Mike Johnson is Country Music's No. 1 Black Yodeler. In April 2007, his Yodel Song Archives, containing 114 yodeling songs written and composed by him, and related material, were inducted into the Recorded Sound Reference Center's permanent music collection in the Library of Congress. This CD is one of the [related material] items in that collection.
There have been other Black Yodelers among the numerous Minstrel and Stringband acts between 1880 and 1925, like the famous Monroe Tabor, Beulah Henderson, Charles Anderson, and The Mississippi Sheiks. Then came Mike's personal friend, Korean War Veteran & Bronze Star recipient, McDonald Craig of Linden, Tennessee, who recorded briefly on Nashville's Gold Standard label during the mid-1960s. He is also the only Black Yodeler to ever win First Place at an Annual  Jimmie Rodgers Yodeling Championship hosted by the Jimmie Rodgers Museum in Meridian, Mississippi. Others along the way include Linda Martell, Stoney Edwards, and Slim Gaillard. None of them, however, have demonstrated Mike's unique versatility in combining the Jimmie Rodgers and Swiss yodeling styles.
NOTES: The yodeling songs on this CD are songs #1,#3,#5,#7,#9,#10 and #12.
On 1 September 2002 Mike Johnson was inducted into America's Old Time Country Music Hall Of Fame by The National Traditional Country Music Association at the 27th Annual Old Time Country Music Festival, in Avoca, Iowa.
Mike Johnson was born in 1946 in Washington DC to Margaret and Joseph Johnson. This Altar Boy, Eagle Scout  and Camp Counselor, attended Catholic schools, starting with St. Augustine from Kindergarten to the 5th grade. His family then moved to Capitol Hill in 1957 where he started the 6th grade at St. Peter's and graduated in June 1961. He attended Mackin High School and graduated in June 1965, and in the September of that same year he joined the U.S. Navy and was assigned to a Navy Security Group. After Boot Camp at the Great Lakes Naval Training Facility in Illinois, and additional training at the Navy's A-School in Bainbridge,Maryland, he eventually shipped out to San Diego, California and served two Vietnam tours attached to the USS Constellation, CVA-64 from 1967 to 1969. Afterwards he also worked as a Bus Boy, Motorcycle Courier, Park Police Officer, Freelance Photographer, Driving Instructor and in September 1981 he became a long-distance trucker. Trucking, starting with Newlon's Transfer [1981 to 1995, the first of three companies] in Arlington, Virginia, would play a major role in establishing him on the Independent Country Music circuit.
His early influences, the Singing Cowboys like Gene Autry, Roy Rogers, Tex Ritter, Herb Jeffries [the only Black Movie Singing Cowboy] and the sound of the Steel Guitar paved his way to Country Music. He later honed himself on the music of Jimmie Rodgers, Hank Williams, Johnny Cash, and Roger Miller. Mike says Roger Miller gave him the songwriting bug.
"I just wanted to be a songwriter! But I've had to do everything else along the way to get there!"
And just how did Mike learn to yodel? "Johnny Weissmueller," he quickly acknowledges. "I grew up during the 1950s and 1960s, a period when adventure movies and cliff-hangers ruled the Silver Screen. Westerns, Gladiators, The Phantom, Flash Gordon, and my all-time favorite, Tarzan! I had also read all of Edgar Rice Burroughs' Tarzan novels and the summer camps and Boy Scout camping trips set the stage for many of us to imitate him. I wore out that Tarzan yodel, morning, noon, and night! At one point my mother threatened to ship me off to Africa, much to my youthful delight! So, I was actually yodeling before I even realized it and when I got into Country Music, I already had a major head-start with the yodeling. Without a doubt, it was my yodeling that paved my early music road."
In fact, one of Mike's yodeling songs paints a humorous picture of that. From the main stage at the 1999 Avoca Old Time Country Music Festival, Bob Everhart, President of the National Traditional Country Music Association was handing out awards. Suddenly he turned to Mike, who was video taping the event, and asked him "How did you get into yodeling, Mike..." To which he replied, "Johnny Weissmueller." Bob scratched his head a puzzled moment and then exclaimed, "Johnny Weissmueller. Oh, he played Tarzan! Yeah, I guess that is a yodel..." On 25 July 2001 Mike wrote the amusing yodel song, "Tarzan Did!" aka: "The Bob Everhart Song."
Click the "TARZAN DID!" link on the left to see Mike perform this song.
Although Mike wrote his first song in 1957, it was his love of drawing, reading, writing and camping that occupied most of his youthful time. A large number of his artwork was done specifically for his literary works. His art was very popular among his high school classmates.
The mid-1950s and 1960s were exciting times for young Mike. Frank Price taught him how to shoot rifles and how to ride bareback on his mare, Old Bay, at Ivakota Farm in Clifton, Virginia. Sam Buckmaster, a barn builder and waterman in Prince Frederick, Maryland, taught him about the river, and Sam's sons Keith, Kevin and Danny taught him crabbing and fishing, and how handle a canoe and scull a row boat. Primitive camping and back packing was a big deal in his Boy Scout Troop-380. Mike, a self-taught swimmer earned his One-Mile Swim Badge on the Patuxent River in Southern Maryland. However, he had to learn to swim all over in 1965, when he took the rigorous Red Cross Senior Lifesaving course to qualify as a Lifeguard Assistant at summer camp. This included passing the Red Cross Novice Swimmer, Intermediate Swimmer, Basic Survial Swimming, and the Red Cross Senior course in Lifesaving and Water Saving.
Good love, bad love and lost love also touched his life, particularly after his return from Vietnam. The death of his father, a best friend, a son, and his grandmother shortly after, and his breakup with a childhood sweetheart set the tone for many of the songs he wrote and would write.
