John worked at plantations when he was young, earning 40 cents a day. After his daddy won a guitar, Johnny learned quickly, with Henry Martin as his initial mentor. Henry was an influential Jackson Mississippi bluesman Johnny played with Elmore James, Jimmy Reed, Eddie Taylor, Jimmy Rogers, Howlin' Wolf, Muddy Waters and others before going solo. A great friend and "co-conspirator" of John "Big Moose" Walker (piano, vocals) who was like a brother to him. The two were lifelong friends and played together on and off for nearly fifty years.
In lean times John worked at a gas station, later as an auto mechanic before he was 'rediscovered' in the mid to late 1970s by Europeans. By the 1980s he was again in full swing and peaked at a triumphal 1989 performance at New York City's famous Bottom Line club where he was the recipient of terrific accolades and called one of the kings of the blues.
Johnny recorded for the Arhoolie, Bluesway, Black and Blue (distributed by WEA), M.C.M. and Rooster Blues labels in his lifetime. His excellent "Can't Nobody Hurt You (But Your So-Called Friends)"produced by Tom Radai and Living Blues Magazine founder Jim O'Neilis considered his finest recording. It features a red hot band with Lafayette Leake on acoustic piano, Eddie Taylor as 2nd guitar, Sam Lay drums, and an eight-piece horn section with former Ray Charles soloist Jerry Wilson on Tenor Sax.
"If he was not one of the kings of the blues, he surely was a prince." -Tony McLean