Monday, May 31, 2010
Jango Song Of The Day-Tommy Johnson
Song:Canned Heat Blues
Album:Complete Recorded Works (1928-1929)
Though his complete discography is contained on this one CD, Tommy Johnson is one of the most important and influential Mississippi Delta blues musicians. Why isn't he more famous? Let's just say he liked to drink. He was born in Terry, MS in 1896 and lived most of his life in Crystal Springs which is a suburb of Jackson. He started playing guitar as a teen and ran away from home at age 16 to be a professional musician. Of course he was really playing on the streets. He got married at age 18 and moved to the Webb Jennings Plantation near Drew, MS. It was here that he met other musicians like Charley Patton and Willie Brown. By the early 1920s, Johnson had moved back to Crystal Springs and started touring the south with Patton and others. He was also a serious alcoholic and womanizer and his thirst for booze is what drove Johnson. In fact Canned Heat Blues is about drinking sterno. He did record for RCA in 1928 and then for Paramount in 1929 and you can get all those recordings on this CD from the British label Document. This even has a couple of recordings that were thought to be lost. Despite this limited discography, Howlin' Wolf, Robert Nighthawk and Otis Spann are among those who have cited Johnson as an influence. Tommy Johnson continued to perform through the 30s and 40s at local parties and he frequently taught guitar as well. And he continued to drink anything containing alcohol. He died of a heart attack while performing at one of those house parties on Nov. 1, 1956 at age 60. You'll find his grave at the Warm Springs Methodist Church in Crystal Springs complete with a headstone purchased by Bonnie Raitt in 2001. Here's a video for Canned Heat Blues by Tommy Johnson.