Mike began performing in local bars and honky-tonks in the mid-1960s. The Songsmith, The Shamrock, Southwest Tavern, The Tune Inn, Tucson Café, The Hoffbraugh, Food For Thought, and Lee-Hi's Bar & Grill in Washington, DC. Dawson's Pool Hall, Clinton Md. Iler's Store, Ripley, Md. Boozie's, Club Stabil, and the Tee-Pee Restaurant in Baltimore, Md., and Hillbilly Heaven in Lorton, Va., just across the Woodbridge, Virginia County line.
During this time, a chance encounter with a retired Mediterranian Cruise ship singer name Joe Capalbi would play a major role in Mike's music developement. Capalbi owned and operated ARDIS MUSIC, a combination music store and gift shop that was located on Connecticut Avenue in Northwest Washington DC. He and his oldest daughter also gave music lessons and had a small stage in the back of the main shop. Mike was working as a Freelance Photographer between regular jobs and often passed by the shop, which incidentally was a couple of doors down from FOOD FOR THOUGHT, a local music hangout, which was next to the old Boy Scout National Headquarters. One day Mike decided to stop in and browse, and Joe, sitting behind the counter playing a guitar, readily engaged him in a conversation.
"When Joe found out that I was writing songs and that I sang some, he became more interested. He encouraged me to come back and bring some of my material. For some reason I made special trips to his shop. I would play my Roger Miller, Hank Williams, and Johnny Cash songs. He enjoyed them, but he made it obvious that he was more interested in my songs. I'd been generally reluctant to sing my own songs, mainly because I wasn't that good of a guitarist. Joe was determined, and he began practicing some of my songs with me and giving me music assignments! He'd give me sheet music to other songs and had me practice them. I wasn't sure what was going on, but I kept coming back. Then after awhile he had me up on his little stage in the back. He'd listen patiently and offer his critique, telling me how to stand, how to adjust the mic, and use body language. He'd sometimes invite others to drop in while I was performing. But he was adamant about me singing my own songs. Then one day several months later, he sat me down and looked me square in the eyes, grinning like a tomcat and said to me, 'I knew there was a Mike Johnson in there somewhere.'
"I was kinda puzzled. Then he told me that he thought that my songs were just as good as anyone else's out there but that I was short-changing myself by neglecting them to imitate Roger Miller, Hank, Johnny Cash, and others. That was okay to get started he said, but it was time for me to be 'Mike Johnson' and not just another singing clone.
"It wasn't long after that, that I realized what he had been doing. He built up my confidence and helped me turn my minor stage fright into a real stage presence. I'll never forget the big grin on his face when I returned from my very first Nashville recording session and presented him with a copy of my first 45rpm. He put some of them in his music bins for sale, and even carried some of my sheet music. Joe had very subtly made me get into my songs and discover my own musical self.
Wow! When I think back, it's pretty obvious that you don't always know when or where a geniune gift will come from. Joe was truly one of them."
This paved the way to appearances at other places from 1978 on. The Thirsty Camel and Silver Saddle, Norfolk, Va. The Covered Wagon, Tex-Mex, Key Hole Inn, Whitey's, and Royal Lee's Deli, Arlington, Va. JVs Bar, Annandale, Va. Tiffany Tavern and Cowboy Café South, Alexandria, Va. The Coffee House Of Occoquan, Occoquan, Va. Cap'n Darrell's, Daytona Beach, Fla. The Bowery and JW's Lil Café, Myrtle Beach, SC. The Flyin' Dutchmann, Charleston, SC. Johnny Hornes and Pappa Joe's, New Orleans, La. The Country Boy Eddie TV Show, Birmingham, Ala. The Merchant's, Dusty Roads, The Rhinestone, Millie & Al's, Tootsie's, Squire's, Music City Lounge, Nashboro, Mama Joe's, The Say When-II, The Wagonburner, The Bluegrass Inn, The Ranch House, Lawrence Record Store, and Ernest Tubb's Midnight Jamboree, Nashville, Tn. The Holiday Terrace, Killeen, Tx. Carmen's, El Paso, Tx. Alvin Opry, Alvin, Tx. Manvel Opry, Manvel, Tx. and the Pearland Orpy, Pearland, Tx. The 1860 Saloon, St. Louis, Mo. The Eastern Shore Opry, Crisfield, Md. The 1st. Annual 1994 Michigan Jamboree, Hillsdale, Mi. Suzie Rowles Country Music Showcase, Chambersburg, Pa. The Traditional Music Association Awards Show, Orrstown, Pa. The John Henry Festival, Morgantown, West Va. Avoca's Old-Time Country Music Festival, Avoca, Ia. and Missouri Valley's Old-Time Country Music Festival, Missouri Valley, Ia. to mention a select few, along with numerous truck stops and motel lobbies.
In 1981 Mike took his Easter vacation and went to Nashville for his first professional recording session at Jim Maxwell's Globe Recording Studio on Dickerson Road. He had booked a two-hour session and recorded five songs.
1.King Of The Fish
2.Please Don't Squeeze The Charmin
3.Just A Nobody
4.A Singing Star
5.Little Boys And Doggies
From that sprang his first 45rpm single, "King Of The Fish/Please Don't Squeeze The Charmin" on his MAJJ Productions literary banner.
"I still regard this session as the best one I ever did!" Mike maintains.
Lawrence Record Store at 409 Broadway in downtown Nashville was the first retailer to stock the new release, and they have been carrying Mike's releases ever since. The store is currently under the management of younger son Paul Lawrence. Drop by the store and see photos and posters of Mike and numerous other Country artists past and present on the Lawrence Records Photo Wall of Fame.
Mike quickly became a regular on Nashville's lower Broadway during the 1980s. He made his first Nashville appearances at The Merchant's, a combination "greasy spoon" bar & grille - flophouse motel, with a stage in the rear. He also appeared on Ernest Tubb's Midnight Jamboree on Broadway and eventually you could find him hanging out with music regulars John & Lois Shepherd, Ronnie Root, Tommy Boyles and Robert Moore, owner of "The Rhinestone Cowboy" bar. He frequented Norma's famous Dusty Roads Bar and hung out with Jack "Pop" Stoneman and Owen McCarthy when it was still on Woodland Street.
