Luther “Guitar Junior” Johnson

Agent: Chris Colbourn
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Luther “Guitar Junior” Johnson is one of the premier blues artists to emerge from Chicago’s music scene.  Hailing from Itta Bena, Mississippi, Johnson arrived in Chicago in the mid-fifties a young man.  At around the same time, the West Side guitar style, a way of playing alternating stinging single-note leads with powerful distorted chords, was being created mostly by Magic Sam and Otis Rush.  Originally developed because their small bands could not afford both lead and rhythm guitar players, this style grew into an important contribution to modern blues and rock, influencing such notables as Eric Clapton and Mark Knopfler.  Johnson served a long sideman apprenticeship with both Magic Sam and Muddy Waters, while developing into a strong performer in his own right.  Today, Luther is widely considered the foremost proponent of the West Side guitar style and the heir apparent to the late Magic Sam’s West Side throne.

Luther Johnson first gained an international reputation as a guitarist and vocalist with Muddy Waters’ band, touring the U.S., Europe, Japan and Australia from 1973-79.  Given the opportunity to front the band on his featured tunes in each show, Johnson’s super-charged performances consistently thrilled audiences in the world’s leading concert halls, including Carnegie Hall, Kennedy Center and Radio City Music Hall as well as at music festivals in Newport, Antibes, New Orleans and countless others.  During his association with Muddy Waters, Johnson also shared the stage with The Rolling Stones, Eric Clapton, The Allman Brothers and Johnny Winter.  He made a guest appearance in the movie The Blues Brothers as well.

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In the late 1970’s, Johnson released his first two albums as a leader for France’s Black & Blue label.  Back home in the States, the Nighthawks featured him on three of their Adelphi albums (under the nickname “Guitar Junior”) and also invited him to tour with them as guest artist on several occasions.  In 1980 after leaving Waters’ band, Chicago’s Alligator Records recorded four Luther “Guitar Junior” Johnson selections for their Living Chicago Blues, Volume 6 anthology album.  One of the tunes, “Got to Have Money,” became a hit in the Chicago area.  Soon afterwards Johnson moved to the East Coast and began to front his own band, The Magic Rockers.  In the summer of 1982, Johnson’s tour of Europe was highlighted by an appearance at the Montreux Jazz Festival.  His rendition of “Walkin’ the Dog,” included on the Atlantic Records anthology album Blues Explosion, recorded live at the Montreux Festival’s Blues Night, won a Grammy Award in 1984.  Johnson’s first domestic album as leader, Doin’ the Sugar Too, was released soon after on Chicago’s Rooster Blues label.  Featuring his regular touring band, The Magic Rockers, augmented by the Roomful of Blues horns, the album received rave reviews and was voted #4 Contemporary Blues Album of the Year and included the #2 Blues Song of the Year (“Hard Times”) at the 1985 W.C. Handy Blues Awards. (Cont.)

Since stepping out on his own, Luther “Guitar Junior” Johnson has toured with The Magic Rockers from coast to coast in North America and has completed three European tours.  He has headlined major music festivals–including the Montreal Jazz Festival, the San Francisco Blues Festival and the Jazz Festival of Poland–on both continents.  Johnson has performed with the late Stevie Ray Vaughan, Jerry Garcia and Bonnie Raitt.  His music is a mixture of blues, rock ‘n’ roll, ‘60s soul, R&B and even a touch of country.  Strong Luther Johnson original songs, plus keen renditions from the songbooks of Magic Sam, Muddy Waters, Chuck Berry, Jimmy Reed, Slim Harpo, T-Bone Walker, Robert Johnson, Howlin’ Wolf and Willie Dixon form the core of his material.  Johnson’s vocal style and repertoire also bear the influence of “The Sound of Philadelphia,” Sam Cooke, Wilson Pickett and The Drifters.

In 1988, Luther Johnson captured the W.C. Handy Award for Blues Single of the Year with “Woman Look What You’re Doin’ To Me” and “Nine Below Zero.”  Luther and his Magic Rockers were chosen to tour ten countries in Central America and the Caribbean as part of the United States’ Arts America program in the Fall of 1989.  The band acted as “musical ambassadors,” performing at theaters, cultural centers and embassy locations in Belize, Honduras, El Salvador, Nicaragua, Guyana, Surinam, Grenada, St. Vincent, the Dominican Republic and Haiti.

Slammin’ on the West Side (CD-83389) was Luther “Guitar Jr.” Johnson’s first release on the Telarc label. He also made a stellar appearance as a member of the Muddy Waters Tribute Band on the Telarc release You’re Gonna Miss Me When I’m Dead and Gone (CD-83335).

On his 1998 release, Got To Find A Way (CD-83445).  Johnson cut loose on 12 songs including five originals and one poignant tribute to the late Luther Allison.  Johnson and an all-star assemblage of current and former Magic Rockers took the music in powerful new directions.  Got To Find A Way was a clear indication that the veteran of Muddy Waters’ band was prepared, with scorching guitar solos and plaintive voice, to take his place at the head of the table.

On his third Telarc release, Luther Johnson delivers textbook West Side Chicago blues with touches of soul and funk.  Featuring a soulful horn section and his own flavorful guitar riffs, Talkin’ About Soul is the best recording Johnson has ever made

With his powerful guitar work, soulful singing and charismatic, highly visual show, Luther “Guitar Jr.” Johnson continues to win over audiences worldwide and leaves them stomping and hollering for more.

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