Pin It

Luther “Guitar Junior” Johnson at the Towne Crier 

click to enlarge forecast_luther-johnson_blackandwhite.jpg

As of late, time has been taking its toll on the Greatest Generation of the blues. We lost B. B. King last May, local great Little Sammy Davis, 87, has been sidelined by a stroke, and within just the last few years Honeyboy Edwards, Pinetop Perkins, and Louisiana Red have all departed. It's tough to meditate on, but it's true: Our living links to the authentic deep blues of the American South, and even the later electric Chicago blues of the 1950s, are dwindling fast. But there is a handful of these treasured conduits to the Real Deal still standing. One of them is Luther "Guitar Junior" Johnson, who has direct ties to both blues epochs and will visit the Towne Crier on January 16.

The 76-year-old singer and guitarist (who shouldn't be confused with the similarly named bluesmen Luther "Snake Boy" Johnson, Luther "Houserocker" Johnson, and Lonnie "Guitar Junior" Brooks) was born in Itta Bena, Mississippi, and moved to Chicago in 1955. There, he began an apprenticeship with the great Magic Sam, picking up on the guitar king's distinctive West Side style—stinging single notes interspersed with distorted rhythm chords. Developed for the most part by Magic Sam and Otis Rush, the West Side sound made a deep impact on Eric Clapton, Mark Knopfler, and other rock players. From 1972 to 1980, Johnson played in Muddy Waters's band, touring the US, Europe, Japan, and Australia, and appearing on several of the legend's records.

After leaving Waters, Johnson cut a couple of tracks for Chicago's renowned Alligator Records and appeared as a member of John Lee Hooker's backup band in the monster-hit 1980 John Belushi/Dan Akroyd comedy The Blues Brothers. He eventually split the Windy City for the East Coast, where he put together the Magic Rockers, a group he would front for four albums. Since settling in New Hampshire, he's collaborated on three albums with Washington, DC, unit the Nighthawks, whose ranks at one time included a young guitar player named Warren Haynes. Johnson won a Grammy in 1985 for his contributions to that year's seminal Alligator anthology, Blues Explosion.

During his years with Waters, Johnson shared bills with Clapton, the Rolling Stones, Johnny Winter, and the Allman Brothers and performed at Carnegie Hall, the Kennedy Center, and Radio City Music Hall. A festival favorite, the guitarist and vocalist has brought his heated, bending strings and anguished wail to event stages from New Orleans to Antibes.

"If you don't like the blues, you got a hole in your soul," Johnson growls between riffs in a YouTube clip from a torrid 2011 gig. No argument here, sir.

Luther "Guitar Junior" Johnson performs at the Towne Crier in Beacon on January 16 at 8:30pm. Tickets are $25. (845) 855-1300; Townecrier.com.

Speaking of...

Comments

Subscribe to this thread:

Add a comment

Readers also liked…

Hudson Valley Events

submit event
Some Kind of Joy: The Story of Grimshaw in Twelve Buildings @ EMPAC at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute

Some Kind of Joy: The Story of Grimshaw in Twelve Buildings

Mon., March 27, 6 p.m. — Directed by Sam Hobkinson, this revisits key projects from the history of...

Fan of Fiction

Mon., March 27, 6:30 p.m. — Instead of planning to read one book, the library will compile an...

View all of today's events

Latest in Music

Related to Music

  • The Moonlights Sunday Brunch
  • The Moonlights Sunday Brunch

    The Moonlights, a debut musical collaboration for families, is making the rounds at a series of live performances, including two of the upcoming Sunday Brunch at the Falcon in Marlboro.
    • Mar 20, 2017
  • Opera in Phoenicia Park
  • Opera in Phoenicia Park

    With its open-air format, where attendees picnic in the parks and watch the stars emerge during performances, and its $5 youth tickets, the Phoenicia International Festival of the Voice is the perfect place to share with children a love of music and theater, in a variety of styles.
    • Jul 25, 2016
  • More »

More by Peter Aaron

Hudson Valley Tweets