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Johnny Shines – Blues Video of The Week

Johnny Shines – Blues Video of The Week

Johnny Shines mother taught him to play guitar at an early age.  As a child in Memphis, he played slide for change on the streets and in local jukes. His playing style was similar to the likes of Howlin’ Wolf, Blind Lemon Jefferson and Charley Patton.  He moved to Hughes, Arkansas, in 1932 and worked on farms for three years, putting aside his music career.  

A Chance Meeting with Robert Johnson

In 1935, Johnny Shines had a chance meeting with Robert Johnson. Johnson was his greatest influence and gave him the inspiration to return to music.  Shines began traveling with Johnson, touring in the United States and Canada. They parted in 1937, one year before Johnson’s death.  Shines continued to cover the South until the early ’40s.  In 1941, he moved to Chicago, where he cut recordings for major labels — Columbia and Chess — but the discs were never released. In 1952, he cut some songs for the J.O.B. label, which earned acclaim not only for his fleet guitar work, but a growing emotional singing style. Sick of failing to make money, he sold his equipment and went back to construction work.

The Chicago Blues All-Stars

A Vanguard Records representative found Shines shooting photos at a Chicago blues show and asked him to cut songs for an album that brought him to the forefront of the blues. In the late ‘60s and ‘70s, Shines toured with Lockwood, Willie Dixon, Lee Jackson and Big Walter Horton as a package called the “Chicago Blues All-Stars.”  This group also included Lee Jackson, Big Walter Horton and Willie Dixon.  Worried about raising his kids and grandkids in an urban environment, he moved them all to Holt in 1969. He continued to play, both solo, as part of a duet, or with larger bands.

In the late 1960s and 1970s, Shines toured with Robert Lockwood, Jr., Robert Johnson’s stepson, one of the last living original Delta blues musicians. A disc he and Lockwood cut, “Hangin’ On,” was nominated for a Grammy in 1980.  Later in 1980, Shines’ career was brought to a standstill when he suffered a stroke. He later appeared and played in the 1991 documentary “The Search for Robert Johnson.” His final album, Back to the Country, with accompaniment by Snooky Prior and Johnny Nicholas, won a W. C. Handy Award.  In 1989, Shines met Kent DuChaine, and the two of them toured for the next several years, until Shines’ death. 

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