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Baby, let Slim Harpo’s secret weapon – Baton Rouge blues badass James Johnson – scratch your back at the Stomp

Ex-Slim Harpo guitarist James Johnson plays at Phil Brady's nightclub in Baton Rouge circa 2003. He'll be at this year's Ponderosa Stomp as part of the Excello revue.
Ex-Slim Harpo guitarist James Johnson plays at Phil Brady's nightclub in Baton Rouge circa 2003. He'll be at this year's Ponderosa Stomp as part of the Excello revue.
Baton Rouge blues giant James Johnson’s scheduled appearance at this year’s Ponderosa Stomp is perhaps one of the most highly anticipated performances in recent memory, especially because this amazing guitarist does not often travel outside Baton Rouge to perform.

Slim Harpo
Slim Harpo
Everyone knows that bedrock of the 1960s Baton Rouge swamp-blues scene, Slim Harpo (James Moore), whose haunting harmonica was matched by the stinging twin-guitar attack of his lesser-known sidemen, Rudy Richard and James Johnson. It’s Johnson’s biting guitar that puts the “chicken scratch” into Harpo’s 1966 Excello hit, “Baby, Scratch My Back,” which reached #1 on the R&B charts and #16 on the pop charts. As members of the King Bees, the Richard-Johnson tag team also graces many of the other major Harpo sides, including “Rainin’ in My Heart.”
Rudy Richard
Rudy Richard

Don’t miss this Stomp performance by Johnson, who helped forge the Baton Rouge blues scene along with fellow titans like Raful Neal and Tabby Thomas. He’s a Buddy Guy-caliber guitarist who, unlike Guy, never left Red Stick to find his rightful fortune and fame. By staying put where the weather suits his clothes, he’s been able to serve as a mentor to younger generations of bluesmen, including Kenny Neal, Lil’ Ray Neal, Chris Thomas King, Tab Benoit, and more.

The video below shows Johnson playing with searing yet laid-back intensity in tandem with Lil’ Ray Neal and other Neal family members at a Lafayette juke joint in January 2011. [The New Orleans Saints lost to Tampa Bay the day this video was shot, but the music fans who heard Johnson and the Stomp-like roster of blues and zydeco heavyweights on this show left the club feeling like winners. If, God forbid, the Saints lose to the Chicago Bears on Sept. 18, 2011, your having witnessed James Johnson at the Stomp earlier that weekend will likewise salve your wounds.]

To see the Ponderosa Stomp lineup as scheduled so far, click here. To buy tickets for the Stomp (Sept. 16-17), click here. For travel packages, click here.

How Jivin’ Gene squeezed swamp-pop gold from Huey Meaux’s toilet bowl

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aratG24Qw58 Ponderosa Stomp fans know that the most magical sounds often emanate from the most primitive of conditions. Take, for instance, the flood of hits that flowed from the legendary 15-by-16-foot hole in the wall that comprised Cosimo Matassa’s original J&M recording studio on Rampart Street. The same with Eddie Shuler’s tiny Goldband studio, which … Continue reading How Jivin’ Gene squeezed swamp-pop gold from Huey Meaux’s toilet bowl

Clarence “Frogman” Henry leaps out of retirement (again) to headline a very special Ponderosa Stomp Revue on June 8

“Just when I thought I was out, they pull me back in,” says mafia don Michael Corleone in “The Godfather III.” The same could be said of an equally respected godfather of New Orleans R&B, Clarence “Frogman” Henry, lured once again into the spotlight from his retirement lilypad in Algiers to headline the latest Ponderosa … Continue reading Clarence “Frogman” Henry leaps out of retirement (again) to headline a very special Ponderosa Stomp Revue on June 8

Rising Tides Threaten the Swamp (Pop): Great Flood of 2011 Takes Aim at Atchafalaya’s Teeming Musical Tapestry

There have been some unique communities in the Atchafalaya Swamp. While some of them were abandoned after the great flood of 1927, others are still alive, and a couple of communities are doing well at music entertainment business. As the great flood of 2011 looms, how many of these fragile but surviving music epicenters will be wiped out?

AFO alumnus Wallace Johnson returns to New Orleans to thrill the Ponderosa Stomp

Of the unfortunate dwindling number of 1960s and ’70s New Orleans R&B recording artists, thankfully we still have Wallace Johnson to appreciate. He never had much more than a handful of neighborhood hits, but his small clutch of singles – and one great CD – were some of the best local R&B of the era. … Continue reading AFO alumnus Wallace Johnson returns to New Orleans to thrill the Ponderosa Stomp