Today in Blues history – March 4th, 1923 – Happy Birthday Willie Johnson
Today in Blues History
Willie Johnson is born – March 4th, 1923
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Willie Johnson bio
2017 Blues Foundation’ Blues Hall of Fame Inductee
As a young kid just starting out buying blues records in the late 1960s, I first became aware of Willie Johnson when I bought albums by Howlin’ Wolf. Reading Blues Unlimited, Living Blues and other seminal blues magazines, I also learned of the impact Willie’s playing had on British and American blues and blues rock guitar players, many of whom became huge stars. Later on in my collecting career I acquired a Sun Records box set and heard the only recordings of Willie playing apart from Howlin’ Wolf.
Blues Greats In and Around Chicago
Imagine the thrill I felt in the mid 1970s on the west side of Chicago at the Alibi Inn, when drummer/bandleader Kansas City Red introduced me to a short, gray haired man named Willie Johnson, who was just hanging out in the tavern. I ran into Willie a few times after that, but he was not playing. Meeting Willie was not surprising, because back then in Chicago there were still a lot of blues greats gigging and hanging out in small bars.
The Influence of Living Blues Magazine
If you dig out the early issues of Living Blues Magazine you fill find lots of articles about people such as Jimmy Reed, Howlin’ Wolf, Muddy Waters, Honeyboy Edwards, Dave and Louis Myers and lots of lesser known musicians and business figures like label owners. Shout out to Living Blues founders Jim O’Neal, Amy Von Singel, Bruce Iglauer and Dick Shurman whose articles had a huge impact on getting broader recognition for folks like Willie Johnson, and got folks like me excited to get involved in working with blues musicians.