John Davidson's incredible run takes a turn toward rediscovery

Spending more than 50 years under the bright lights in New York, Hollywood and beyond, John Davidson is best known for having lots to say. And, of all things, he’s finally doing it in a style of entertainment he has revered.

The street-corner musician.

“I have always admired buskers and wondered what it feels like to (play) what you feel. When you start out in show business, you write things and sing things and say things that you really haven’t felt that much,” says Davidson, who will perform Monday, Oct. 1, for the Four Arts Club in Elkhart. “I’m finally finding out who John Davidson is, and it’s the most interesting role I play.”

 John Davidson performs with a piglet during a publicity shoot for “State Fair” on Broadway. (Photo courtesy Susan L. Schulman)

John Davidson performs with a piglet during a publicity shoot for “State Fair” on Broadway. (Photo courtesy Susan L. Schulman)

Davidson the songwriter is much different than his screen persona when he hosted “That’s Incredible!” and “Hollywood Squares” on TV. From coffee houses in New England to theater settings around the country, he now performs in vignettes about the news of the day, finding and losing love, and getting older.

“Maybe it’s because I’ve made enough money in life, I no longer need to perform for that. But I’ve found what is most fulfilling for me - I’m freer now to say things on my mind,” Davidson says. “Older people, we can say what we feel. We can be funny and moving and obnoxious, telling it like it is. I feel now I was hiding in my earlier life, not that I’m really all that shocking.

“I think, as I’ve gotten up into the homestretch of life, I’m getting my second wind and I’m enjoying it.”

Davidson’s career took off in the 1960s, with Broadway turns in Rodgers and Hammerstein’s “Oklahoma!” and “State Fair,” and movie roles alongside Fred MacMurray and Lesley Ann Warren. By the ‘70s, he was a frequent and free-wheeling guest on game shows and Johnny Carson, including 80-plus nights as the host of “The Tonight Show.”

More recently, Davidson has continued to build his theater credits with starring roles in “Man of La Mancha” and “Wicked.” Last year, he finished his run the national tour of “Finding Neverland.”

Now 77, he’s enjoying life on the farm - literally. After bouncing from location to location, he and his wife of 35 years now own “an old farmhouse in the lakes region of New Hampshire. We finally found our house,” he says.

“And I’m doing what I love best. All over the years, I’ve been a storyteller and used that in many concerts and in my Las Vegas show many years ago. But this is an intimate show. My guitar with original tunes and some oldies but goodies,” Davidson says. “(‘Finding Neverland’) was about self discovery and inspired me to examine life as I have it. That story is about who you are, where you’re going. And I’m reinventing myself.”

Limited seats remain for the Elkhart performance and will be sold first-come, first-served on show day. The Four Arts Club, which has celebrated the arts with events for nearly 75 years, welcomes non-members to attend these performances for $20. For more information on shows and membership, visit FourArtsElkhart.com.