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Tommy Johnson

voc, g, 1886-1956

Born: 1886 in Terry, Mississippi (USA). Died: Nov 1, 1956 in Crystal Springs , Mississippi (USA). Style: Delta Blues Johnson was a hell-raiser who could belt out the blues with a wide vocal range, from a low throaty snarl to a high falsetto. He had a dramatic flair in performance similar to his contemporary, Delta blues king Charley Patton, and in the early, pre-Robert Johnson days his influence on the genre was second only to that of Patton and Son House. He was not a virtuoso on the guitar, but had an original, evocative style, well-matched to his theatrical delivery. Johnson significantly influenced blues greats Muddy Waters, Robert Nighthawk and especially Howlin' Wolf, who would carry on and even outdo the Patton/Johnson tradition of incendiary, down-and-dirty showmanship. Johnson was also the quintessential blues bad boy, with a penchant for rampant womanizing and for alcohol, the latter of which led him to drastic extremes. He was known to down denatured alcohol, used for artificial heat, when the real thing wasn't available, a habit he documented in his original song "Canned Heat," from which the 1960s blues-rock group took its name. A heart attack brought his life to a close. Johnson only recorded for two years, from 1928 to 1930. Although, he only left behind a small collection of recordings, they were outstanding, almost all of which to became classics. Essential listening: "Maggie Campbell," "Big Road Blues," "Cool Drink of Water," "Canned Heat"

  • Vocals
  • Guitar
  • Blues
  • Jazz
Popular Tracks   
Canned Heat Blues on Tommy Johnson 1928 - 1929 by Tommy Johnson
Big Road Blues on Tommy Johnson 1928 - 1929 by Tommy Johnson
Cool Drink of Water Blues on Tommy Johnson 1928 - 1929 by Tommy Johnson
Bye-Bye Blues on Tommy Johnson 1928 - 1929 by Tommy Johnson
Maggie Campbell Blues on Tommy Johnson 1928 - 1929 by Tommy Johnson
The Entertainer: A Ragtime Two-Step (Arr. J.S. Ritter for Chamber Ensemble) on Jean-Pierre Rampal Plays Scott Joplin by Scott Joplin & Jean-Pierre Rampal
Cool Drink of Water Blues on American Epic: The Collection by Various Artists
Big Fat Mama Blues on Tommy Johnson 1928 - 1929 by Tommy Johnson
Big Road Blues on Canned Heat Blues by Tommy Johnson
Big Road Blues on The Best There Ever Was: The Legendary Early Blues Performers by Various Artists

Track list and 30sec audio provided by


Title Artist Year Type
Canned Heat Blues (The Legendary 1928 Memphis Sessions)Tommy Johnson & Ishman Bracey2014Compil.
Blues MastersBlind Willie Johnson, Tommy Johnson, Skip James2012Compil.
Legends Of Country Blues (The Complete Pre-War Recordings Of)Son House, Skip James, Bukka White, Tommy Johnson, Ishman Bracey2003Compil.
Tommy Johnson & AssociatesTommy Johnson1999Compil.
King Of The Blues 5Tommy Johnson1992Compil.
1928 - 1930Tommy Johnson, Sleepy John Estes1989Compil.
(1928-30) Complete Recordings In Chronological OrderTommy Johnson1983Compil.
Two Sides Of Tommy JohnsonTommy Johnson1969Album
Slidin' Delta / I Wonder To MyselfTommy Johnson1930Album
Alcohol And Jake Blues / Ridin' HorseTommy Johnson1930Album
Canned Heat Blues / Big Fat Mama BluesTommy Johnson1929Album
Bye Bye Blues / Maggie Campbell BluesTommy Johnson1928Album
Cool Drink Of Water Blues / Big Road BluesTommy Johnson1928Album
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