Richard  Johnston
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Richard Johnston

Band Blues World


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This white singer-guitar player speads a more traditional joy: rural blues spun from Mississippi cotton and juke-joint sawdust. He covers Junior Kimbrough, and blues empress Jessie Mae Hemphill shakes her tambourine. But the mule-team muscle in Johnston's picking and the dirt-road fiber in his voice are the real appeal.

Davis Fricke
- Rolling Stone Magazine


Richard Johnston is a whirl-wind, a cyclone, a blast of hot earth in a desert sandstorm. Johnston is nothing less than a concert unto himself.

"Johnston.....continues to pick up international awards and accolades in the media, carving a notch in his diddley-bow every time another writer calls him "the most promising young blues musician of our time."

Tara Nurin - American Magazine


A much-hyped Memphis prodigy delivers on the promise of his Mississippi Hill Country blues roots.

There's a thing about hotly anticipated albums -- which of course every debut is, at least in someone's mind. Widely considered Junior Kimbrough's heir apparent -- he ran the late blues legend's juke joint in the Mississippi backcountry until it burned to the ground in 1999 --and having generated considerable buzz via his performances at the Blues Foundation-sponsored International Blues Challenge and at the Handy Awards themselves, Richard Johnston had a lot of hype to live up to.

Rest assured: Foot Hill Stomp kicks butt. Of course, Johnston got a lot of help from other veterans of Kimbrough's style of blues, a unique regional sound that owes little to the Delta and it's descendants: Jessie Mae Hemphill, Cedric Burnside and Mark Simpson are on an impressive guest list. (This was Hemphill's first studio date since her recent stroke.) But all the backup in the world wouldn't make Foot Hill Stomp if Johnston didn't possess talent himself, and he does, honed by years of club dates in, of all places, Nagoya, Japan. By the time he made it back to the states, he already fit right in on Beale Street.

The quality of musicianship and expression shown on Foot Hill Stomp indicates that good things are ahead for Johnston and for the trad-blues fans he's sure to attract. True, Foot Hill Stomp doesn't contain any of his own material -- except for "Chicken and Gravy," which he co-wrote with Hemphill -- but he picked great songs to record: Several of Kimbrough's are here, including "I Feel Good Little Girl" and "Work Me Baby", and R.L. Burnside's "Come On In" is featured as well. Johnston makes his own mark by adding a distinct country flavor to his blues, occasionally reaching so far as a Piedmont stomp. As it happens, Foot Hill Stomp is that rare exception: a hotly anticipated debut that lives up to its hype.

Genevieve Williams - Blues Revue



..."The mystery of the music business should die," says Johnston, who emerged from a Marxist educational background to become what he calls "a handicap capitalist." "Right now, who makes it and who doesn't is a big shell game and we (musicians and fans) are the suckers."...

Tommy Perkins - Memphis Business Journal

"Records 2 Die 4 - annual edition 2006"

"It's [Foot Hill Stomp] panoply of material testifies to the abiding nature of northern Mississippi's music while propelling forward the hypnotic hill-country style."

"..Johnston sings in a voice tinged with wood smoke and plays as if he's dwelled in that land for all of his two score years."

David Lander - Stereophile


Richard Johnston - Foot Hill Stomp - Released in 2002, Handy Nominated and one of the top selling independent blues records in history. Special Guests include: Jessie Mae Hemphill, Cedric Burnside, Mark Simpson and Robert "Nighthawk" Tooms.

Richard Johnston - Official Bootleg #1 - 7 live recordings (approx. 38 min) from: 2003 Handy Awards Ceremony. 2003 radio performance - NRK - in Trondheim, Norway. 2003 at Humphrey's Bar and Grill - Huntsville, AL. 2003 live session at Young Avenue Sounds.

Cassandra Wilson - Belly Of The Sun - Released in Feb, 2002. Richard plays slide guitar on track #5.

Black Oak Arkansas - The Wild Bunch - background vocals - "Jim Dandy To The Rescue" (1999).


Past Festivals:

Arkansas Blues and heritage Fest (a.k.a. King Biscuit Blues Fest) - four years - Helena, AK
Beale Street Music Fest - four years - Memphis, TN
Belgium Rhythm and Blues Fest - two years - Peer, Belgium
Blues Passions Fest - Cognac, France
Blues Sur Sein Fest - Mantes La Jolie, France
Blues To Bop - Lugano, Switzerland
Bonterra Lowcountry Blues Bash - Charleston, SC
Cains Ballroom - supporting THE Killers 2005 tour - Tulsa, OK
Chenango Blues Fest - Norwich, NY
Cisco Systems Bluesfest - Ottawa, Ontario, Canada
Denver Blues and Bones Fest - Denver, CO
Doheny Blues Fest - Dana Point, CA
Eureka Springs Fest - Eureka Springs, AK
Fleet Blues Fest - three years in a row - Albany, NY
Heritage Blues Fest - Wheeling, WV
Howlin' Wolf Blues Festival - two years - West Point, MS
Juke Joint Festival - Clarksdale, MS
Kalamazoo Blues Fest, Kalamazoo, MI
Magic City Blues Fest - Birmingham, AL
North Atlantic Blues Fest - Rockland, MA
Notodden Blues Fest - Notodden, Norway
Oklahoma Blues Fest - Tulsa, OK
Orpheum - 2003 and 2004 Handy Blues Awards (televised) - Memphis, TN
Piazza Blues Fest - Bellinzona, Switzerland
Pistoia Blues Fest - Pistoia, Italy
Red Rocks Amphitheater - supporting THE Killers 2005 tour - Morrison, CO
Riverbend Fest - Chattanooga, TN
Riverwalk Blues Fest - Ft. Lauderdale, FL
Roots and Blues Fest - Riovaniemi, Finland
Rootsway Blues Festival - Parma, Italy
Silver City Blues Fest - Silver City, NM
Springin the Blues Fest - two years - Jacksonville, FL
Soulsvaer Blues Fest - two years - Svolvaer, Norway
Sunflower Blues Fest - Clarksdale, MS
Telluride Blues and Brews Fest - two years - Telluride, CO
Thirst Ear Fest - Santa Fe, NM
W.C. Handy Blues Fest - two years - Florence, AL



Richard Johnston appeared as a street musician on the blues scene in Memphis - 1997 - and as a recording artist - 2002 - with the self-produced, self-released and Handy Award nominated album entitled, "FOOT HILL STOMP", featuring guest appearances by Jessie Mae Hemphill, Cedric Burnside, Mark Simpson and Robert Tooms. The CD release party was recorded on Beale Street and later broadcast to over 20,000,000 listeners via German NPR. The late Otha Turner and the Rising Star Fife and Drum Band were among the performers that night.

FHS was paid for from his winnings at the 2001 International Blues Challenge in which he was the first, and still the only, competitor in it's 22 year history to simultaneously win the 1st place award for 'best act' and the Albert King Award for most promising blues guitarist. A record never to be broken, as the rules of the competition were subsequently changed to preclude solo artists from competing with bands ever again.

Since then, Johnston has arguably become the most recognized and celebrated street musician in the world and Foot Hill Stomp has proven to be one of the top-selling independent blues albums in history.

The inspiration for the music came in 1998, after a year of busking on Beale Street. It was then Johnston began his tenure at the late-great Junior Kimbrough's jook joint where he immersed himself in North Mississippi hill country blues and had the opportunity to play with many of the legends whom have created the genre. Fire took the jook joint in 2000 and Richard returned to Memphis with an education that changed his life, forever.

Like his musical hero, Junior Kimbrough, Johnston reached the world by sitting still. From 2001 ~ 2005 he played to festival sized audiences of serious music fans who traveled from around the world to experience Memphis, TN and it's musical heritage.

Using only his computer and a fiercely independent attitude, Johnston harnessed every ounce of momentum created by the hundreds of thousands, possibly millions, of music fans that witnessed Richard literally set Beale Street on fire. It was his backdoor key to establishing an ever-growing legion of fans, worldwide, without ever signing a record contract. To this day he remains independent and is one of the handful of artists that has managed to obtain national U.S. distribution without signing a 'deal'.

Armed with one-of-a-kind instruments and a galaxy of porch-gazing grooves, Johnston single-handedly turned the tourists into howling, contorting packs of barnyard animals -- many simply stood with their mouths open, evangelists often waved signs and shouted heavenly dismays over the bullhorn. It was such ferocious performances secured him invitations to play at blues and music festivals around the world. Since his debut release in 2002, he has mesmerized audiences in Belgium, Canada, Finland, France, Italy, Japan, Korea, Norway, Spain, Switzerland and all over the United States.


In April 2005, Alabama PBS released RICHARD JOHNSTON: HILL COUNTRY TROUBADOUR, a feature documentary produced by Max Shores. The film has received 14 Official Selections by national and international film festivals, winning a total of five awards. Two 1st place, one 2nd, one Best Of Show and one People's Choice.

More info at:

Richard recorded a small queue with Bradd Webb and Tony Ray Adams for the 2006 motion picture "Come Early Morning" written and directed by Joey Lauren Adams. Starring: Ashley Judd, Jeffrey Donovan, Stacy Keach, Diane Ladd, Laura Prepon and Tim Blake Nelson. The film was an Official Selection for the 2006 Sundance Film Awards.

Richard briefly toured as opening act for THE KILLERS in 2005. They contacted him after seeing his street show.

Richard and John Lowe designed an instrument that has made it's way into the hands of stars like Robin Williams and Lyle Lovett. They call it a "Hill Harp" and, as R.L. Burnside stated in Richard's documentary, "it sounds like a nuclear bomb". Featured on track #5 of Foot Hill Stomp, It's fitting that R.L.'s grandson and drummer, Cedric, accompanied Richard as he introduced the world to this ground-breaking instrument.

Continuing a tradition his father started many years before, Guy Gilchrist, artist and owner of the nationally syndicated comic-strip "Nancy And Sluggo", penned "Foot Hill Stomp" into one edition.