Teachers at the Old Town School

John Mead

Guitar

I started playing guitar at age fifteen; I taught myself by listening to records. I played in bands ‘til I was about twenty-two, then veered off to earned bachelor’s degrees in painting and in English, and ultimately a Ph.D. in American literature. I came back to playing music about twenty years ago, thanks to the Old Town School of Folk Music, where I was originally a student in ensembles, from which the band Mystery Train formed; I began teaching here myself in 2002, with a (misguided) hiatus from 2003 to 2008.
 
I’ve been a singer, lead guitar player, songwriter, and band leader in many, many, bands, and organized many, many projects—including the first Old Town School of Folk Music tribute in 2001—from disco shows to classic rock & roll tributes to original music.  I teach ensembles at OTSFM—Bowie, Springsteen, Prince, Petty, Stones, The Isleys, Stevie, Gladys, funk, disco, rhythm and blues, ‘70s, ‘80s, ‘90s—lots of stuff.
 
My strength as a guitarist and teacher is playing—and explaining—soul, R&B, funk, and ‘70s rock guitar (Stones, Zeppelin) and breaking down chord and fretboard theory into practical, economical, useful terms. I consider the gap between lead and rhythm playing an artificial (and spurious) one; there are only guitar players, whether acoustic or electric, and anyone who puts some time into it can become one.
 
I currently lead the band Conspiracy Theories, play lead for the Heart tribute Little Queens as well as original bands Boundary Waters and Steph and the Elements, and I stage a number of tribute shows every year. I present my own and others’ projects at First Mondays at Martyrs every month, and I play wherever else I can. You can find my work recorded on the first Crumbs Off the Table and Bitter Roots albums. Eventually I’ll get my own first record finished.
 
I’ve done a lot of other stuff too. I taught college writing and lit classes for twenty years, I have three nearly-grown daughters, I still paint, and I’ve written a little fiction and a LOT of cultural, historical, and political analysis of the United States. I’m also program manager at the Sue Duncan Children’s Center, a fifty+ year old afterschool program on the South Side. And I read a lot. I try to keep busy, I don’t know what my life would be like without music, and I can’t imagine my life without the Old Town School of Folk Music.

Started at the Old Town School in September of 2008

Upcoming Workshops

Tom Petty Songbag: Full Moon Fever

Intermediate

$20 ($18 members)

Thu. June 24, 8:00 PM – 9:20 PM · Online

Classic songs from Petty’s game-changing first solo album. Free Fallin’, I Won’t Back Down, Runnin’ Down a Dream, and more.

Rolling Stones Songbag: Some Girls

Intermediate

$20 ($18 members)

Sat. June 26, 1:00 PM – 2:30 PM · Online

The Stones’ best-selling album is full of great songs and classic riffs. Get a few of them into your hands.

Radiohead Songbag: OK Computer

Intermediate

$20 ($18 members)

Thu. July 01, 8:00 PM – 9:20 PM · Online

Songs on this band’s big breakthrough are much more approachable than you think. We’ll learn them and a few B-sides as well.

Pink Floyd Songbag: Dark Side of the Moon

Intermediate

$20 ($18 members)

Thu. July 08, 8:00 PM – 9:20 PM · Online

Join us us us us and them them them them...we’ll play the whole record.

Stax Songbag

Intermediate

$20 ($18 members)

Sat. July 10, 1:00 PM – 2:30 PM · Online

A handful of classics from Booker T, Sam and Dave, Otis Redding, and more—deep southern soul from Memphis.

Tom Petty Songbag: “Hard Promises”

Intermediate

$20 ($18 members)

Thu. July 15, 8:00 PM – 9:30 PM · Online

The Waiting, Insider, Letting You Go, and more classics from the Heartbreakers’ first album of the 1980s.

Springsteen Songbag: Darkness at the Edge of Town

Intermediate

$20 ($18 members)

Sat. July 24, 1:00 PM – 2:30 PM · Online

Anthems and deep cuts along with just enough instruction and context that you can appreciate these songs more and carry them with you forever.

Rolling Stones Songbag: Sticky Fingers

Intermediate

$20 ($18 members)

Sat. July 31, 1:00 PM – 2:30 PM · Online

The 60s changed to the 70s with this record. We’ll learn some of Keith’s licks and Taylor’s lines, in standard tuning and open G.


Group Classes for the session beginning 06/21/2021

Advancing Guitar: Licks and Tricks with John Mead

$154 ($140 members)

06/22/2021 – 08/10/2021 (6 meetings)

Tuesdays · 8:00 PM – 9:20 PM · Online

What to Know About Chords with John Mead

$99 ($89 members)

06/23/2021 – 07/14/2021 (4 meetings)

Wednesdays · 6:00 PM – 7:20 PM · Online

Learning to Play by Ear with John Mead

$99 ($89 members)

06/24/2021 – 07/15/2021 (4 meetings)

Thursdays · 6:00 PM – 7:20 PM · In-Person @4545 N Lincoln Ave