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Herman E. Johnson

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Another of the many performers briefly illuminated by the spotlight of the folk-blues revival of the 1960s, Louisiana-born country bluesman Herman E. Johnson was the product of a highly religious family environment, a background which heavily informed the spiritual imagery which was a hallmark of his later work as a performer. His early adult years were spent in a fruitless search for steady work which led him from the country to the city and back again; he picked up the guitar around 1927 as a respite from jobs ranging from picking cotton to pouring concrete to working at a scrap metal yard. Eventually, Johnson landed work at the Esso refinery in Baton Rouge, where he worked for 15 years before being unexpectly fired; scrambling to find work -- an experience memorably recalled in his song "Depression Blues" -- he finally was hired as a janitor at Southern University in nearby Scotlandville. He held the same job at the time of his lone recording session, cut in Baton Rouge by Dr. Harry Oster in 1961; after suffering a stroke in 1970, Johnson went into retirement, and died on February 2, 1975. ~ Jason Ankeny



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