George Cromarty (September 15, 1941 – February 12, 1992[) was an American folk guitarist and singer. He is best known as the co-writer, with Ed Rush, of the song Plastic Jesus, though he went on to record three albums of solo guitar music in the 1970s and 1980s. The Folk Music Sourcebook likened his playing style to John Fahey’s, and George Winston cites Cromarty as a musical influence. His music has been heard on the soundtracks of many films, including the Coen brothers’ Inside Llewyn Davis. The “Columbia record exec” in Inside Llewyn Davis was named “Mr. Cromarty” in honor of Cromarty.
Cromarty met Ed Rush while they were students in Fresno. They first performed together at Kalisa’s restaurant in Monterey, California as The Goldcoast Singers. They moved to San Francisco and, after performing in clubs there, they were invited to perform before an audience of 1,000 at the San Francisco State Folk Festival. The audience responded enthusiastically, and the duo played five encores, closing with Plastic Jesus. The recording of this performance was released in 1962 as Here They Are! The Goldcoast Singers.
In 1963, Cromarty was drafted into the army. He later settled in Morro Bay, California. His first solo album of acoustic guitar music, Grassroots Guitar, was released in 1973 on his own label, Thistle Records. His next release, The Only One, was ostensibly an album of songs for children. Cromarty’s third and last album, Wind in the Heather, was recorded for George Winston’s Dancing Cat Records in 1984.
Cromarty died on February 12, 1992. He was 50 years old.
In 2014, Cromarty was co-nominated for a Golden Globe Award for Best Original Song for “Please Mr. Kennedy,” from Inside Llewyn Davis. His co-nominees were Ed Rush, T Bone Burnett, Justin Timberlake, and Joel and Ethan Coen. (by wikipedia)
George Cromarty had already experienced a weird brush with fame before he recorded his debut album in 1973. As co-writer of the song “Plastic Jesus,” he and collaborator Ed Rush are probably the only people to be covered by both Paul Newman (in the film Cool Hand Luke) and the Flaming Lips. But Cromarty had left that type of novelty folk song long behind by the time he created his masterpiece, Grassroots Guitar. I first became aware of the album via the Numero Group’s excellent Guitar Soli compilation from a few years back, which featured Cromarty’s “Flight,” a gorgeous slice of fingerpicked nirvana. But even in these magical Internet days, when rare and out of print recordings are usually just a few clicks away, Grassroots Guitar remained out of reach, despite dogged Googling. This year, thanks to a kind donor, I finally heard the complete album — and it did not disappoint.
Though Grassroots Guitar was originally distributed by John Fahey’s Takoma Records, and although it is made up of almost entirely solo acoustic guitar pieces, it’d be a mistake to call it Fahey-esque. There’s little to no blues influence, for one thing, which was the cornerstone of everything Fahey did. A closer comparison would be the precise, crystalline solo recordings of Pentangle guitarist John Renbourn, or perhaps the more classically influenced Leo Kottke jams. There’s even a dusky melancholy reminiscent of Nick Drake present in the grooves here. But Cromarty was an original, apparently developing his style all on his own. Grassroots Guitar features 13 perfect guitar reveries (plus one vocal number), each one packed with plaintive melodies and quietly dazzling technique. Cromarty went on to record a children’s record, plus an equally great solo LP for Windham Hill, Wind In The Heather, before passing away, forgotten by all but a few, in the early 1990s. But take a listen to a couple of samples from Grassroots Guitar and you’ll agree it’s a work that should be more widely known. words (by T.Wilcox)
01. Flight 3.23
02. Rose And Briar 2.04
03. Topinambour 3.19
04. Langostino 3.07
05. Buena Vista 1.56
06. Poppyfield 3.21
07. Symmetry 2.26
08. Renaissance Faire 2.47
09. Rainsong 2.33
10. Bavarian Zither 2.06
11. Arboretum 1.46
12. Southern Sunday 3.06
13. Harpsichord 2.23
14. Little Children 2.40
All compositions: George Cromarty