording for several months.
The LP was immensely successful in the Central Ohio area (#1-selling album for weeks) and moderately successful nationally, with a slightly edited version of "One Time Woman" getting the regional airplay. "Who's Nuts Alfred" and "One Time Woman" both held number 1 rankings at WCOL in Columbus for eight weeks. The LP was eventually pulled by Mercury and removed from its catalog. A St. Louis DJ found a copy in a cutout bin a couple of years after its release. He dug it, played it on his station KSHE, and the record became a big hit with the St. Louis heads. Those were the good old days – when someone could actually play music on the radio without having to run it through some corporate focus group!
J.D. Blackfoot decided to part ways with the album musicians and to work with some other players. John Durzo - "In 1970, J.D. Blackfoot, Michael Shortland, Clarence McGirr, and Phil Stokes moved to Athens, Georgia. After only a few weeks in Athens, Phil announced that he was going into town to the library (somebody should have known something was up at that point!). He actually hopped a Greyhound bus and went back to Columbus, homesick and distraught. J.D. and Michael contacted me and I flew down and joined the band. J.D. and the boys decided to name the group Uncle Billy to give the trio an identity of its own. After several weeks of hard rehearsal, J.D. wanted to relax and treat the band to some beer. He took a box of the Ultimate Prophecy albums down to the local carryout and asked if they would be interested in trading some beer for an album or two. When he produced the album, the dude behind the counter showed him the three boxes he already had. The band boys (Uncle Billy) had been sneaking down almost every night and getting beer that exact same way. What a hoot! At some point in 1970, J.D. Blackfoot and Uncle Billy recorded "Wondering Where You Are" and "It Don't Mean A Thing" at MusiCol. Michael Shortland (later with Strongbow) played guitar, Clarence McGirr played drums, and I (John Durzo) played bass. J.D. released these two songs as a 45. I recorded "Almost Another Day" with J.D. at Rome Recording after the demise of Uncle Billy. It made it onto the Song of Crazy Horse LP in both New Zealand (on Pye Records) and here in the US (on Fantasy Records).""
"J.D. moved to New Zealand with his family in 1972. He found new players there and moved on to record "The Song Of Crazy Horse", which was awarded New Zealand's 1974 Album Of The Year. J.D. lived and recorded in New Zealand from 1972 to 1974 and again in 2000 and 2001 when he recorded the "Co-Dependent Dysfunctional You" Double CD. To date, he has released thirteen albums.
Between his first and second trips to New Zealand, J.D. did extensive touring throughout the Midwest, owned and operated recording studios and record labels (Bison and Sisapa), sponsored four divisions of auto racing (winning three championships - in '89, '90, and '91), wrote and recorded many albums of his own, and produced numerous projects for local Columbus musicians.
J.D. Blackfoot's last two albums, "Yellowhand" in 2005 and "I Hate To Say Goodbye" in 2007, were recorded at Metalworks Recording Studios in Toronto, Canada, a facility owned by "Triumph" drummer Gil Moore. John Durzo played Fender Bass on both of those projects, along with John David Call (Pure Prairie League) on Pedal Steel Guitar, Corky Laing (Mountain) on Drums and Martin Winch from New Zealand on Guitar.
J.D. Blackfoot continues to perform throughout the Midwest.
For a complete bio and catalog, plus much more information about J.D. Blackfoot, check out his website - www.jdblackfoot.com.
Thanks to J.D. Blackfoot, John Durzo, Sterling Smith, Dan Waldron
Who's Nuts Alfred / Epitaph For A Head (Philips 40625, pic sleeve)
- issued as promo and stock. Pic sleeves many have only been issued with the promo
One Time Woman / I've Never Seen You (Philips 40679)
- issued as promo with mono and stereo versions of One Time Woman. The 45 has a fade out where the LP version ends cold.
(LP)The Ultimate Prophecy (Mercury)
- promo and stock copies, includes lyric insert
Every Day - Every Night / Save This World Today (Peace 82941)
- A side label shown as JD Blackfoot.
Wonderin' Where You Are / It Don't Mean A Thing (Peace 50944)
- A side label shown as JD Blackfoot. Band is J.D. Blackfoot with Uncle Billy
Savage / Almost Another Day (Peace 61776)