John Denver was born in Roswell, New Mexico, where his father was an Air Force flight instructor. He started playing guitar at age 12, and in 1964 he dropped out of Texas Tech to start a music career. John changed his last name from Deutschendorf to Denver to make his name fit on a club marquee. In 1965 he joined the Chad Mitchell Trio, leaving three years later to pursue a solo career. He emerged as a musical talent when he wrote “Leaving on a Jet Plane” in 1967. The song was initially recorded by the Mitchell Trio, but emerged as a major hit in 1969 when Peter, Paul, and Mary covered the song and it went to #1 on the Billboard charts. The song continued to be a cover favorite, having been recorded by numerous jazz, rock, pop, country, and hip-hop artists, plus Frank Sinatra.
His first album, Rhymes and Reasons, was released in 1969 and included his recording of “Leaving on a Jet Plane.” Two additional albums followed in 1970 (Whose Garden Was This? and Take Me to Tomorrow), but it was in 1971 that his album Poems, Prayers, and Promises which contained his breakout hit “Take Me Home, Country Roads”