I thoroughly enjoyed my conversation with Johnny yesterday of about 20 minutes duration. He is a man of few words and yet open and honest, willing to talk about any subject I brought up. His love in particular for Muddy Waters and BB King impressed me greatly, as did the affection with which he spoke of brother Edgar the couple of times his name came up during our talk. Along with his genuine friendliness, and the willingness he had to welcome us before his show Saturday. So thanks to all involved, and especially to Johnny. Much obliged. Here's the interview pretty much in it's entirety. :)
UL: How much time do you have available?
Johnny: As much time as you want!
UL: Great. I’m going to be at the show on Saturday night at Daniel Street with my brother.
Johnny: That’ll be nice.
UL: Yeah it will be. I’ve never been at Daniel St. before…that’s one of my first questions, how’s Edgar doing?
UL: Are you planning any show dates with Edgar any time soon?
Johnny: Not soon, no. He lives on the west coast, I live on the east coast so we don’t get to see each other as much as I’d like to.
UL: Where do you live?
UL: So you do a lot of local dates?
Johnny: Oh yeah, we do!
UL: Have you ever played at Daniel St. before? [He's playing the Daniel Street Pub in Milford, CT this Sat night, June 11th]
Johnny: I don’t think so. I do so many places you know?
UL: You play Toad’s place…
Johnny: Oh yeah, we play Toad’s place all the time.
UL: How is your health, I understand you’re doing a lot better?
Johnny: Yeah I’m doing fine.
UL: You’re doing better medically?
UL: You're doing better medically?
Johnny: Yeah, i'm going good.
UL: I want to ask questions about your current CD project. You’re in the studio now?
Johnny: No it’s finished. We’re out of the studio it’s finished… all blues stuff.
UL: What was the best concert you ever saw?
Johnny: Son House.
UL: What made you decide a lot of years ago to go blues exclusively instead of rock stuff?
Johnny: It’s just that I love blues, I like it better. Blues has always been my favorite.
UL: I remember Eric Clapton did the same thing you did after you did it, he did a ‘nothing but the blues tour’ and I remember seeing him on that tour. What’s your take on Clapton?
Johnny: Oh! He’s really good.
UL: Where would you put him among guitarists?
Johnny: He’s among the top ten!
Me: Who would you put at number one as blues guitarist?
Johnny: Probably Jimi Hendrix.
UL: Talk about Hendrix for a minute.
Johnny: I got to play with him several times. (He played several different venues with Hendrix he said)
UL: I’m going to throw out a couple of names; could you give me your reaction? What comes to mind with BB King?
Johnny: Great guy, nicest man I ever met really. Really good guitar player.
UL: How often did you play with BB King?
Johnny: Several times. Played together in 1969, we did a TV show together…just one of the nicest people I ever met.
UL: What about Muddy Waters?
Johnny: I think he was one of the best blues men to ever live.
UL: What was it like working with him?
Johnny: It was the thrill of my life. [Being in the studio with him] was just great.
UL: I understand that it was a mutually beneficial relationship, you helped him and he helped you.
Johnny: Oh, definitely!
UL: Give me your reaction to John Lennon. What comes to mind when I mention him?
Johnny: John was great, I always loved the Beatles.
UL: Did you ever meet him?
UL: How often did you see John?
Johnny: Oh maybe a couple of times.
UL: Did you ever play with him?
Johnny: No, never played with him.
UL: You socialized with him?
Johnny: I’d see him in studio.
UL: How about Mick Jagger?
Johnny: Yeh, I met Mick 2 or 3 times.
UL: You cover his music a lot.
Johnny: Yeah I love the Stones.
UL: Paul McCartney?
Johnny: Edgar… He was Edgar’s favorite Beatle. I like Paul, I always thought he was good.
UL: What about Janis Joplin?
Johnny: Janis… I saw her several times. I really liked her a lot. She was crazy. She wasn’t very happy about growing up in Texas.
UL: Could you tell me the story about how you got onstage at Woodstock?
Johnny: Well, we took the place Jimi Hendrix was supposed to have had. A whole bunch of bands wouldn’t have gotten to play…
UL: On addiction?
Johnny: It was one of the most terrible stages of my life…heroin, I don’t mind talking about it because it might help other people. I went to rehab.
UL: We’ve lost way too many people to heroin.
Johnny: For real. There’s not too much worse.
UL: It’s good to see you healthy again, I’ll tell you that.
Johnny: Yeah, it’s good to be healthy.
UL: I’ll bet. On the tour you’re on, what kind of a set are you going to be doing?
Johnny: Mostly blues, and a couple of rock and roll songs.
UL: I know you had this problem years ago with a guy down in TX who was releasing your records unofficially—he had master recordings, Roy Ames? And I know it wound up in court. Did you wind up with the rights to those recordings or no?
Johnny: Yes, we got the rights, we did.
UL: How do you feel about that?
Johnny: I’m real glad, I hated Roy Ames. He was a horrible person.
UL: I’m going to wind up. I want to talk to Paul and set up to see you Sat night.
UL: I just want to say, I saw Edgar a couple of years ago in a show with Ringo Starr.
Johnny: Yeah, Ringo’s a good guy.
UL: I’ll tell you though, Ringo was good, he was a great front guy for the band, but I’ll tell you he didn’t play the drums enough. But I have to say, Edgar stole the show. My brother will be with me Sat. night, you’ll meet him, and I’m really looking forward to meeting you on Saturday night.
Johnny: I’m looking forward to it too!
UL: Great! So if I could talk to Paul and I’ll get this hooked up.
Johnny: OK. Great.
UL: Thanks Johnny
And I'd like to offer a coupla links
If you think you may be in trouble
you probably are.
These are two alternatives,
there's lots of them.
Janis, Jimi and too
many others are
dead too young.
Wherever you do it,
Talk to a friend or family member
and reason things out.