Subject: I have found a CD that I think you would enjoy
Born in Georgia
Genres: Blues, Pop
Listen to Samples
This is "the" Luther Johnson.
Curtiss Clarke | Calgary, Alberta Canada | 05/19/2008
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Luther Georgia "Snake Boy" Johnson had the unfortunate accident of sharing a like name with several other Luther Johnsons of the blues. Not that this will interfere in any way for the listener to enjoy Snake Boy's firecracker / TNT like presentation of hard-core blues. This guy had the real stuff: raw, blue, jagged, and without the least bit of polish. Hound Dog Taylor, roll over in your grave.
Luther passed away from cancer in 1976 at the young age of 42 but during his truncated career, he managed to make some of the hardest blues that ever came out of Chicago. His musical start went back to the early 1960's when he recorded a couple of unnoticed sides as Little Luther for Chess.
However it was not until he joined Muddy Waters' touring band in the middle 1960's as a 2nd guitarist (3rd if you include then-resident band member Pee Wee Madison and Muddy when he wasn't just singing and wooing the ladies) and as a set-opener, that he began to get some attention outside of the local clubs. The first exposure to vinyl since his 2 Chess sides were on a couple of quickly-rehearsed LP's issued by Douglas (later Muse) in 1968/69. A hint of Luther's unique presentation and his gruff voice are evident on the Douglas titles but otherwise these LP's were intended as a one-off presentation of Muddy's then stage band. For some reason, Chess failed to capitalize on Muddy's live recording opportunities so we will have to settle for the plethora of bad bootlegs that are out there.
It was the European blues fans who really deserve the credit for getting Luther needed exposure to their own audiences and to North American ones. This brings us to the current release being reviewed here "Born in Georgia". This release was put out on the French Black & Blue label in the early 1970's (recorded in Switzerland in 1972) while Luther was on tour with a host of other Chicago blues stalwarts. This CD re-release has added several other titles that could not fit on the original LP.
Here Luther is accompanied by pianist and producer Sonny Thompson (producer of many of Freddie King's early sides on the King label) and a contingent of European session players who serve up an admirable supporting role to the master. Also included are 3 titles with Luther and Johnny Shines where Shines' razor-sharp electric slide cuts right through your brain with surgical precision.
It is interesting to hear Luther play a title like B.B. King's "Rock Me Baby" with not the slightest hint of B, and carrying it off as though he wrote it himself. Delta blues fans won't be disappointed here either as one listen of Luther Johnson doing Eddie House's "Walkin' Blues" will reveal.
There are other flag-wavers here such as "Crawlin' King Snake" (hmmm, who wrote that one?), Fention Robinson's "Somebody Loan Me a Dime" (sorry rock and disco fans but Boz Scaggs did not write it), and "Bright Lights, Big City", each showing that Luther was a one-of-a-kind improviser who is unlikely to be imitated ever. Starting off the set is Luther's autobiographical tome "Born in Georgia", displaying his trademark stinging, staccato lines from his Gibson SG.
This CD may have gone out of print already, but it is worth searching for. You will listen to it over and over without the least hint of fatigue or boredom. If you can't sleep at night, get up and drop this one into your player then turn up the volume. Don't confuse this Luther Johnson with the other one who is out there recording and touring under that name. They are poles apart.
"Snake Boy" Johnson, may your sounds resonate forever.