It was while doing his Globe recording session that he also met Shelby Singleton and Paul Martin over at Sun Records. Clifford Abernathy, a local Nashville singer-photographer became a good friend and he sometimes followed Mike around and photographed him when he was in town. Mike's own photographic skills began to expand during the 1980s as he began photo-documenting as much of his musical exploits as he could, which has resulted in a very sizable collection.
When Globe Studio relocated to White House, Tennessee in 1983, Mike wished to continue recording in Nashville, so Maxwell sent him over to his friend Jim Stanton at Champ Recording Studio on Church Street. Here Mike met and mentored under the founder and owner of the legendary Rich-R-Tone Records and continued to record his songs at Champ Studio until Jim's untimely death in 1989.
"Jim taught me how Nashville clique thought and worked..." Mike acknowledges.
All of the songs on the "Black Yodel No.1" CD except "Just A Nobody" were recorded at Champ Studio. It was here that Mike met one of Stanton's Rich-R-Tone artists, Frank Hunter, The Lonesome Yodeler. They became friends and Frank encouraged Mike to keep yodeling and gave him additional pointers. Mike still has one of the two autographed Rich-R-Tone cassettes that Frank gave him from their music swaps. He had two of Frank's Rich-R-Tone 45rpms and donated one to the Jim Stanton Memorial in Johnson City, Tennessee. Stanton's home town.
Jim Stanton was responsible for launching the careers of Wilma Lee & Stoney Cooper, The Bailey Brothers, and the Sauceman Brothers. In October 1946 he launched Rich-R-Tone records with the release of Buffalo Johnson's "Come Back Again," and Jim Hall's "Rainbow At Midnight." In 1947 he made the first recordings of Wimla Lee & Stoney Cooper, whose version of "Tramp On The Street" sold more than 100,000 copies. He worked a five-state area, hawking his wares from the trunk of his car. In 1973 he moved his operation to Nashville and became involved in Black Gospel music. A superb engineer, Stanton was sought by many artists near and far. Jim Stanton was one of the true pioneers of bluegrass/country music.
Mike joined ASCAP in 1982 and became a full writer member in December 1988. After song registration and royalty disputes he switched to BMI in July 1994. As Mike's songs gained airplay he inquired about royalties and ASCAP dropped his membership.
In 1983 he produced "Mike Johnson's Guitar Songs Vol.1", a Cassette Album featuring solo performances on his Kingston guitar. This release also came with a songbook. In June 1983 Mike formed Pata del Lobo Music Publishing and in 1985 released his 2nd 45rpm under that banner. "Hooked On Rodeo/I Hear Her Words Ringing," two of the four songs from his first session at Champ Studio.
In 1987 he formed Roughshod Records as his official country label, and You And Me Publishing for his Gospel and non-country songs. Mike has always published and produced his own music and has never been signed to, or recorded for, any label but his own.
"I got a lot of compliments and lip-service, but no one was willing to sign, record or produce my songs!"
It should also be noted that Mike has never played guitar or any instrument on any of his Nashville sessions. He'll very quickly tell you "I'm not a musician. I'm a half-ass guitar strummer, average singer, and a very good Yodeler!" A proclamation that led to the writing of "I Never Really Learned To Play Guitar," song #2 on the "Black Yodel No.1" album.
While he started out singing country standards and yodeling songs like "T For Texas," "Cattle Call," "Sue City Sue" and "Back in the Saddle Again" he quickly realized that there were numerous combinations of these yodels that could become distinctly unique on their own. He began experimenting with non-yodel songs like "Jambalaya" which quickly became his signature song, "Oh Lonesome Me," "Rudolph The Red-Nosed Reindeer," "Waltz Across Texas" and others to test the possibilities.
This led to writing his own yodeling songs like "Just A Nobody"[18 Mar.71] "I Can Yodel Songs Like Them All!"[23 Jul.81] and "Your Old Lady,"[22 Feb.82-crowd favorite at Royal Lee's Deli & Whitey's in Arlington, Va. during the 1980s] that demonstrated his uniqueness and ability to handle a fast yodel. It's a yodel lesson story on how the yodel was born. He hasn't performed it since and has often threatened to re-learn the 5-minute song. It is, however, on his "1983 Collectors Classic-Mike Johnson's Guitar Songs Vol.1" featuring a fledgling Mike Johnson, performing solo on his Kingston guitar.
"When I listen to that album, my skin tingles and I realize just how far I've come! I'd sure like a word with the person that let that kid have a guitar and told'em he could sing?" Mike chuckles. "Yeah, we all had to start somewhere!"
Around February of 1983 Mike was with some friends at Michael's Country bar in Virginia Beach. One of them slipped his business card into the tip-jar and the Lead Singer, misinterpreting the "Black Yodel No.1" on the card as a song, invited a startled Mike to the stage to sing it! Mike pretended he had a sore throat and promised that on his next visit he would. Knowing he couldn't return to the popular night-spot without singing, on 1 April 1983, Mike wrote "Black Yodel No.1," his first wordless yodeling song! It would be followed by other wordless yodel songs like "Black Yodel No.2" "Coyote Yodel" "Wild Horse Yodel" and others that would vie for position with some of his other popular yodeling songs like, "The Yodel," "Yeah, I'm A Cowboy," "Everybody Wants To Go To Heaven," "I Aim To Be The Best," "Hooked On Rodeo," and "T-Shirt Yodel."
COMMENTS ON MIKE'S YODELING:
COUNTRY BOY EDDIE introduced Mike in September of 1982 to his Birmingham, Alabama TV viewers as "...sounding like Roy Rogers, Gene Autry and Jimmie Rodgers, all rolled into one!"
