Richard Johnston

In the summer of 2008, Tank, KC, and I drove a van down to Memphis, Tennessee (a place none of us had previously been) to eat massive amounts of barbecued pork and enjoy massive amounts of really good blues. Also, we might have gone to Graceland. Don’t judge us.

richardjohnston2The highlight of the weekend was that Saturday night on Beale Street, where the hot, sticky June air combined with half-drunk, excited patrons for an evening of outdoors drinking and plenty of great music. We meandered in and out of the several blues bars until we stumbled upon a clump of dancing people assembled in a semicircle in front of the New Daisy Theater. We pushed our way to the front to see what all the ruckus was about, and there, rocking away in overalls and bare feet, was the great Richard Johnston.

Look, one-man bands are impressive even when they’re bad, but when you see a guy playing a partial drum kit with his bottom half, and wailing away on an electric guitar he handmade from a broomstick and a cigar box with his top-half, AND he’s got the quintessential blues singing voice… Well, that’s a winner right there.

We stuck around for God knows how long because it was so damned entertaining, and I even paid for a CD, which, two years later, I still haven’t grown bored with. We talked to Johnston after his set and found out that he’s not usually a street performer. He does tons of area shows, especially during the summer months, but does the Beale Street thing once in a while to stay true to his roots.

We also found out that he’d been offered major label deals on a few separate occasions but turned them down because what they would’ve done with his music was quite different from what he wanted to do with his music. So he plays small local shows, rocks the hell out of them, and really, really loves what he does. His CD, “Foot Hill Stomp” (which you can download for free from his website), is fantastic, but it doesn’t do justice to how good the live show is. We lucked into finding him on Beale Street that fateful night in 2008, but you probably won’t should you make the same trip to Memphis. Still, check out the album and imagine yourself in the hot summer air, drinking with other happy, toe-tappy people, and loving what Memphis is all about.

And maybe, just maybe, you’ll find the time to visit Graceland, too.

About the Author

Joel Brigham writes about stuff. It’s pretty much all he cares about. Stuff like music and more music. But he mostly cares about music. And also music.

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