Smokestack Lightnin' Home Page -- The Blues Profile Page
Orville Johnson grew up in a small farming town in Illinois not far from the banks of the Mississippi river. His early playing career was focused around the St Louis MO music scene where he was exposed to and participated in a variety of blues, bluegrass, and American Roots music. He began singing in his Pentecostal church as a young boy, in rock bands during middle school, and then took up guitar and dobro at age 17 with early influences from Doc Watson, Mississippi John Hurt, Mike Auldridge, and Chuck Berry. His travels took him west to Colorado and California, south to New Orleans and Memphis and in the mid 1970s Orville spent several seasons playing on the SS Julia Belle Swain, a period piece Mississippi river paddlewheel steamboat plying the inland waterways.
He moved to Seattle WA in 1978 where he was a founding member of the legendary NW folk/rock group The Dynamic Logs and over the years has played with a diverse list of artists including Delaney and Bonnie Bramlett, John Hartford, Maria Muldaur, Richie Havens, Laura Love, blues artists John Cephas, Howard Armstrong, Sam Andrew (Big Brother and the Holding Company) and Mick Taylor (Rolling Stones). Johnson, known for his dobro and slide guitar stylings and soulful vocal acrobatics has guested on over 400 albums, appeared on Garrison Keillor's Prairie Home Companion, Jay Leno's Tonight Show and was featured in the 1997 film Georgia with Mare Winningham and Jennifer Jason-Leigh. He is also in demand as a teacher and author, writing for Acoustic Guitar and Fretboard Journal and teaching at prestigious workshops worldwide, including Euro Blues Week, International Guitar Seminar, Puget Sound Guitar Workshop and Guitar Intensives.
Johnson has several solo CDs to his credit. Blueprint for the Blues (1998), Slide & Joy (1999) an all-instrumental dobro tour de force, Freehand (2003), two CDs with Mark Graham as The Kings of Mongrel Folktm, 4 discs with the File' Gumbo Zydeco Band, albums with Laura Love, John Cephas and Woody Mann, Grant Dermody and John Miller, and appearances on slide guitar collections Legends of the Incredible Lap Steel and Southern Filibuster: a tribute to Tut Taylor. His music has been featured in soundtracks for PBS' Frontier House, movies The Wooly Boys and Georgia Rule and he also has several instructional DVDs available.