Tommy Johnson (Blues) Biography

c.1896, Terry, Mississippi, USA, d. 1 November 1956, Crystal Springs, Mississippi, USA. Although his recorded output was contained within a mere four sessions for the Victor Records and Paramount Records labels, undertaken in February and August 1928, Johnson remains one of the pivotal figures of Delta blues. His work includes ‘Cool Drink Of Water Blues’, which featured the memorable lyric ‘I asked her for water and she brought me gasoline’, later adopted by Howlin’ Wolf, while a 60s band comprised of enthusiasts took their name from ‘Canned Heat Blues’. Johnson’s haunting falsetto wrought emotion from his excellent compositions which influenced several artists including the Mississippi Sheiks and Robert Nighthawk. Although Johnson ceased recording prematurely, he remained an active performer until his death from a heart attack in 1956. Johnson, who claimed to have sold his soul to the devil at the crossroads years before the more famous Robert Johnson, was later portrayed by modern-day bluesman Chris Thomas King in the Coen Brothers movie O Brother, Where Art Thou?

Source: The Encyclopedia of Popular Music by Colin Larkin. Licensed from Muze.

Filter Results