ART RUSH, Roy Rogers personal manager, wrote in part in a 4 May 1982 letter to Mike, "I listened to your cassette, songs and heard your yodeling. Although you do not perform your yodels exactly like Roy, you do handle a fast yodel. I am returning your cassette and lyrics of your song- I CAN YODEL SONGS LIKE THEM ALL. We are not permitted legally to keep any song material unless it is published because both Roy and Dale are composers. I want to wish you the best success possible with your songwriting. My advice to you, Micheal, "keep writin', singin' and yodelin' and one day we'll all be reading about you."
P.J. PRICE wrote in the 1995 September/October Issue of Country Note Connection "Spoke to Mike Johnson of Roughshod Records here recently. He's a singer/songwriter/graphic artist/truck driver, etc. ... Mike is known as "Black Yodeler No.1" and I promise you, he CAN yodel! He has a unique voice and writing style. He's very "traditional" and if any of you publishers would be interested in reviewing his material, write to Mike Johnson..."
BOB EVERHART wrote in his 1996 January/February Issue of Tradition magazine, "FINALLY, a new tape of good yodeling. This guy not only yodels, he double yodels and triple yodels! He's also a darn good songwriter and singer and guitarist."
ALLEN FOSTER wrote in his 1999 January Issue of Songwriters Monthly, "Johnson has a real talent for producing some incredible yodels. If you like the sound of good ol' country and yodeling, Mike Johnson is one of the best in the field. His album will be sure to please you."
BART PLANTENGA stated at his 7 May 2005 yodel-book lecture at the Bowery Poetry Club in New York City, "Mike Johnson, Virginia long-haul trucker and Country Music's No.1 Black Yodeler is a gifted Yodeler who easily switches from Hillbilly to Swiss-style yodeling... and became a bit of an Interstate legend when he began selling his recordings at truck stops along his long-distance routes..."
DAVE SICHAK, owner of the Hillbilly Music web-site stated in a 4 February 2006 Email to Mike, "I picked up your CD the other day on the way home... And after listening to the first tune I thought Elton Britt and Roy Rogers were in the car... I haven't heard a yodel song all the way through like that since I heard Elton Britt do it on a Skater's Yodel tune I have on 78 or on CD... Ain't no mistaking what's on that CD - 100% pure Country... thanks for sending it along." Contact: http://hillbilly-music.com
To be compared with Elton Britt is about as high a compliment that a Yodeler can receive, and Mike is also featured in the Artist Section on the Hillbilly web-site.
TAKING IT DOWN THE ROAD:
Mike's local popularity was at an all time high during the 1980s. He was hanging out with the likes of Bob Ellis, Kenny Haddaway, Rick Franklin, and Mary Chapin Carpenter at a number of the local watering holes like Whitey's, The Deli, the Covered Wagon, and the Keyhole Inn, to mention a few. Bill Kirchen and local singer-songwriter Bill Monroe were also part of that active music scene. This, coupled with his "I Believe In Roy Rogers" cassette album being sold in nearly a dozen Union-76 truck stops from Alabama and Louisiana to Chicago, Mike was on a roll.
Quickly overwhelmed by busy trucking schedules, unfinished art, literary, and photographic projects, Mike dropped out of the performing circuit in September of 1987 and went on a songwriting spree. He returned to the stage in April 1993 with about 600 new songs and released the Cassette Album, "Black Yodel No. 1, The Song The Songwriter" in September of that year.
In 1994, his ballad "Did You Hug Your Mother Today?" from a same-titled Cassette Album, was the most listener-requested song, playing for three weeks surrounding Mother's Day on Big John Baldry's Michigan Jamboree Radio Show, WBYW-FM 89.9. Big John phoned Mike and sent him a postcard telling him "I can't even have a show! Every time I play it I get calls and they wanna hear it again..."
Big John's 1994 1st. Annual Michigan Jamboree for Independent Country performers was held at the Sugarbush Campground in Hillsdale, Michigan. Among others, like Ed & Ellie, Singin' Bill Winter, and Johnny "J" [a Nevada town was named after his song "Puckerbrush], Mike met and became good friends with Nashville's Terry Smith, author of the famous song "Far Side Banks of Jordan." Terry had also used Jim Stanton's Champ Studio early in his career, and at least one of the musician's that Mike had used, Billy D. Johnson, who has been co-producing some of Terry's material during the 2000s. Terry and Mike have swapped music tips on many occasions and Mike has bunked at Terry's home on many occasions during his trucking trips through the area.
At the Michigan Jamboree Mike also met Mike Preston of Limington, Maine, a 16-year old fantastic yodeler who had won virtually every Country Award there was for his age group in the New England states. Preston's mentor and personal friend was none other than Yodelin' Slim Clark. Hearing Preston perform made Mike realize that he himself was getting yodel-lazy. He had been relegating himself to the less strenuous, laid-back double yodels and young Preston's skills made him realize he was slouching on the job. Mike Johnson and Mike Preston received a standing ovation-encore for their yodeling duet of Hank Williams "Jambalaya" which incidentally, is not a yodeling song.
"Jambalaya" has been Johnson's signature song and ice-breaker since he started performing. During the 1990s Mike's trucking runs again took him through Nashville on a regular basis. Though the face of downtown had changed some, his buddy John Shepherd was still there and often had Mike sit-in with him. Mike met and sometimes sat in with super-picker Zack Taylor, a big crowd pleaser at Tootsie's. He frequented the Wagonburner [now the Bluegrass Inn], Mama Joe's and Legends. He did impromptu performances at Lawrence Record Shop, the Gibson Guitar Cafe, and also sat in with musicians Steve & Idela Ruby, Jason "the Boogieman" Capps, Laurie Cannan, and Jimmy Synder. A number of these and others were also featured in his Top-Rail Chatter magazine.
The 1990s opened more doors for Mike. A resurgence of popularity on the homefront came with meeting musicians like Rocky Guttmann, Jeff Seidel, Raccoon, Alan Byrd, Brenda Weitzel, Bill Gibson, Ken Smith, and Al and Starr. He also ran into an old friend, John Jackson, a legendary Blues musician. During the mid-1970s when Mike was still debating on taking the "music plunge" it was Jackson and his friend Archie Edwards, another legendary Bluesman, who also encouraged Mike to pursue his music.
