Review: Johnny Drummer – Bad Attitude

Posted on: Sunday, Jun 1, 2014


Johnny Drummer – Bad Attitude

(Earwig Music Company: CD4967)

Johnny, who at the age of 76 is most definitely a veteran bluesman; born in 1938 in Alligator, Mississippi about a dozen miles or so from Clarksdale. He began performing at the age of seven when he sang with the Kelly Brothers at The Pleasant Valley Church in Alligator. Although, his mother moved to Chicago he stayed with his great-grandmother but, in 1954 he went to live with his mother, after few months though he went back south.

When he had completed his national service in the army in 1959 he settled in Chicago; after a while he established himself as a drummer playing with such artists as; Lovie Lee and Eddie King. As time passed he formed his own band and at one time or another it included Sammy Lawhorn, Johnny Twist, Lefty Dizz, Roy Hightower, Odell Campbell, Nick Charles and Eddie Shaw to name but a few. In the clubs of Chicago during the sixties he and his band played with the likes of; B.B. King, Muddy Waters, Syl Johnson, Jimmy Whitherspoon,  Z.Z. Hill, Denise LaSalle, Willie Mabon,  and Junior Wells to name but a few.

As time passed Johnny successfully transferred himself from the shadows of the drum kit to the spotlight of lead singer, all was going well until 1971 when a fire and the theft of his car which contained his drum kit, caused him to lose everything and forced him to return to his day job. In the late seventies he recorded with The Aces and Bobby King on the French MCM label. After retiring from his day job in nineteen ninety-four he not only returned full time music but he switched from drums to keyboards because as he states; there are a lot of 75 year old keyboard players around, but not too many old drummers.

The thirteen original numbers on this album are at this moment in time, probably the nearest thing we are ever going to get to the true essence of the sounds that were found in the clubs’ of the West and South sides of Chicago in the heyday of intimate, live, local music. When the music pours out from the speakers there is a wonderful feeling of a sparkling unpolished down to earth, down home sound that seems to be mercifully free from overdubs, unnecessary polishing and any other quick fix gizmos no, this is simply music as it should be melodious, humorous, thoughtful and footapping.

A wonderfully emotional poignant horn section is added to the soulful “Make You Happy”, a simple heartfelt love song, while “Bit Her In The Butt”, is a rather rude but funny tale of mistaken canine identity.  Johnny’s voice has tantalising hints of Rufus Thomas while his music seems to entwine the hard edges of Chicago with the velvety swaying of Stax with a New York brashness.

“Sure Sign Of The Blues”, is a bright toe tapper that is led by a rather whimsical guitar and a happy but wheezy harmonica. The strutting “Don’t Call Me Trash”, is a funky little number which is led by brash braying horns and drums, explaining to people that if one chooses to live in a caravan it doesn’t mean that you are destitute. The slowburning guitar and horn led “Ain’t No Secret In A Small Town”, all too accurately describes the lack of privacy and claustrophobic feelings of a one horse town. There are more but, I’ll let you decide for yourself.



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