Jimmy Johnson (blues guitarist)

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to navigation Jump to search

James Earl Thompson[1] (born November 25, 1928), known professionally as Jimmy Johnson, is an American blues guitarist and singer.


Johnson was born in Holly Springs, Mississippi. Several of his brothers had careers in music, among them the soul musician Syl Johnson and the bassist Mack Thompson, who played with Magic Sam. In his younger years he played piano and sang in gospel groups. He and his family moved to Chicago in 1950, where he worked as a welder and played guitar in his spare time. He began playing professionally with Slim Willis in 1959, changing his last name to Johnson, as did his brother Syl. As a guitarist he was influenced by Buddy Guy and Otis Rush. He played with Freddy King, Albert King, Magic Sam, Otis Rush, and Eddy Clearwater, among others.[2]

In the 1960s he played music in more of an R&B style, working with Otis Clay, Denise LaSalle, and Garland Green. He had his own group from the early 1960s, and by the mid-1960s he had released his first single. By 1974, Johnson had returned to playing blues, working with Jimmy Dawkins and touring Japan with Otis Rush in 1975.[3]

His first solo albums appeared on MCM Blues Records in 1978 and Delmark Records in 1979, when he was fifty years old. Reviewing the 1979 Johnson's Whacks, Robert Christgau wrote in Christgau's Record Guide: Rock Albums of the Seventies (1981): "Syl's cousin performed better on Alligator's Living Chicago Blues Volume I, but only marginally, and he compensates by showing unexpected chops as a writer. Whether hoping to make the cover of Living Blues magazine or complaining that women aren't loyal any more, he comes across as a bold-faced contemporary. But his basic wail starts to sound thin after a while, his band is only solid, and his guitar can't carry the extra load."[4]

In November 1980, Johnson was awarded at the first annual Blues Music Awards, held in Memphis. His career continued to pick up until December 2, 1988, when his touring van crashed in Indiana, killing his band's keyboardist, St. James Bryant, and bassist, Larry Exum.[3] Johnson was injured and took an extended break from the music industry. He returned to record for Verve Records in 1994. In 2002, he recorded with his brother Syl. He remained active and toured Europe in 2009, performing in the United Kingdom and at the Copenhagen Blues Festival in Denmark.

He collaborated in 2014 on Beyond Any Form, an album of Persian traditional music.[5]



The subject of this article has sometimes been confused with another blues musician called Jimmy Johnson, who was born James Franklin Johnson in Fordyce, Arkansas, on February 23, 1926, and died in Los Angeles on November 25, 2000. James Franklin Johnson wrote the song "Don't Answer the Door", which was recorded by B. B. King.[6]

External links[edit]


  1. ^ "Songwriter/Composer: Thompson James Earl". BMI Repertoire. Repertoire.BMI.com. Retrieved 2011-04-08.[permanent dead link]
  2. ^ Dahl, Bill. Jimmy Johnson: Biography. Allmusic.com.
  3. ^ a b Russell, Tony (1997). The Blues: From Robert Johnson to Robert Cray. Dubai: Carlton Books. p. 125. ISBN 1-85868-255-X.
  4. ^ Christgau, Robert (1981). "Consumer Guide '70s: J". Christgau's Record Guide: Rock Albums of the Seventies. Ticknor & Fields. ISBN 089919026X. Retrieved February 27, 2019 – via robertchristgau.com.
  5. ^ ""Neither Angel Nor Devil Am I" Released". Cultural Heritage News Agency. August 12, 2014. Archived from the original on July 12, 2015. Retrieved October 19, 2014.
  6. ^ Eagle, Bob; LeBlanc, Eric S. (2013). Blues: A Regional Experience. Santa Barbara, California: Praeger. p. 299. ISBN 978-0313344237.