Welcome to another entry in our season-long Spotlight Series! This week we’re featuring a true living legend of Chicago blues: Luther “Guitar Junior” Johnson. An architect of the rough-and-tumble “West Side” sound, Johnson has been performing on stages everywhere from Poland to Japan since the 1960s, releasing four albums and taking home a GRAMMY award in the process. Tonight, he’s bringing the blues to Levitt AMP Woonsocket.
Johnson was born in the Mississippi Delta and drew heavy influence from gospel music growing up. His family moved to Chicago in the late 1950s, just as the city was becoming the de-facto epicenter of blues music. After singing and playing bass with a few local groups, Johnson picked up the six-string and adopted the moniker “Guitar Junior” at the age of 23 when his then-bandleader, Tall Milton Shelton, turned away from music following a religious awakening. Rather than let the group dissolve, Johnson took the reins and made it his own.
Johnson established himself as one of Chicago’s top guitar talents over the next several years, and eventually caught the attention of one of the most venerated bluesmen of all time: Muddy Waters. He joined Muddy’s crew in 1972, coincidentally replacing guitarist Luther “Snake Boy” Johnson in the band. Guitar Junior toured the world with this all-star lineup for the next eight years, recording his first solo album, Luther’s Blues, while on the road in France in 1977.
When the band dissolved in 1980, Johnson created a supergroup called The Legendary Blues Band with several other Chicago heavyweights. The group famously appears in the classic film The Blues Brothers as John Lee Hooker’s backing band. Soon after, Johnson parted ways with Chicago and moved out to the East Coast, forming a new band called the Magic Rockers and further refining his sound. He contributed to the GRAMMY-winning compilation album Blues Explosion in 1985.
Luther “Guitar Junior” Johnson’s raw, soulful, and thoroughly original style of Chicago blues will be on full display tonight at Levitt AMP Woonsocket. Don’t miss the opportunity to see this storied artist perform for free!
Tonight, Levitt AMP Whitesburg will be graced by international Arabic flamenco jazz sensation, Farah Siraj—who’ll light up the stage with entrancing trilingual (Arabic/English/Spanish) fusions of Middle Eastern music, flamenco, jazz, bossa, pop and more. For today’s post, we’re bringing you 10 fun facts about this renowned singer/multi-instrumentalist, whose music serves as a medium for peace and celebration of the global community’s rich diversity.
Our season-long Spotlight Series continues this week with Dwayne Dopsie (pronounced DOOP-see), a fiery accordionist from Lafayette, La. Along with his band, the Zydeco Hellraisers, Dwayne will be bringing an upbeat blend of blues, rock, and traditional Zydeco music to the stage at Levitt AMP Santa Fe this Saturday.
We have several fascinating facts about Dwayne Dopsie for you, but first let’s address a question that may already be on your mind: what is Zydeco? Indigenous to Louisiana’s Creole communities, Zydeco is a centuries-old style of music characterized by the unique combination of accordion in the forefront and washboard anchoring the rhythm section. The latter is usually worn on a vest called a frottoir that leaves both hands free for rhythmic rubbing. Most Zydeco tunes are fast-paced and eminently danceable, with two-step beats and furious bursts of accordion driving them forward.
Now, let’s get to know a musician on the leading edge of the contemporary Zydeco scene: Dwayne Dopsie!
- Dwayne Dopsie’s family is a bona-fide Zydeco dynasty. His father, Alton “Rockin’ Dopsie” Rubin, recorded with the likes of Paul Simon and Bob Dylan, and contributed to bringing Zydeco to audiences outside of Louisiana for the first time in its history. Two of Dwayne’s brothers, Dopsie Jr. and Alton Jr., are also Zydeco pros — their band is called Rockin’ Dopsie Jr. and the Zydeco Twisters.
- At the age of 19, Dwayne was crowned “America’s Hottest Accordionist” after winning a national competition hosted by the American Accordion Association. He founded his band, the Zydeco Hellraisers, the same year.
- Dwayne Dopsie and the Zydeco Hellraisers scored a GRAMMY nomination in 2017 for their album Top of the Mountain. The album competed in the category of Best Regional Roots Album.
- Dwayne is fluent in Louisiana Creole French, and often incorporates the dialect into his lyrics.
- Despite his muscular physique, Dwayne claims he has never lifted weights. He instead attributes his bulging biceps to many years of accordion playing. The instrument weighs about 20 pounds and requires considerable effort to open and close.
- Dwayne Dopsie and the Zydeco Hellraisers have taken their Zydeco sounds around the world. They’ve performed in China and the Baltic state of Georgia, to name a few.
Don’t miss your chance to see Dwayne Dopsie and the Zydeco Hellraisers live in concert this weekend at Levitt AMP Santa Fe. It’s a can’t-miss opportunity for fans of eclectic music to experience the energy of Zydeco firsthand.