You know how when you hear a story, sometimes you can almost hear the soundtrack playing in the background? John Beacher’s story is definitely one of those. We meet at 4:45pm. The venue, Karla’s Bar and Restaurant, a New Hope institution. In just a few hours, while diners enjoy their food and area musicians line their instruments against the wall next to the entrance, John Charles Beacher will take command of a corner of Karla’s, hook up the mics, speakers and mixers and transform the quaint local hangout into the “New Hope Community Stage”. It’s been happening every Thursday night for the past six years, like clockwork.
Not only John and his band are playing their original tunes each week. John also acts as an expert facilitator, professional soundman and charming MC, for a magical evening of music that starts at 7:00 pm and can extend into the late night hours. Fans scramble to find a seat as the band gets ready to perform, some are already finishing up their selections from the great menu Karla’s offers (I love the food there) and others are getting ready for a night of listening, with a few drinks already under their belts. The musicians pile in, one after another, and patiently await their turn for 15 minutes of New Hope style fame and warm appreciation from an enthusiastic crowd. “People come here from all over” says John “and most of the musicians are really talented, but you never know what you’re going to hear on any given night. That’s what keeps it so exciting, even after six years of hosting. It’s an incredible experience to be blown away by the talent of another musician and it happens a lot here”. Tonight he was especially excited. “My first guitar teacher, John Greenaway, will be here tonight. I was a horrible student. I hardly listened to what he told me. I just wanted to play. I think he might still try to correct my guitar strum today,” he says jokingly.
Down By the Schoolyard
Today, years after starting his soul-searching journey, John is a full-time, hard-working musician with published albums, cool music videos, a loyal fan base and a very busy schedule across the tristate area. However, when I ask him “what are you? His answer is not so straightforward. “I am a singer-song writer and a community organizer,” he tells me. “Community organizer? What do you mean?” I ask, and John explains:” I owe a lot to this town. So this night is also a way for me to give back. I grew up here, went to the New Hope-Solebury high school, my mom is from here. . . and this community helped me to become who I am.”
But before John took on his unofficial role as a musical community leader, his musical mystery tour took him for some detours, like his time in Boulder, Colorado where he spent his later teen years and early twenties with his dad and sister.
When In New Hope, Do as the Locals
John’s guide to New Hope local living:
Karla’s Restaurant for Dinner
John & Peters
You can put in your Kayak on the D&R canal, go upstream for few miles and than carry your boat over to the river and float down stream.
J B Kline New & Vintage in Lambertville, checkout the music instruments on the second floor.
Not to miss
The Community Stage on Thursday nights
Live Like a Local
Bring your instrument and sign up for the Community Stage at Karla’s on Thursday at 8:45 outside of the restaurant. Enjoy the local music scene from the stage. You snooze you loose.
Slip Slidin’ Away
“I have been playing music since I was eleven years old and by the time I was eighteen, I knew that music was what I wanted to do”. But it took almost another decade for John to become a full-time musician; he first had to cross some major hurdles. Making a living as a musician is not easy and he lacked the confidence it takes. So after graduating high school, John worked as a caretaker for people with developmental disabilities. He worked hard during the day and made music on the night shift. It was John’s grandmother who sat him down on her eightieth birthday and told him that he would be a fool to not seize the moment and choose his music passion as a career. “That’s who you are, that’s what you do, and you don’t need to go to school for that,” she said.
It took eleven more years of playing music in Boulder by himself and later together with bands, a rough breakup from a longtime girlfriend, a meltdown followed by a spiritual healing, until John realized it was time to start taking his life and his talent to the next level. While visiting his mother one thanksgiving during an exceptionally cold winter, some friends helped him get a last minute gig in the Stockton Inn across the river. Despite the cold, people came out to listen and the show was a smashing success. The owners of the Inn took notice of the crowd’s enthusiasm and invited John to run a weekly show. That marked the beginning of the Community Stage that today, takes place at Karla’s.
Mother and Child Reunion
It seemed that the stars were lining up for John and he decided to seize this opportunity and move back to Pennsylvania to focus on building his music career. “I could sense that music would lead me to the life I wanted to have. “ From the moment he arrived, John was embraced by the New Hope- Lambertville community. “All of a sudden, the magic started to happen. Hundreds of people started to show up for the Community Stage and the success started to define my career, helping me get invited to concerts, events and festivals. When the Stockton Inn closed, I had no idea what would happen to the Community Stage. But then Alexis from Karla’s called me and saved the night. I’ve been running the Community Stage ever since and it has been a tremendous honor. It is my chance to give back to the community and to all the wonderful people that keep showing up. Singing, playing and managing the performances from that corner at Karla’s, one cannot help but to feel a part of this awesome place “.
Something So Right
The success at Karla’s gave John the confidence to further his solo career and work on some cool projects including a solo album, radio performances and this awesome music video:
John thinks he has probably written as many as 150 songs. He says that “sometimes you write songs but sometimes the songs write you.” Today he has a backup group featuring Mike Ruhl on base, George Flair on the violin and Graham Morrison on drums. Having grown up on musicians like Paul Simon, John likes to flirt with different genres, rhythms and styles. He loves soul music, funk, R&B, bluegrass, old country and he has grown to appreciate, world music and Hip Hop as well. “I can appreciate almost any song, other than trashy, violent stuff. And if If you plan to play on the community stage, just be sure you can keep a beat. “It’s okay to be a little off tune but please keep the rhythm!” John playfully warns. American TuneI was curious to know more about what motivated John musically so I asked an odd question, “What are the five albums you would choose to take to a desert Island?’ He ponders for only a second and answers:
1. There Goes Rhymin’ Simon by Paul Simon – I absolutely love that album.
2. The Police Greatest hits – which he listened to a million times as a kid.
3. Billy Joel’s Piano man and Streetlife Serenade that were sold together (so I’ll allow that).
4. Bob Dylan’s Anthology music.
5. The Coup – Steal This Album, a great hip hop album.
“And if you could invite anybody in the world to play with, who
would that be?”
That’s easy. Steve Gadd, the drummer. I am a guitar player but it’s always about the rhythms for me.
No doubt that on Thursday nights in New Hope, John owns Karla’s. But don’t be surprised if you run into him at the many other area music locales like the esteemed John and Peters on Main Street, a
place he refers to as, “my church”. It is the place he goes to hang out and get inspired by other musicians since before it was actually legal for him to go in there.
I leave John minutes before the show starts. As I make my exit, I pass a wall with a growing stack of guitar cases and musical instruments. I’m thinking about running home, tuning my guitar, and coming back in time for the sign up, but tonight I have a story to write.