About

Johnny Bregar is a seasoned family music performer. He is known for his engaging live concerts that delight kids and parents alike. His original songs and arrangements of familiar children’s songs have a rootsy, jazzy, bluesy, poppy sound. He has recorded three CDs in his Ballard studio, and one in his Bainbridge Island studio and appears on four Putumayo compilations. Says Warren Truitt, Senior Children’s Librarian at The New York Public Library’s Early Childhood Resource and Information Center. “Bregar’s been doin’ his homework…originals like “Blue Dog,” “Blackberry Pie,” and “Owl” are wonderfully authentic, to the point where you would think they’re Americana relics. Bregar has a knack, as well, for super catchy country pop: listen to the shimmery “Airplane” and the awesome choruses of “Best Friend” and “Summertime.””

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Johnny’s songs are about everyday life as a child. He reaches across cultural and geographic boundaries with tunes that spark children’s imaginations and are comfortable and
familiar. Johnny strives to make his music educational as well as fun. Very few of his songs are written simply to be silly –- he aims to strike a chord with kids by providing vignettes that echo the way they think about the world around them, while at the same time remaining fun and accessible. His music has been reviewed positively by NPR’s All Things Considered (http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=6576654) as well as ParentMap, Zooglobble.com, Parenting Magazine, and many, many others.

Discography

2005 – Stomp Yer Feet, Self-Released
2006 – Hootenanny, Self-Released
2008 – Dragonfly, Self-Released
2011 – My Neighborhood, Self-Released
2012 – Shake it Up, Shake it Off, ParentMap compilation
2009 – Putumayo’s Picnic Playground included Johnny’s version of “Shoo Fly Pie.” 2009 – Putumayo’s A Family Christmas included Johnny’s version of “Santa Claus is Coming to Town.”

2012 – Putumayo’s Cowboy Playground included Johnny’s version of “Don’t Fence Me In.”
2013 – Putumayo’s American Playground included Johnny’s version of “She’ll Be Comin’ Round the Mountain.”

Performance Highlights

  • The Moore Theatre (w/Recess Monkey)
  • Bumbershoot
  • NW Folklife Festival
  • Kids Rock Concert Series at Mount Baker Community Center
  • Preschools, Elementary and Libraries all over!

 

Reviews and Feedback

Melissa Block, All Things Considered, NPR:  “There is new music from a musician named Johnny Bregar, a CD called, “Hootenanny.” Some original songs but a lot of traditional songs and I think they sound great…. He takes a traditional song called Wishy Washy Woman and makes it this really high energy Boogie Woogie….”

Full review: http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=6576654

Warren Truitt – NYC Children’s Librarian

Yet another warm, comfy CD of country/folk/Americana from SeattleiteJohnny Bregar! His first, Stomp Yer Feet!, is one of the best albums for the 2-to-6 year old set you’ll ever hear, and his second, Hootenanny, features a balance of originals and traditional tunes. It would have been difficult for anyone to follow up those two solid collections, but Bregar does it with his third CD for kids,Dragonfly.

Check out the nifty artwork by Kelly Angelovic, and Bregar’s can’t-miss covers of John Brim’s “Ice Cream Man,” Guy Wood & Sammy Gallop’s post-WW II hit “Shoo-Fly Pie,” and Sanford Faulkner’s hillbilly Vaudeville fiddle tune “Arkansas Traveller.” Other highlights include the pro- Maine bluegrass jam “Christmas Cove,” the feel-the-sun-on-your-face feel good vibe of “Two Thumbs Up,” the sweet pop of the title tune (already a hit on XM Radio’s Kids Place Live), the banjo waltz/science lesson of “Honey Bees,” the Memphis groove of “What Do You Do?” and the absolutely beautiful “Blue Canoe” (hey, pair this with Frances England’s “Blue Canoe” from Fascinating Creatures!).

Seattle is fast becoming a hotbed of high-quality kids’ music, and Johnny Bregar is one of the reasons why. The fact that his albums keep getting better is an indicator that he’s here to stay, and that we should expect even greater things from him in the future. Dragonfly soars.

