The year was 1995 and yours truly was assistant managing a book store at the mall. At the ripe old age of 19 I would spend my days flinging books around the shelves, eating Chinese food from the food court and browsing the local music shop for new music that I most likely couldn't afford.

It was in the music store that I had first picked up a disc by a guy named Stevie Ray Vaughan. I knew I had heard the name and I wanted to see what he was all about, so I picked it up. I was so blown away that I instantly fell in love with Blues music. At that point, I started buying all the blues CDs I could find from the meager selection at the music store. I bought some Muddy Waters, a really great Rounder Records 25th anniversary compilation, Eric Clapton's From the Cradle, and a lonely little disc from a guy named Johnnie Johnson titled, Johnnie B Bad.

Not expecting too much, I remember listening to the album and thinking, "Holy crap. That is amazing!" What the humble album cover doesn't tell you is that the album had some powerhouses backing Johnnie up in the lineup; namely Keith Richards (whodathunk he was into blues music) and Eric Clapton.

In an album this good, it is hard to pick a single high point, or even a handful of them. But, let me bust out a few of the extremely high points of this record. First, is Johnnie himself. Not a bad note or a misplaced riff to be heard. Believe it. They guy had been playing for a million years at the time of this recording and he had great dexterity and thoughtfulness in his playing. Second, what I term the best blues guitar solo ever recorded… You read that right. Ever recorded. The honor of that claim goes to Slowhand himself, Mr. Eric Clapton on Track 4, Creek Mud. Actually, he busts out two solos and he gets top credit for the pair. You won't hear a finer example of someone completely obliterating the 'blues box' while paying it due respect. You also won't find better tone from a six-stringer.  For years I've purposely avoided learning these solos because I don't want to lose the magic of how he did it.  

High point #3: Cow Cow Blues. This track features Michael Ray on trumpet playing in a way that is impossibly complex. At once it sounds like it's wildly out of control, while at the same time having a brilliance of melody that can only be really appreciated after listening to it a few dozen times. At first listen, it sounds mistaken; almost like a kid just screwing around with grandpa's trumpet in the garage. But, once you realize that this feat of trumpeting can only be accomplished with complete mastery of the instrument, you'll be hooked. It's hard to find this Michael Ray guy anywhere else. I've looked and can only find a couple youtube videos with someone who may or may not be the guy on this track. He may be the same guy in a band called Sun Ray. In any case, wherever he is, I'm sure he's destroying would-be buglers' hopes and dreams on a large scale. (Btw, this may be him

Johnnie had a bit of a preoccupation with the whole Johnnie B Something-or-Other phrase as most of his records had this theme. There were lawsuits later in his life claiming to have written but not given credit or royalties for Chuck Berry's Johnny B. Goode hit song. I don't know what came of that, and I'm honestly too lazy to look it up or try to reconcile it. What I do know is that Mr. Johnson could rock those 88s 'til the sun went down.

This record is in my top 20 all times blues albums. Check it out. And be sure to just buy the mp3s. The disc insert isn't really worth $18 bucks.


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