Johnny Shines Biography

26 April 1915, Frayser, Tennessee, USA, d. 20 April 1992, Tuscaloosa, Alabama, USA. Johnny Shines was taught to play the guitar by his mother and sometimes worked the streets of Memphis for tips with a group of other youths. In 1932 he set up as a sharecropper in Hughes, Arkansas, but still worked part-time as a musician. During the 30s he hoboed around the work-camp and juke-joint circuit in the company of such men as Robert Johnson, with whom he appeared on a radio show in 1937. His ramblings took him as far as Canada. In 1941, he took the trail north to Chicago where he sometimes performed in the famous Maxwell Street market before forming his own group to play the clubs; he sometimes doubled as house photographer. Despite being respected by his fellow musicians and occasionally recording under the name Shoe Shine Johnny, his career did not take off until the 60s when his slide guitar and strong, emotive vocals were seen as a direct link with Delta blues, then much in vogue. From then on Johnny Shines went from strength to strength, touring the USA, Europe and Japan with great success, often in the company of Robert Lockwood.

Shines was an intelligent and articulate man who was fully aware of his position in the blues world and made the most of his late opportunities. Concerned about the quality of life offered to his children in the northern cities, he moved back to the south where he suffered a heart attack that affected his playing. His recovery was slow and although he still played guitar, he was unable to return to the dazzling proficiency of his earlier days.

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

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