For those who knew and loved Jimmy Johnson’s music and the man himself, this is but a taste of a remembrance. This is an excerpt from a piece written by yours truly for Living Blues Magazine’s BLUES NEWS column that showcased live streams that brilliant musicians were self-producing in lieu of live performances during many hard months of the pandemic. Master Jimmy Johnson’s was among the best. Listeners were treated to a glimpse of the man in his home studio every Saturday afternoon for months and months. What a gift, what a joy, what musicianship. Jimmy passed away on January 31st. May he Rest in Peace. 

TAKIN’ IT TO THE STREAMS ll

      While the pandemic shuttered the doors of blues clubs everywhere, four prominent Chicago bluesmen took up broadcasting from home to fill the gap: Jimmy Johnson, John Primer, Jimmy Burns and Ronnie Baker Brooks. Each established regularly scheduled weekly broadcasts from their respective domiciles which built consistent world-wide followings as they maintained their guitar and vocal chops. 

    JIMMY JOHNSON took his homespun Saturday afternoon stream to informal places by including an ongoing dialogue with wife Sherry who greets followers to the broadcast off-camera as Jimmy readies himself for his next number. It reminds one of the intimacies of an old tv talk show or radio broadcast where a sidekick would share witticisms and news updates. “Here’s Jennifer Noble checking in from London, Jimmy. Hi, Jennifer” enthuses Sherry. “I miss the audience but I give it everything I’ve got on my Saturday stream (2pm CST)” says the man. “When the pandemic hit, everything stood still. But I still want to play.”

      And play he does. Jimmy plies his trade with brilliant signature interplay between voice and guitar or piano. “I simply spin my chair between my stringed instruments and my keyboard, so I don’t have far to go,” laughs the blues great. “This was my old shop where I made things. My father was a carpenter and I was a welder for ten years. I grew up making everything from cabinets to electronic equipment. It makes a natural spot for me to broadcast from.” 

       The forum is a perfect chance for Johnson to mix music with the wisdom of his 92 years. He includes philosophical tidbits that often become the substance of his songwriting. His most recent cd titled “Every Day Of Your Life” expresses such an example: “Live every day of your life like it’s your last, because one day you will be right.”….. 

-Peter M. Hurley

Photo © Peter M. Hurley taken @ CHICAGO BLUES NETWORK live stream, 2020.

Mr. Hurley is a contributing photographer and writer for Living Blues Magazine and the staff photographer for Chicago Blues Network. His recent book Blues Legacy: Tradition and Innovation in Chicago, in collaboration with Blues historian and author David Whiteis, showcases his work in the field. His passion for blues music began with a 6th grade dance party discovery of Bo Diddley which led to Little Walter, Muddy Waters, Howlin’ Wolf and so on. It continues to this day. VISIT PETER’S WEBSITE HERE.