Guitarist John Stewart (born September 5, 1939) played in the Kingston Trio 1961 - 1967. The trio helped launch the American folk craze that preceded the British Invasion.
"He was visiting my Uncle Nick [Reynolds, cofounder of the Kingston Trio] for dinner," recalls guitarist Joey Harris of Stewart's 2008 visit to Reynolds's Coronado home. "He was feeling a little headachy, so he went back with [wife] Buffy to their room at the Hotel del Coronado."
"Buffy called me at two in the morning," says Greg Jorgenson, a longtime friend of Stewart. "She told me John had trouble talking. She had already called the ambulance."
Following a massive stroke or brain aneurysm, Stewart died at Scripps Mercy Hospital in Hillcrest on January 20, 2008. "It was the same hospital he was born in," says Jorgenson.
After the Kingston Trio, Stewart went on to record a steady flow of albums, including 1969's California Bloodlines, which was named Number 36 of the Top 200 albums of all time by Rolling Stone. Stewart wrote "Daydream Believer" for the Monkees around the time he left the Kingston Trio.
"I joined John's backup band in 1975, right after I got out of [Coronado] high school," says Harris, who played with the Beat Farmers for 11 years. "I was with him until 1979, when Lindsey Buckingham convinced him to pick up an electric guitar. We agreed I should leave the band."
Both Jorgenson and Harris say that Stewart had been diagnosed with Alzheimer's disease last summer. "Hardly anyone knew about it," says Jorgenson. "Unless you really, really knew him, you couldn't tell he had it."
Jorgenson reports that Stewart lived in San Diego before moving to Pasadena at a young age. Lindsey Buckingham recently performed on four songs for Stewart's new album, recorded at Jorgenson's Pasadena-area studio. Stewart's wife now owns the masters to the unnamed album.
"It's kind of a car-themed album," says Jorgenson. "One of the songs is 'I Will Never Drive Again,' which addresses the Alzheimer's situation. Once you're diagnosed, you can't drive."