This is my comback recording issued in 2010. Ten years, later, "Now's the Time" is digitally available for the first time right here on Bandcamp. Here are the two original liner notes; one by myself and one by Dick Shurman.
At least for me, 10 in the morning is a little early for spumante, but recording engineer Mike Konopka, the band Rick, John and Rob and myself all had a toast before going on to record my first Rockin Johnny Band CD in ten years. Being at the helm of a great band, about to record the best of what we've been doing on the bandstand for the last year, deserves no less. So does my returning to my first life as a musician after 6 years of a marriage and divorce, working two jobs, not gigging whatsoever, and having no contact with the Chicago blues scene. My first go around started 20 years ago, learning on the bandstand from blues legends like Taildragger, Sam Lay, Pinetop Perkins, Billy Boy Arnold, Johnny B. Moore, Lurrie Bell and others, and then going on to tour, record and gain a Chicago club following with The Rockin Johnny Band. Incredibly, once I started again, I was able to pick up almost right where I left off, playing with a lot of the same people, being booked at the same clubs, playing to old fans and new ones and recording as a sideman and a leader. I got a lot of heartfelt "welcome backs" and I saw that a whole new crop of players were around, and that they all knew about me. It was also nice that my comeback was seen as newsworthy enough for an article in Holland's blues magazine BLOCK, which led a booking at a major European festival in June of 2010. All these bookings plus a slot at the 2010 Chicago Blues Festival with Mary Lane demanded a new CD, so I had to get busy right away! For this project, we started recording around 11 and we were done by about 5, and this CD is mostly from those 6 hours. I went back and resang two songs, and redid about 5 seconds of guitar, and brought in a great organ and piano player, bassist John Sefner's brother Greg Sefner, to fill out the sound and add flavor. Just for fun, I included a live track from the sessions for my last CD, "More Real Folk Blues", a little-played Wild Child Butler song called "Sweet Love", featuring Kenny Smith on drums and Sho Komiya on bass.
The newest incarnation of The Rockin Johnny Band sounds great. Rob Lorenz's style reminds me of Ashward Gates, and is all blues. I first heard Rob at Dave Myers' and Harmonica Hinds’ Monday after-work jam sessions at the old Checkerboard, and he's worked with me off and on ever since. Former Muddy Waters rhythm guitarist Rick Kreher put in a lot of years with me already, from about 1998-2002, and bassist John Sefner has done roadwork with Eddie Kirkland and Studebaker John, he always subbed for Sho during that time and was with the band during my tours in Europe. His brother Greg tours with Joe Moss and has a great touch. Ironically, I think the best thing I could have done for my playing and singing was to stop playing and singing. That first decade felt like a whirlwind love affair, but to go deeper into the music, I had to lose it for a while. I think my notes count for more, I can get right to my very best ideas and the best part of a song, and I feel liberated from the shadows of my idols: Magic Sam, Luther Tucker, Willie James Lyons, Jimmy Dawkins and so forth. Even if I'm playing in their style, or playing their songs, I don't feel like I'm playing it from memory or by rote. I'm just playing Chicago blues. I've come a long way and "covered a lot of space" to be where I am now, so here's the snapshot of where that is. I'll drink to that!
Dick Shurman's notes:
The word near the beginning of 2009 that Rockin’ Johnny was re-emerging after a self-imposed hiatus lasting most of the previous decade was a major winter brightener. It was unfortunate that Johnny was back with his bluesman’s card punched after some heavy domestic dues. But he’s been a worthy part of the Chicago blues scene from the get-go, and all the more so as the famed and lesser-known greats whose flame he keeps continue to dwindle, so his return has been a boost all around. It was clear from the start of his comeback that his skills, passion and commitment are undiminished, and his sense of self and place are enhanced if anything. Johnny always brought talents of his own (including some that “the men don’t know, but the little girls understand”) along with the ability to capture the stylistic nuances of his inspirations, and his encyclopedic knowledge of the blues tradition has enabled him to put emphasis on the unsung heroes of the (mostly Chicago) scene as well as the icons. So for his welcome “I’m back!” CD, we get two covers by Shreveport master Jesse Thomas (filtered through Magic Sam for the title track), instrumentals from Bobby King, Lowell Fulson and Son Seals, a cover of one of Luther Tucker’s most obscure outings, a nod to Eddie Taylor’s take on “Pink Champagne,” a tribute to one of Johnny’s favorites Willie James Lyons (who was highly regarded by his west side peers), “Little Red Rooster” given the Little Smokey Smothers guitar treatment, a couple of seldom resurrected T-Bone Walker songs with vocals right out of a demented day at the lavish Atomic H studios added to one (“Hippie Dance”), and a live version of a Jimmy Dawkins/Wild Child Butler collaboration, along with one of Buddy Guy’s classic slow blues also perfected by Lurrie Bell. Johnny’s own soul and touch bring consistency to the program, along with his band of stalwarts. NOW’S THE TIME is a stirring reminder of what we missed during Johnny’s absence, and hopefully the start of a lot more good things to come! — Dick Shurman
released June 1, 2010
Tracks 1-12: Guitar, Vc: Johnny Burgin. Rhythm Guitar: Rick Kreher. Drums: Rob Lorenz. Bass: John Sefner. Organ: Greg Sefner. Recorded, Mixed and Mastered at Thundertone Audio by Mike Konopka, February 2010. Track 13: Drums: Kenny Smith. Bass: Sho Komiya. Recorded live at Blues on Halsted, August 2000 by Mike Konopka at Metro Mobile. Cover artwork by Mauge Design, Chicago. Sandwich Shop photo by Toni Maugeri.
Johnny learned his craft in Chicago, touring and recording with many blues masters such as Pinetop Perkins, Billy Boy
Arnold, Sam Lay and Tail Dragger. Johnny performs close to 200 shows a year in Europe, Japan and coast to coast in the US. He was nominated for a BMA in 2018 for "Howlin' at Greaseland" and for a Blues Blast award for "Johnny Burgin Live" on Delmark records....more