From ParentMap magazine, January 2007:

Hootenanny, Johnny Bregar. Home-grown folk revival from a Ballard dad who knows how to get feet stomping! Bregar’s second album includes a mix of covers and originals, including the sweetly evocative “Summertime” and the bluesy “Blackberry Pie.” With neighborhood kids singing back-up to Bregar’s laid-back vocals, Hootenanny is that rarest of discs that appeals to all ages. Just try to sit still! $13.50, www.johnnybregar.com

From Zooglobble, December 2006:

After hearing his debut kids’ CD Stomp Yer Feet!, I saddled the Seattle-based musician Johnny Bregar with perhaps an unfortunate tag — the next Raffi. I considered it a compliment, thinking of Bregar’s gifted voice and occasionally soulful reinterpretation of preschooler classics, but there are enough people out there who have such a knee-jerk reaction to the mere mention of Raffi’s name that I didn’t expect it to be a marketing gold mine.

On his second album for kids, the just-released Hootenanny, Bregar neatly escapes the “next Raffi” tag by pitching his songs at a slightly older crowd. Gone are toddler classics such as “If You’re Happy and You Know It” or “I’ve Been Working on the Railroad,” in are folk classics for a slightly older crowd — the revved-up album opener “Old Dan Tucker” or the straight-up folk last track “Eastbound Freight Train.” The younger kids aren’t completely ignored — somewhere Dr. John is crossing “Miss Mary Mack” off his songs-to-record list because Bregar’s soulful version will work just as well — but this time they’re the exception and not the rule. I also like his gently bouncing version of “Don’t Fence Me In,” with an occasional kids’ chorus that suggests the lyrics don’t just apply to adult cowboys.

Bregar puts a few more original songs on the new album, and for the most part, they’re very good. Songs like “Best Friend” and “Airplane” speak to aspirations of five-year-olds. If there’s a drawback to the songs, which sound great, is that they’re all very Adult Album Alternative- sounding. As opposed to the goofiness of, say, “Pancakes” or “Blah de la” off Stomp Yer Feet!, the songs here are all very polished and may or may not capture kids’ fancies.

The album’s musicianship is always first-rate, and Bregar has a great voice, one of those things you don’t appreciate unless you’ve heard a lot of kids’ music and realize that there aren’t that many kids’ musicians with great voices. He sounds ever so slightly like Bruce Springsteen and a lot like Justin Currie, the lead singer for the ’90s pop band Del Amitri — in fact, there’s even a hint of Del Amitri’s sound in the album. (Should I start the rumor that Bregar is actually Currie’s alter ego?)

The album’s most appropriate for kids ages 3 through 8. You can hear clips from both of Bregar’s albums here.

Hootenanny is another strong album from Johnny Bregar, with many songs kids and their adults can enjoy. If it doesn’t quite reach the heights of Stomp Yer Feet!, that’s only because that album set the bar so high, and if you were scared by the “next Raffi” tag, it’s OK to come back — Bregar’s now setting his own path worth following. Definitely recommended.

Zooglobble, June 21, 2006

Pity the preschool children’s musician. Forced to play the same set of familiar songs at least some of the time, yet Raffi (and before him, Ella Jenkins, Pete Seeger, Lead Belly, and Woody Guthrie) got there first and staked their claim. Few artists have managed to make a career out of playing the songs that the above artists perfected. (And believe me, many have tried. And failed.) Laurie Berkner is perhaps the only modern artist who’s completely succeeded, and her fame is as much for her original music as it is for her rendition of traditional classics.

In walks Johnny Bregar and his late-2005 kids’ music debut Stomp Yer Feet!. Bregar, a Seattle- based musician, played in local folk/rock band Big Spoon and found the selection of kids’ music for his preschool-aged son wanting. His debut is a stellar collection of mostly traditional folk and other children’s tunes, dusted off and given a fresh coat of paint.

The album starts off with “If You’re Happy And You Know It,” played with soul on an electric Rhodes piano (“just like Ray Charles used to play,” Bregar writes in the song notes), and immediately all the characteristics of this winning album are revealed — real instruments both familiar and rare, new sets of lyrics to traditional songs, and Bregar’s rich and ever-so-slightly- raspy voice . The “Alphabet Song?” 12-bar blues. “Polly Wolly Doodle?” A little bit of Dixieland, a lot more bluegrass. “Waltzing Matilda” sounds as if it was recorded 60 years ago (but with much better recording equipment). And the ukelele just rocks.

