THE WHISTLING WILLIE STORY
WHISTLING WILLIE has a past. Keith “WHISTLING WILLIE” Johnson was a member of the legendary Paul Butterfield Blues Band and can be seen on
The Complete Monterey Pop Festival DVD and WOODSTOCK: The Lost Sessions, as well as heard on the band’s classic albums: The Resurrection of Pigboy Crabshaw, In My Own Dream, & Keep on Movin’. Then joining Van Morrison’s band, he contributed horn charts and organ on Van’s hit, Domino and the album Street Choir. The next gig turned into twelve years with Etta James (“She’s my hero!”) as trumpet player, arranger, bandleader, co-producer, co-writer, and keyboard player appearing on the albums Deep in the Night and Live in San Francisco. Along the way, his work appears on albums produced by John Lennon, Bob Marley, Todd Rundgren, Allen Toussaint, Jerry Wexler, Tim Hardin, Joe Walsh, Canned Heat, Bill Frenzer and others including All Day Sucker.
Review by George DeLaNuez:
The Whistler delivers. Diners, Friends and Club Members at LaVaLee in Studio City were treated to a seminal performance by the quartet known as Whistling Willie.
Whistling Willie sauntered up to the Hammond Organ, hit the keys and the room was washed in beautiful rich sound. Backed by a crack drummer and bass
player with lead guitar sensibilities, the organ and the lead guitar sparred, hugged and danced together through the set. Interspersed throughout, Whistling Willie delivered his often humorous observations on love, life and vegetables, while the audience grooved, giving the intimate club the feeling as W.W. said of Greenwich Village in N.Y. in 1954, opening for Billie Holiday. Funny, that’s what I was thinking too.
WW was generous with the spotlight, allowing bandmates numerous well deserved solos and pairings with the Hammond.
Especially enjoyable was the drummer’s first solo, where he stood up to play a Nigerian talking drum, wet our appetites with the beginnings of what was definitely going to be interesting, only to puncture the drumhead with the stick. Not one to disappoint, sat down immediately to complete his solo on the battery, not missing a beat with the band right there with him.
WW will play again locally, and this being one of their first public performances, consider yourself lucky to be in on the ground floor of a soon to grow following.