Larry Johnson

Larry Alonzo Johnson, b. May 15, 1938 in Atlanta, GA, d. August 6, 2016 in Harlem, New York City, NY, blues singer and guitarist, active 1960s - 2000s.

Johnson was born in Wrightsville, Georgia. His father was a preacher who traveled extensively. This led to Johnson being exposed to blues records by Blind Boy Fuller, who inspired Johnson to learn the rudiments of guitar playing. He served in the Navy between 1955 and 1959, before relocating to New York City. After his befriending Brownie and Stick McGhee, Johnson found employment recording with Big Joe Williams, Harry Atkins, and Alec Seward. The latter gave Johnson an introduction to Reverend Gary Davis. Johnson's first single release was "Catfish Blues" / "So Sweet" (1962), plus he made numerous live appearances with Davis over that decade. In 1971 Johnson released Fast and Funky, but his live playing gradually reduced. A couple of low key albums appeared in the 1980s, before Johnson received more regular live work in the 1990s, particularly in Europe. Whilst there his output included Railroad Man (1990) and Blues for Harlem (1999). Two Gun Green followed in 2002.

Johnson died on August 6, 2016, aged 78, in a nursing home in Harlem, New York.

Larry Johnson Biography by Richard Meyer

Among the postwar generation of blues artists, Larry Johnson -- from Riceville, GA -- is one of the most devoted to the pure Delta and Texas styles of the '20s. He was born on May 5, 1938, in Fulton County, GA. His father was a preacher and his son would often travel with him from town to town. In this environment, Johnson was exposed to early blues records and he especially loved those of Blind Boy Fuller. It was Fuller's records that made Johnson pick up a guitar. After a stint in the Navy from 1955 to 1959, Johnson moved to New York and befriended Brownie and Sticks McGhee and began playing on records by Big Joe Williams, Harry Atkins, and Alec Seward (aka Guitar Slim). It was Seward who introduced Johnson to his future mentor, Rev. Gary Davis. He released his first single, "Catfish Blues"/"So Sweet," in 1962 and appeared on numerous live dates with Davis. By 1970, Johnson began releasing albums on small labels, including a date with John Hammond called Fast & Funky reissued on CD as Midnight Hour Blues. After years of living from gig to gig, Johnson retreated from the grind of the road. He still played ocassionally, but only on his own terms. He did, however, manage to release two albums, Johnson! Where Did You Get That Sound? in 1983 and Basin Free with Nat Riddles in 1984. By the '90s, Johnson began receiving better offers for live performances, especially in Europe. While abroad, he recorded Railroad Man released in 1990 on JSP and Blues for Harlem in 1999 on the Armadillo label. Two years later, Johnson collaborated with National slide guitar extrodonaire Brian Kramer and his band the Couch Lizards, resulting in the relaxed, yet mainly up-tempo, Two Gun Green on Armadillo. Johnson's excellent fingerpicking and acoustic blues have brought him to creating an approachment that remains timeless.