Q&A with John Sebastian

For Rock & Roll Hall of Famer John Sebastian, music has been part of his life since the Greenwich Village folk scene, where he recalls being “swept up in a musical river that would affect us all as a generation.” As founder and lead singer of the popular 1960s group The Lovin’ Spoonful, known for hit songs such as “Darling Be Home Soon” and “Do You Believe in Magic,” Sebastian made a name for himself with what he calls a “good-time” blend of blues, country, folk, and a bit of rock. He and The Lovin’ Spoonful gained acclaim for creating a musical counter-revolution at the height of Beatlemania that led to Sebastian’s induction into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame in 2000 and the Songwriters Hall of Fame in 2008. On March 14 and 15, Sebastian will be performing two shows at TheatreZone in Naples, where guests can expect a rollicking good time with the American Roots folk legend.

NI: What was Lovin’ Spoonful’s secret sauce?

Sebastian: The main thing Spoonful approached differently than most American groups was that we were interested in more than one type of music. Instead of saying a single has to sound the same as our other ones so people will know it’s us, we figured we could be a band that was unrecognizable from single to single so we’d sound different each time. Plus, our jug band music had some humor to it at a time when humor was beginning to go out of rock and roll music; it was becoming serious.

What iconic songs can fans expect to hear during your performances in Naples?

I love the freedom of playing as a single guy because I can play off the audience’s reactions. Rest assured, the audience will hear plenty of Spoonful hits like “Do You Believe in Magic.”

How did the Beatles influence your music, if at all?

We weren’t aiming to compete or even compare with them; we just wanted to hang as our own little neighborhood band. When we put out a single, we thought it’d be great to be visible for a month or two, so the fact that we got six or seven singles on the charts during the Beatles’ most powerful period—as well as during the era of The Birds and The Beach Boys—was an unexpected success.

Looking back on your career, what has been a memorable moment?

There are different types of situations that are incredible, wonderful moments, and they’re not all what you’d expect. For example, I had a moment where I was playing with Johnny Johnson, the pianist who made 85 percent of Chuck Berry’s records and the subject of Johnny B. Goode. We were playing a Chuck Berry tune, which required me to play the “Mama’s Little Baby” guitar part, and Johnny went into this rolling boogie-woogie overlay that was on those original singles; it sent me into paroxysms.

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