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Earnest Johnson, aka Elmore James, Jr., is indeed the son of one of the most legendary of all bluesmen: slide guitarist, vocalist, and songwriter Elmore James. Johnson was born in 1939 in Richmond, MS, and his mother ran a restaurant there; the person he thought was his father was mean and abusive during their subsequent time living in Chicago. He and his sister would be beaten for no reason, and were frequently refused meals. But around 1951, a traveling musician came to town, and Johnson's mother secretly smuggled Johnson and his sister to spend the day with him. The musician, Elmore James, was making a name for himself in Chicago, and earning steady income. He would take the children shopping but didn't tell them an important secret. Concurrently, the man Johnson thought was his dad died, so his mother finally came out with the truth, and told the children Elmore James was their actual father. The real story was that Johnson's mother had been romantically involved with James and became pregnant by him.
For the next decade, Johnson spent a lot of time with his famous father. He found his dad to be a bashful guy, although quite the talker when drinking. James became a dedicated father, and one of the stories from this time period involves James giving his family a 1951 Cadillac with money made thanks to his big 1952 hit, "Dust My Broom." As Johnson began blossoming into a young musician who was following in his dad's footsteps, James made sure to follow the progress of his son's rock & roll band, the Brigadiers of Jackson, in the late '50s (Johnson was performing as Earnest Jr., aka Mr. Soul).
Elmore James died in 1963, and in the mid-'60s, Johnson took the stage name Elmore James, Jr. upon meeting Willie Dixon, who told him he should name himself after his late biological father. The name change didn't start the blues career of a newly crowned Elmore James, Jr., as other popular music in the '70s supplanted the blues. He played away from Chicago and made few recordings, but was by then himself married with a wife and children and took a day job to make ends meet. Eventually, fans of his father in Britain found his recordings and released them in 1999 as part of the Genuine Mississippi Blues...Plus various-artists compilation for the WestSide label. This rousted James Jr. out of his self-imposed exile, as he started touring the U.S. and overseas in 2000. He plays the slide guitar and sings like his father, proving the adage that the apple doesn't fall too far from the tree. ~ Michael G. Nastos, Rovi
1939 in Richmond, MS