September 6, 2019

"I'M THIS GUY'S BAND":

Jimmy Johnson, Muscle Shoals Guitarist Who Backed Soul & Rock Giants, Dead at 76: Muscle Shoals Rhythm Section member could be heard on hundreds of records and worked with Aretha Franklin, Paul Simon, Wilson Pickett and Lynyrd Skynyrd (JONATHAN BERNSTEIN , 9/06/19, Rolling Stone)

Growing up in the South in the 1950s, Johnson was drawn to the blooming sounds of rock, R&B and the electric blues. "I guess you'd say my inspiration was Chuck Berry," he said in an interview earlier this year. "My parents always tried to get me to play country music and I just didn't like it that much."

Johnson began to study the guitar-playing of artists like Berry, Jimmy Reed and Bo Diddley. After gigging in the Northwest Alabama area as a teenager, Johnson began working at Rick Hall's FAME studios in Muscle Shoals in the early Sixties, where he eventually began playing on sessions by R&B greats like Aretha Franklin, Etta James, and Clarence Carter. Asked about the secret to his backing band's ability to back such a wide cross section of American pop music earlier this year, Johnson had a simple answer. "We would try to never play the same lick twice," he said.

In 1969, Johnson, alongside FAME backup musicians Roger Hawkins, Barry Beckett, and David Hood, left Hall to found the Muscle Shoals Sound Studio. Over the next decade, everyone from Paul Simon and Bob Dylan to Cher and Jimmy Cliff would record at the studio, using the Swampers as their backup band. At Muscle Shoals Sound, Johnson also became an influential recording engineer, serving as the engineer for the Rolling Stones' famous Sticky Fingers" sessions in 1969, which produced "Wild Horses," "Brown Sugar" and "You Gotta Move."

Despite being a member of one of the most foundational session groups in American musical history, Johnson was a humble musician who was never eager for attention. "The best way to put it is we consider ourselves backup players," he said recently, "not stars."

Posted by at September 6, 2019 4:57 PM

  

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