Up in Pennsylvania he met the one and only Suzie Rowles and performed on her Country Music Showcase. In October 1997 Suzie's Show hosted the Traditional Music Awards and Mike got to meet and rub shoulders with the original Oscar Sullivan of the Lonzo & Oscar duo. And he got a delighted Oscar to autograph one of his Lonzo & Oscar albums that he had purchased in the 1960s! There is a video of this show available and Mike's interview with Oscar is on Youtube. It was at Suzie's Country Showcase on 27 July 1998 at the Capitol Theater in Chambersburg, Pennsylvania, that Mike's mother saw him perform on stage for her very first, and sadly, last time.
Over on Maryland's Eastern Shore Mike became a member of the Pat Costello Family's Eastern Shore Opry. [Pat, Patrick, and Trudy Costello] He also M/C-ed one show in which Charlie Sizemore was the headliner.
"Charlie had a soothing southern drawl that just seeped into your pores kinda warm and friendly like," Mike recalls.
Here Mike also met The John Donaldson band, the Larry Stephenson band, Ray Lewis and his house band, and became long time friends with Rhinestone Rooster artist, Lonnie Lynn LaCaour. Lonnie was also a friend of "Cousin Ray" Woolfenden, [whom mike met as a teenager in the 1960s] the famous traditional country music DJ from Dumfires, Virginia. Both her and Mike were members of Cousin Ray's C.E.M.B.A. group, and had performed at several of their local music events.
Down in Texas he met and became friends with Ed King and Barbara Dunn in Santa Fe, Texas. They own Entertainment News magazine and BJD Wishing Away Records, a radio compilation label. A constant weekend guest at their home when traveling through Houston, Mike was introduced to several of the Oprys, including Pam's Kitchen, along Texas Route-6. The Alvin and Manvel Oprys where he met and became friends with Smokey Stover, Richard Garza, Ron Eldred, Tim McCoy, and the Ron and Linda Cook band.
Up the road in Huntsville, Texas he met and became good friends with PJ Price and her family. PJ was the hottest voice on Independent Country radio until family matters demanded her attention. Mike states that the world lost a great artist when she quit. They have always kept in touch even after Mike quit trucking. She was one of those who rallied to help Mike after his neck injury.
"The greatest news I got was when she called me this past October 2006 to say that she was going back into the studio!" Mike says. "Take Loretta Lynn, Dolly Parton, and Reba McIntire and mix them in a blender and you've got PJ Price, a super version of Brenda Lee! When PJ sings, she owns the song and she owns you! I'm so glad she's back into her music!"
In January 1995 Mike's Top-Rail Chatter Country Music magazine was born and garnered him another solid following. The magazine catered strictly to the Independent singers, songwriters and their music, and provided useful information on copyrighting, publishing, recording rights, music scams, and the music business in general.
The Chatter also swapped information and articles with Allen Foster's Songwriters Monthly and Virgie Warren's Bluebird Country News. It ran until December 2002, when Mike's busy trucking schedule and his mother's stroke reduced it to a mere newsletter format before publication ceased. Much to the dismay of his long-time subscribers, many of whom had become personal friends. One highlight of Mike's trucking was that he actually got to meet a lot of his subscribers and other Country Music folk during his trucking runs. Something that he most definitely misses.
In the mid-1990s Virgie Warren, of Flushing Michigan, a virtual "Who's Who" in Country Music was also responsible for some of Mike's expanded exposure through her Bluebird Country News and articles that she wrote for Ralph Compton's Hard Country Beat magazine and Rural Music news. She's had Mike appearing in publications he never knew existed!
In 1998 the "Mike Johnson Country Songbook" [MG069801] was published. It contains music scores to five of his popular songs; Let's Take It Easy, Sammy, Heaven's Gold Shore, Pigtails And Bubblegum, and Did You Hug Your Mother Today?"
In 1999 Mike re-mastered his "Black Yodel No.1" Cassette and released it as his first CD. The last week in August 1999 Mike took a vacation from his trucking schedule went to the week-long Avoca Old Time Country Music Festival in Avoca, Iowa, where he met Sonny Rodgers, a first cousin of Jimmie Rodgers, "The Blue Yodeler." Mike participated in Sonny's 1999 and 2000 Yodelers' Paradise Shows, and would drop in on his new friend whenever his trucking runs took him through Columbia, South Carolina. He was also among the last people to see Sonny alive before he passed away in the summer of 2001.
It was also during this period from 1999 to 2003 that Mike met and became friends with a number of famous Yodelers from around the country. McDonald Craig, Tom Wills, Janet McBride, Joyce Leonard, Roy Harper, the West Sisters, Rick McWilliams, Stu Clayton, and Chris Schurmann. He finally got to meet his long time yodeling pen-pal, Donna Hyland from Michigan, and Lou Stebner of Tucson, Arizona. Lou was one of the strongest supporters of Mike's Top-Rail Chatter magazine.
Down in New Orleans, he met Ian Hoyle, a promising Jazz Musician with great finger-picking versatility. The two teamed up for several months and Ian worked for Mike on his truck runs. In between they played some local gigs before a family emergency called Ian back home to the mid-west. For the past several years Ian has been working as a session musician and finally relocated to Phoenix, Arizona in April 2007.
Mike has been a member of The Country Entertainers & Musicians Benevolent Association [C.E.M.B.A.], The Eastern Shore Opry, The Songwriters Guild, Louisiana Songwriter's Association, The Tennessee Songwriters Association, The Traditional Music Association, The Black Country Music Association, and is still a member of The National Traditional Country Music Association. In April 1996 he was commissioned by the Governor of the State of Kentucky as a Honorary Kentucky Colonel.