All of which might get tiresome eventually if it weren’t for the fact that the few originals on the 42-minute disc are pretty good, too. “Blah de la” might get annoying after listening to it 100 times, but its simplicity also makes it a perfect fit for the album — even the youngest preschooler could probably get the hang of it and sing along. “Pancakes” is another simple cut, not much more than a chorus, but one that Matthew Sweet would be happy to record. And the one fully- realized original, “Moon,” about wanting to touch things a kid probably shouldn’t, is the song the Counting Crows will record when they eventually decide to stop recording songs for PG-rated movies and set their sights on G-rated movies.

The songs will appeal most to kids age 2 through 6. You can listen to samples here and buy the album either through Bregar’s website, Amazon, CDBaby, or Land of Nod.

I hate to do this to the guy, because Bregar seems like a nice guy, but Johnny Bregar could be the next Raffi. Like Raffi, he’s got the musical chops, the sense of humor, and a great voice. (If he’s singing about whales 10 years from now, I can’t be held responsible.) If you’re looking for a collection of traditional kids’ songs, and you either already have Raffi’s collections or you can’t stand Raffi’s collections, you should really check out Stomp Yer Feet! — Bregar’s staking his claim to that niche of kids’ music. Highly recommended.

ParentMap Magazine, May 2006 – Kris Collingridge

Stomp Yer Feet!

It’s music for families with parents who don’t want to divide their CD collection into “ours” and “theirs.” Ballard resident Johnny Bregar’s kids’ CD — and his first solo release — has the low-key sound made popular by Dan Zanes, with jazz-, blues- and folk-influenced arrangements of childhood standards and sweetly humorous original songs. (Stomp Yer Feet! got me and a car full of kids to Mount Vernon and back recently, with little wear on my nerves despite the fact that the 5-year-olds begged to hear I’ve Been Working on the Railroad over and over again.) Standout tracks include the beautifully written Moon — about a child who wants to touch everything he sees — and a gentle, singable Froggy Went A-Courtin’. Bregar’s singing on the CD sounds intimate, as if he’s performing for a very select group. Which he is, considering that wife Maura Ahearne, son Toby and a group of neighborhood kids, a.k.a., The Ballard Singers, provide back-up vocals (and the occasional animal noise). The release is currently available at The Land of Nod at University Village (www.landofnod.com) and through Bregar’s Web site, and it’s worth meandering over to pick up a copy.

Testimonials

From Kristine in Seattle, WA:

“…my daughter, and [her friend], both 5, really intensely (!) love the CD. It’s always interesting to me how deeply kids appreciate folk/Americana/roots/old-timey tunes like the ones you cover. They just get it.”

From Jen in San Francisco, CA:

“Hey, I just wanted to let you know how much the kids LOVE LOVE LOVE your CD. When Anni has a friend over she likes to put your CD on and teach her friends the songs (especially the alphabet song!!). So thank you. It’s so nice to have music that we ALL enjoy listening to.”

From Jenny in Bainbridge Island, WA:

“I’m a musician myself (mostly piano) and I love your CD. With your goal being something fresh, you really did accomplish it! My favorites are “Nine Pound Hammer” and “Moon” and Elliot’s is “The Monkey and the Engineer”. I’m going to give your CD to my cousin who is
pregnant with her first baby, and several other friends with little ones. Keep on groovin’! We look forward to your next production!”

From Elizabeth in Cleveland, OH:

“I just wanted to let you know how much we are enjoying listening to your CD. Owen loves grooving to your music. He’s working on his head bob and loves clapping while listening. Thanks for creating such a great kids CD. When will you put together your next CD?”

From Michelle in Wilmington, NC:

“We love the CD. It was given to us as a gift. We will definitely spread your great talent among our friends. Thanks for creating something parents can enjoy listening to as well.”

From Kevin in San Francisco, CA:

“…a friend gave me your disc last night for our daughter lily – we both just love it!”

From Jonathan in Lopez Island, WA:

Your CD ROCKS! I brought it home for my son, and our whole family danced for the length of the disk. The songs are beautiful and sweet and fun. Toora Loora is my personal favorite, followed close by Pancakes! which has inspired our own bouts of improvised verse over most meals. All in all Stomp Your Feet is destined to be the sound track to some of my children’s best memories of what family is about. Thanks for putting your passion out there in such a great positive way, your music is in a class all its own!

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