10th Anniversary of Johnnie’s Death
April 13, 2015 is the 10th anniversary of Johnnie Johnson’s death. The 2001 Rock and Roll Hall Fame inductee would have been 90 years old.
A gentle man with humble ways
A genius when it’s time to play
We sing the blues your final days
Goodbye Johnnie goodbye
Your fingers touched our heart and soul
Your gift creating rock and roll
We’re all so sad to see you go
Goodbye Johnnie goodbye
Pounding bass notes with the left hand
Sweet melody with the right
Whatever band you’re playing with
Is the best in town that night
Those are some of the lyrics I wrote not long after Johnnie’s death. I sent them to LA musician Dona Oxford, Johnnie’s boogie woogie protege, who did an amazing job on “Goodbye Johnnie, Goodbye”, writing the melody and performing vocals for a song featured in the documentary soundtrack.Rest in peace, Johnnie.When a film’s editor and executive producer die in a 15 month span, it takes awhile for the project to recover. I’m pleased to say the last few months have seen new momentum for the feature length music documentary. An 11 year filmmaking endeavor is coming together with a new editor, a new distributor, and Michael McDonald lending his support to fundraising for JOHNNIE BE GOOD. There’s also news about Johnnie and the Kentucky Headhunters.The positive momentum shift began in November 2014 when my colleague Tony Chambers said he was interested in editing JOHNNIE BE GOOD. Chambers’ participation is fitting because he suggested to me in 2003 that Johnnie Johnson’s life story might make an interesting documentary. How’s that for coming full circle? Not only is Tony a talented videographer/editor, but he’s also a veteran musician in the band Serapis, so he’s uniquely qualified. The current edit should be finished by the beginning of summer.Hargrove Entertainment will be the distributor for JOHNNIE BE GOOD. Since 1988, Peter Hargrove has served as founder and President of Hargrove Entertainment Inc., an entertainment company focused on the production, co-production and worldwide distribution of independent feature films and television properties. In this time period Mr. Hargrove has marketed over 40,000 hours of product.Peter Hargrove stated “We are excited to be releasing the definitive feature look at one of the unsung fathers of rock and roll, Johnnie Johnson. We look forward to introducing audiences around the world to the musical genius behind many of the early hit songs we’ve all grown up on.”
Michael McDonald Steps up for Johnnie Be Good!!!
Music superstar Michael McDonald, who is interviewed in the film, has recorded vocals for a new version of “Johnny B. Goode” that will feature piano tracks recorded years ago from Johnnie Johnson. The song will be sold on iTunes to raise money for the film. Here’s what McDonald had to say about participating in JOHNNIE BE GOOD:”As a proud St. Louis native son, I will forever argue the case for St. Louis being the birthplace of Rock and Roll thanks to Chuck Berry and those earth-shattering records he made with the participation of St. Louis legend Johnnie Johnson. Those brilliant Chuck Berry songs and their recordings gave our town a prominent place in the annals of American music and cultural arts for the rest of time. Just as Chuck’s music seemed to cement and legitimize a whole musical movement, Johnnie Johnson’s unique style and passion heralded a lineage of blues/rock keyboardists to come. I’m extremely proud to be part of a wonderful documentary by Art Holliday shedding some light on one of St. Louis’ largely unsung heroes…the great and legendary Johnny Johnson!”- Michael McDonaldI didn’t see this one coming. Drummer Mike Mesey (Chuck Berry, Head East, American Greed) recorded with Johnnie Johnson years ago and still has Johnnie’s piano tracks from that session where one of the songs was “Johnny B. Goode”. Mesey was the catalyst for this amazing opportunity that will pair Michael McDonald with Johnnie’s piano tracks. I’m blown away that McDonald and Mesey are stepping up to fund raise for the film! Thanks to Dan Duncan and Steve Scorfina (REO Speedwagon, Pavlov’s Dog) who are also part of this amazing development. Thanks gentlemen! When details are available about the music download, I’ll have another update.If you look closely at the photo, Michael McDonald was wearing a JOHNNIE BE GOOD t-shirt during a St. Louis performance a few years back at the Verizon Amphitheater.
NEW ALBUM: JOHNNIE JOHNSON AND THE KENTUCKY HEADHUNTERS
Alligator Records has set a June 2 street date for “Meet Me In Bluesland”, a previously unreleased album by Grammy-winning Southern blues-rockers The Kentucky Headhunters with pianist Johnnie Johnson, a Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inductee. The performances found Johnson — the man Rolling Stone called “the greatest sideman in rock and roll” for his groundbreaking piano work with Chuck Berry — playing some of the deepest and most rocking blues piano of his legendary career. With The Kentucky Headhunters at their down-home best, the record is a country-fried, blues-infused party from start to finish.With songs and arrangements furiously being created on the spot and everything recorded live as it happened over the course of three days, a magical musical event was underway. Because the whole session was spontaneous, there were no immediate plans to release an album. After Johnnie’s death in 2005, the tapes, while never forgotten, remained unissued.Richard Young of The Kentucky Headhunters is interviewed in JOHNNIE BE GOOD, and the documentary shows Johnnie performing with the band at the Johnnie Johnson Jazz and Blues Festival in Fairmont WV in 2004.
SOCIAL MEDIA HELP PLEASE!
JOHNNIE BE GOOD needs your support. Please forward this via email, Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, ect. to music fans and film enthusiasts. When the new Michael McDonald track is available for sale on iTunes, we’ll need you to help spread the word. There’s a lot of work to be done and hurdles to overcome, but the finish line is in sight.Thanks!Art HollidayDirector/Producer/WriterJohnnie Be Goodart@johnniebegoodthemovie.com