Mike's songs have aired on numerous Independent Country Radio Stations like Cousin Ray's WPWC-1480-AM, Dumfries, Virginia; Big John Baldry's WBYW-89.9FM, Grand Rapids, Michigan; Ed & Jolene Bullard's KHKC 103.1-FM, Tupelo, Oklahoma; Trudy Burke's WYN-88.9-FM, Australia; Alex Pijen's 107.9FM, Holland; J.E. Pratos' 106.8FM, France; Bente Kyed's 105-FM, Denmark; Ron Miller's 88.1FM, New Zealand; Rein Wortelboer's 102.6FM, The Netherlands; Dan Hansen's 90.6FM, Denmark; Buddy Max's WKIQ-FM, Lecanto, Florida, and Bart Plantenga's "Wreck This Mess" 88.3 Radio Patapoe, Amsterdam, and Meredith Beal's KCLW-AM in Hamilton, Texas to mention a few.
His press coverage has ranged from the smallest Country Music Newsletters to the Washington Post. Including Hard Country Beat, Bluebird Country News, Songwriters Monthly, Entertainment News, Tradition, The Forum, Country Tradition, Rural Music News, Country Illustrated, Sharing & Caring, Alabama Songwriters Guild, Country Plus, Manvel Opry Newsletter, The Alvin Advertiser, Country Note Connection, Artists & Writers Fellowship, Country Music Trails Less Traveled, The Old Towne Crier, Lorton Valley Star, the questionable Marquis' Who's Who? and various internet sites.
A major musical highlight for Mike was his inclusion in two of Pamela E. Foster's anthologies about African Americans in Country Music. Her 1998 "My Country, The African Diaspora's Country Music Heritage" [ISBN-0-9662680-0-8 hardback] [ISBN-0-9662680-1-6 soft cover] and her 2000 "My Country Too, The Other Black Music."[ISBN-0-9662680-2-4 paperback] These most definitive studies with their detailed discographies chronicle African-American involvement in Country Music from its origins and development to the present. Pamela is a Pulitzer Prize Nominee and one of Nashville's well-known and respected Award-winning Journalists. She also teaches at the University of Tennessee and her books are available from Borders Books. They are also part of the Recorded Sound Reference Division's collection at the Library of Congress.
In the spring of 2003 Mike's song "Hank Sang Mostly Sad Songs" debuted on Dustin Hunt's CD Album "The Man, The Music, The Legend, A Tribute To Hank." This was in return for Mike's mastering to CD, the analog tracks of Dustin Hunt's "An Echo From The Past...A Tribute To Hank" Cassette Album.[#TMTM1170]
In September 2003, Mike mastered to CD, the analog tracks of six Michael T. Wall Cassette Albums;
1."The Singing Newfoundlander, 20 Greatest Hits"
2."Introducing Michael T. Wall"
3."On Stage With Molly And Me"
4."More Michael T. Wall"
5."Sing Along With Michael T. Wall"
6."500 Years Ago, Michael T. Wall."
In late November 2003 everything came to a sudden halt when three neck vertebrae collapsed on his spinal cord. He was treated at the Veterans Hospital in Washington D.C. and underwent surgery in January 2004 at the Veterans Hospital in Baltimore, Maryland. On 27 September 2004, Mike's mother died at the age of 75, following a two-year bout with brain tumors.
After almost two years of immobility and rehabilitation, Mike began showing physical signs of improvement. Warned by his Neurologists that his nerve damage will repair at it's own pace and not his, he has been coping.
Mike will soon enter the annuals of Yodeling History in Bart Plantenga's forthecoming, 2nd yodeling book, "Yodel In Hi-Fi!" which will also include a chapter on America's neglected Black Cowboys. Bart's 2004 Best Seller "Yodel-Ay-Ee-Oooo, The Secret History of Yodeling Around The World," [ISBN-0-415-93990-9] the most definitive study on the subject, traces the yodel's origins to many cultures around the globe, and forever lays to rest the long miss-held Swiss origins myth. Bart is a native of The Netherlands and his book is also available from Borders Books. Mike has an autographed copy and is anxiously awaiting the release of Bart's new book.
On 7 May 2005 Mike dared to go to the Bowery Poetry Club in New York City to participate in the last leg of Bart's 2nd U.S. Yodel book promotion tour and perform with Yodeling Randy Erwin and Lynn Book before an audience of highly enthusiastic yodeling fans. Wisely he took the Greyhound instead of driving his pickup truck. He was particularly elated that he suffered only minor hand tension and no major fatigue or nerve-center setbacks. A video of this show is available from Roughshod Records.
Mike's yodeling song "Yeah, I'm A Cowboy" is one of 18 yodeling songs featured on the "Rough Guide To Yodel" Compilation CD, [RGNET1174CD] a project instigated by Bart Plantenga. Some of the world famous Yodelers included on this release are Carolina Cotton, Janet McBride, and Kenny Roberts. It was released on 25 September 2006 by the London based World Music Network. www.worldmusic.net/catalogue/world.html
Mike's collection of 8 short stories, "El Latigo, A Little Known Legend Of The Tijuana Jail and Other Stories" [ISBN-1-4241-3379-3] was released on 26 July 2006 and is now available from several online sites, like Amazon.com, Borders.com, and Alibris.com, in the United States, France, and Germany.
The title story, "El Latigo" takes place in early 1967. Mike and some of his Navy buddies go fishing in Ensenada, Mexico and on the way back they stop off in "TJ" Tijuana, Mexico and get a bit rowdy. And the Mexican Policia get rowdy back! In the story, "Subic Bay Broncs" Mike encounters and rides some very interesting horseflesh at the Subic Bay Riding Stables tucked away in the jungle foothills on the Philippine Island Navy Base. Several other stories involve camping, fishing, hunting, and a campfire resolution with a friend to survive Vietnam. In short, young Mike was never a "couch potato!"
Self-publishing his literary works since 1977 Mike spent much of 2005 and 2006 re-editing these earlier works "Reflections," "The Leopard's Cub," and a "Real Live Country Song" for re-release, and "Memories Die Hard" and "What The Jungle Saw" for release in the near future.
