The night John Lennon was killed, Clark Roberts was driving down Robson Street. The news came over the car radio, and he was stunned – but not as stunned as the man in a car in front of him.
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Local country great Billy Cowsill never met Lennon, but the “smart Beatle” figures prominently in a new Cowsill song, Johnny’s Guitar. Back in 1971, Cowsill was recording a demo at New York’s Power Plant Studios, the same studio where Lennon was recording the Imagine album. Cowsill was going through “personal domestic disruptions,” and matters weren’t helped by a rented Martin guitar that was giving him problems.
Cowsill was “really, really down, and was just about to throw the Martin across the studio” when studio engineer Jack Douglas came out with a soft leather guitar case. Cowsill unzipped it and inside was a beautiful Everly Gibson guitar.
“I said: ‘Who’s is this?’ ‘It’s John’s.’ ‘John who?’ ‘John Lennon.’ “
Cowsill “broke down” at the mention of Lennon’s name, but pulled himself together and used the guitar for the rest of the session. When he put it back in its case, he left a note. “Dear John – Thank you for saving my sanity through high school. Billy Cowsill”
And what does Billy Cowsill feel is John Lennon’s legacy?
“He left a lot of joy for a lot of miserable people,” he says, “which is the best legacy you can leave.”