In March 2005 Mike was given a Tribute Page on the website of his friend, Janet McBride, the current Queen Of The Yodelers, which he kept for about a year. Both Janet and Mike performed on the 1999 and 2000 Sonny Rodgers' Yodelers Paradise Show at the Old-Time Country Music Festival in Avoca, Iowa. Both of these shows are available on video from Roughshod Records.
Sonny passed away in July 2001. He toured the country promoting and preserving the legacy of Jimmie Rodgers, yodeling, and traditional music in general. Janet, a personal friend of the late Patsy Montana, has been performing for more than 50 years, including on the stage of the Grand Ole Opry. Her song "A Yodeling Addiction" is on the "Rough Guide To Yodel" compilation CD.
In June 2006, Mike Johnson celebrated his 60th birthday. And to prove that he still yodel with the best of them, he and his super-picking buddy, Jeff Seidel performed at the Capitol Theater in Old Town, Alexandria, Va.
In July 2006 Mike released "Music By Mike" a CD single using his original Globe Studio tracks to present the instrumental versions of two of his early popular songs, "Little Boys And Doggies" and "Please Don't Squeeze The Charmin." In response to popular demand and "site hits" for the Charmin song, it was released as the title cut on a CD Single in July 2008.
August 2006 produced two releases. The first was Mike's ultimate yodeling album, "Mike Johnson Yodeling 40 Years" This 2-disc 50-song CD takes you on a journey from Mike's yodel beginnings to the accomplished yodeler he has become through studio recordings, live performances, and demo sessions.
The second was a Roughshod Records Special Project release of "Frank Hunter, The Lonesome Yodeler."
Another project still in the wings and making some small progress, is a Mike Johnson Art Exhibit featuring some of his many acrylics, pastels, pen & inks, and watercolors. Unfortunately this first love has taken a back seat to his other endeavors. But there's hope yet. At least some of them are presented in his literary works.
During his post-surgery recovery Mike hosted the Saturday night Open Mic at the Coffee House of Occoquan in Occoquan, Virginia for about a year. In the summer of 2005 his long-time music friend, Brenda Weitzel, passed her M/C spot over to him and he relinquished hosting in September 2006 to pursue other matters.
Sponsored by Coffee House owner, Linda Caldwell, the "Friendliest Open Mic in Northern Virginia" runs from 6pm to 10:30pm during the summer months, and attracts a variety of talent from miles around. Take I-95 to the Route 123 North Exit [next one from Woodbridge] and follow Rte. 123 to the light at the Occoquan River bridge. Turn left and go to the first Stop Sign. The white house on the opposite left-corner facing you is where's its all happening. Come on down and pick some!
On 15 March 2007 the Library of Congress in Washington, DC, confirmed the placement of Mike's Yodel Song Archives [114 yodeling songs] and related material, in the Recorded Sound Reference Center's permanent music collection of the Library's Motion Picture, Broadcasting, and Recorded Sound Division. This includes 3-CDs; "Black Yodel No.1" "Did You Hug Your Mother Today?" and "Yodeling 40 Years"; two DVDs of some of his live performances, 114 yodeling song lyrics, a color portrait, and a 46-page biography featuring nevr before published information about Mike's early life and formative years, with photographs and his music discography.
The 30 March 2007 Issue of Big-Mag #1, a Netherlands publication, featured Mike in a 5-page article [with 3 color photographs] written by Bart Plantenga. Mike has since been the subject of several of Bart's yodel-book lectures, complete with a PowerPoint Slide Show presentation with readings from the magazine article and other background notes.
In July 2007 came the CD single "The Wall" a Tribute to Vietnam Veterans. There is a video version of this song on Mike's Youtube Channel.
In December 2007, Mike completed more CD albums. The first was "To Monna, The Rose of My Heart" featuring five songs written by the late Big John Baldry for his wife Monna, and two songs written by the late Ray Jones about Big John, the King of the Indie DJs. Jones sings all of the songs on album. Mike received the original tape personally from Big John back in 1994, and had negotiated with Monna to one day do something with it.
The second CD was Mike Johnson's Guitar Songs Volume 4 "You Never Got To Sing My Songs." This project was a long over due tribute to Miller, who is Mike's songwriting idol, bar none. He had no boundaries and no subject was off limits. Mike poured over many of his songs many, many times seeking out the ones that would best demonstrate the diversity, originality, and spontaneity that he learned from Roger Miller. So far, the feedback says that he's hit his mark. The "Your Old Lady Strut" features some Mike Johnson harmony yodeling.
In February 2008 Guitar Songs Vol. 5 "Bad Whiskey, Bad Sex, and Bad Men" was released. Mike returned to his favorite type of song. Beer-drinking, down-and-out, cheatin' heart songs. No yodel songs here, but are some blues flavored ones, and a hint of rock and roll swirling around!
In March 2008 Mike completed his first Audio Book, REFLECTIONS, which incidentally was his very first self-published paperback book in 1977. This was in response to a suggestion from Derek at CD Baby over some digital rights issues Mike was having with the publisher of his book, "El Latigo, A Little Known Legend of the Tijuana Jail" that he put the book on CD and sell it on CD Baby.
In early 2012 Mike met a very multi-talented young musician name James Adelsberger. During the summer he got James to lay some tracks for a couple of his songs, and was very impressed at the way James interepreted his music. Those songs "Livin' Lost Love on the Jukebox Again" & "The Heartaches Are Callin" were released as a CD Single, Roughshod Records 41st. CD. Realizing what he had, Mike brought James on board Rougshod Records and released James' CD Single "Back Home Again" & "The Holy River" also a Single and available from CD Baby. James played all the instruments and mastered the tracks. "Holy River" includes the fiddling talents of his friend Michael Romans.
In December 2012 Mike published "I Just Wanted to Be A Songwriter, a Mike Johnson Music Anthology" a 390-page visual presentation of nearly everything from 1980 to December 2012 that has ever been printed, published and produced about, and by, Mike Johnson and his music. Mike and James' new CDs were also included in the CD section. The first copy was acquired by the Library of Congress Performing Arts Reading Room, their lasted addtion to their growing "Mike Johnson Collection." Also in December 2012, Bart Plantenga's follow-up book on the history of yodeling, "Yodel In HiFi" was published. It includes Mike Johnson on pages 30-31 and a number of photos that Mike had taken of other yodelers he's known.
Youtube has been a tremendous promotional platform for Mike. Having met so many wonderful and talented musicians over the years he decided that it would be a sin to keep them hidden away in a storage bin. We've since added over 400 videos, our newest ones featuring Mike & James in action. Click the "Mike Johnson Videos" link on the left. You might see someone you know. Might even be you!
So there you have it. Mike Johnson! Man of many hats, but always Mike Johnson!
Joe Arnold, Roughshod Records
MIKE JOHNSON DISCOGRAPHY: For detailed information click the "Mike Johnson's Website" link.
45 RPMs: Out of Print
1981: King Of The Fish & Please Don't Squeeze The Charmin
1985: Hooked On Rodeo & I Hear Her Words Ringing
1983: Mike Johnson's Guitar Songs Vol.1
1986: I Believe In Roy Rogers
1987: Did You Hug Your Mother Today?
1993: Black Yodel No.1 The Song The Songwriter
1994: Did You Hug Your Mother Today? & Little Boys and Doggies
1995: Just A Nobody & Always For You
1995: Take Time Out & Snakes Don't Sleep On A Hot Rock
1995: As Long As There Is Music & Black Yodel No.1
1999: Black Yodel No.1, The Song The Songwriter
1999: Did You Hug Your Mother Today?
2000: Country Classics Radio DJ Special [Special Project]
2001: Yodeling McDonald Craig [Special Project]
2001: Mike Johnson's Guitar Songs Vol.1, "1983 Collector's Classic"
2002: Mike Johnson's Guitar Songs Vol. 2 "Some Old Demo Sessions"
2002: Mike Johnson Live! includes Hall of Fame induction and performances in different places
2002: Three Country Music Yodelers, Who Just Happen To Be Black! [Special Project]
2004: Roughshod Records CD Sampler #1
2007: Mike Johnson * Yodeling 40 Years [2-Disc Set-50-tracks]
2007: Frank Hunter, The Lonesome Yodeler [Special Project]
2007: Mike Johnson's Guitar Songs Vol. 3 "The Heartaches Are Calling"
2007: Big John Baldry King of the Indie DJs "To Monna, The Rose of My Heart"
2007: Mike Johnson's Guitar Songs Vol. 4 "You Never Got To Sing My Songs" A Tribute To Roger Miller.
2008: Mike Johnson's Guitar Songs Vol. 5 "Bad Whiskey, Bad Sex, And Bad Men"
2008: Mike Johnson's Guitar Songs Vol. 6 "Just Plain Yodeling
2008: Mike Johnson's Guitar Songs Vo. 7 "Silly & Sentimental Songs?"
2008: Songs For All Ages
2009: Roughshod Records CD Sampler #2
2010: Mike Johnson & Freddie the Swedish Fiddler
2010: Mike Johnson Live! at the Songsmith in Washington DC
2010: Mike Johnson Live! at Whitey's in Arlington Va.
2010: Mike Johnson Live! at Royal Lee's Deli in Arlington Va.
2010: Mike Johnson Live! at the Tucson Cafe & Southwest Tavern in Washington DC
2000: 20th Anniversary Issue; King Of The Fish & Please Don't Squeeze The Charmin
2001: Take Time Out & Little Boys And Doggies
2001: Let's Take It Easy & Did You Hug Your Mother Today? [Piano solo by Thanh Bui]
2002: Hooked On Rodeo & I Can't Believe I'm Fallin'
2003: Your Cheatin' Heart & He Stopped Loving Her Today [Special Project]
2004: 17th Anniversary: Did You Hug Your Mother Today? & If This Old Tree Could Talk
2004: 2004 Mother's Day Special; Did You Hug Your Mother Today?
2004: Sammy & Me And My Friend Jim
2004: Here's To Jim And Tammy & You Scratch My Back
2004: Pictures On The Wall & Pigtails And Bubblegum
2004: King Of The Road & I Walk The Line [Special Project]
2006: Music By Mike: Little Boys And Doggies & Please Don't Squeeze The Charmin [original soundtracks]
2007: The Wall, A Tribute To Vietnam Veterans
2008: Please Don't Squeeze The Charmin & Snakes Don't Sleep On A Hot Rock
2009: Yeah I'm A Cowboy CD-Sheet Music Folio
2012: Livin' Lost Love on the Jukebox Again & The Heartaches Are Callin'
2012: Back Home Again & The Holy River - featuring James Adelsberger
2012: Roughshod Records CD Sampler #3 "Livin' Lost Love on the Jukebox Again"
2012: Roughshod Records CD Sampler #4 "Back Home Again" [James Adelsberger]
***Roughshod Records Special Projects are promotional releases and NOT FOR SALE***
MIKE JOHNSON SONGS ON OTHER RELEASES:
BJD Wishing Away Radio Promotion Compilation CDs: 1990s
CD #15 "Sammy" Track No.9
CD #18 "Did You Hug Your Mother Today?" Track No.8
CD #21 "Yeah I'm A Cowboy" Track No.19
"Hank Sang Mostly Sad Songs" Track No.2
(C)2003 Dustin Hunt Music * HANK, THE MAN THE MUSIC, THE LEGEND * #TMTM1170
"Yeah I'm a Cowboy" Track No.14
(C)2006 World Music Network * ROUGH GUIDE TO YODEL * #RGNET1174CD *
Copyright 2013 Roughshod Records * All Rights Reserved