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“I've been workin' hard all day”... Stacey Johnson...50 years of the Blues
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By MissVickie@stlblues.net

Where were you 50 years ago? A gleam in someone's eye? Were your parents rockin' and rollin'? 1958-1959, Stacey Johnson was a rambunctious young man of 13 years. That's putting it mildly! But who wasn't at that age, during that time of explosive music and energy. My piece today will try to encompass the history of the music and the city of ST. Louis during the memorable years of soul, rythym and blues, and blues music. Stacey Johnson celebrated his 63rd birthday April 13, 2008. His career transcends 50 years from age 13 to the present. Let's take a walk down memory lane, shall we?

1958-1959 What was happenin'? Well, what wasn't happenin? I recently saw an album cover that had many artists of that era. It was a compilation album put together in 1989, featuring Clayton Love, Fontella Bass, Bennie Smith, Oliver Sain and many others. Album notes were written by Bill Greensmith in 1988. This is 2008 and we are STILL enamoored by that period of music. WHY?

Let me just drop a few names from that time period....Bennie Smith, Clayton Love, Fontella Bass, Little Milton, Oliver Sain, Earl Gibson, Bennie Sharp, Robbie Montgomery, Ike and Tina Turner, Chuck Berry, Johnnie Johnson, Eugene Neal, Albert King, Big George Brock, and Little Stacey Johnson. (LOL) And let's not forget the Beatles! (LOL)
What do you think ticket prices would be today to hear them all on stage?

"I was born in late 1958. I started listening to music in-vitro. My dad and his brothers were musicians, so music was in our house all of the time. I liked to listen to KXOK in the'60's.
What was going on with this extraordinary list of musicians back then? Sit back and I'll tell you as best I can...

The Superiors (Stacey Johnson, Morris Henderson, Eddie Brooks, Eddie Madlock, Mike Cooks, Robert Orns, and John Pearson) were playing back then. “I wanted to be in a Man's world”, says Stacey when he was just 13 yrs of age. Earl Gibson was with the Ink Spots and Bennie Smith was teaching all of the youngsters how to play the blues. They really looked up to Bennie. Herbert Reese, Vernon Guy, and Stacey Johnson played with Bennie Sharp and the Sharpies. Robbie Montgomery was an Ikette in 1961. Bob Kuban and the Rythym Masters, Oliver Sain and the Soul Review, and The Sharpies played high school dances and YMCA church dances. History recalls them as the “St. Louis Sound”. In those days you heard a lot of horns. Later on, the music and sounds of Chuck Berry and Ike Turner were imitated. In Stacey's eyes, these men were ordinary people “just big as giants”. But at that time in Stacey's life, he was “too old for his britches”. He spent some time in Boonville before he realized he needed to make some changes. He was lucky to hook up with Bennie Sharp. Stacey played with Bennie and co-wrote “Remove These Doubts” and ”Loving Is Wrong” with Vernon Guy. Robbie Montgomery left Ike. The Ikettes sang with Bennie Sharp, then went back to Ike and ”Raved” about the guys that Bennie had in his band,. One night, Stacey was playing with Albert King and Big George Brock. Vernon Guy came running up to Stacey and was very excited. ”Come on, Man! Ike wants to take us on his tour!” Stacey went on the road with Ike Turner. Ike recorded some songs at Technosonics in St. Louis located at Olive and Grand. This was the place to go for good sound! It was State of the Art for that time period. Some of this music may not have hit top charts, but it's outstanding all the same."

When Stacey was about 18-19 yrs old, he left Ike's band in Los Angelas and got married. While Stacey was kicking around the “marriage thing”, Little Milton was in Chicago recording with Chess Records. Fontella Bass was his lead singer in the band. Morris Henderson recorded with the Voice Masters. You were “cool” if you had Bob Kuban or Oliver Sain play at your school. Then there was the Beatles. (LOL) You can see how much fun everyone was having back then with all of this great music. Can you imagine hangin' out at Bennie's house and learnin' how to Jam!? WOW! I'm jealous! Thank goodness for 45's! (LOL) Do you remember the “B” sides? (LOL)

Stacey recorded “Consider Yourself” with Ike's band after Ike called Stacey to come back to St. Louis to record on his own label, Sony. That song made the charts and was a big hit! Ike recorded on the Sony label and the Tina label with Stacey and Vernon Guy. During the times with Bennie Sharp and Ike Turner, Stacey learned a great deal. He learned to sing with Bennie Sharp. He learned professionalism with Ike Turner.

Let's move ten or so years ahead, now. Stacey's been back in St. Louis about ten years or so and runs into Skeet Rogers over in Venice, Il. (OMG!) (SMILE) (Good Ole Skeet!) (LOL) Skeet was playing with Charles Hunt and the Ground Floor Band. Stacey was there to fill in for Vernon Guy, who was double booked that night. Skeet had heard of Stacey, but this was a “first time” hook up for Stacey with Skeet. “We tested each others knowledge that night!”, laughs Stacey. “He was and still is a very accomplished singer.” How grand is it to be a part of someone's new blues experiences and not know at the time that they will become one of St. Louis' great blues performers, today. Stacey has been around for some time now, and not only has the memories of “back then”, but is given the opportunity to experience so many decades of the blues while it is still evolving..and while you yourself are still evolving!

By now, Stacey has been writing songs. He started in the early '60's for Vernon Guy. He wrote and co-wrote many songs with Bennie Sharp and The Sharpies. His influences can be heard today with his band, Broadway Rythym. Here's a taste of what Stacey has to offer :

“I've been workin' hard all day,
Haven't got a dime.
The more I try to get ahead,
The further I fall behind.
Every time I wanna go left,
Somebody says go right,
I'm fightin' an uphill battle
Everyday and night.
But I don't think I'll be able to do it,
Take the towel and throw it in,
I don't think I'll be able to do it,
Do I have to say it again!
Now I'm tryin' to get there,
From point A to Z,
But everybody keep tellin' me that
I forgot about B!
But I'm lookin' at the long range picture,
I don't have the time,
'cause C is gonna zoom me ahead
and B is gonna get me behind!”

Somebody sign this guy up!!!

Stacey Johnson likes himself. So do I. So do many others in this industry. Through living life, he has learned many valuable lessons. This is good, because not all of us do. I'm very happy for Stacey Johnson, today. He's been through some turbulent times, not only in his life, but in his music, and the industry as a whole. He's married to his second wife, Andelene, for 9 years and they are very happy. Stacey is “at home” with his soul-mate and his music. “I'm doing what I love to do,” says Stacey Johnson. “I want to leave a legacy of good music.” “I want to set the stage on fire!”

I love the great history that this city has to offer. The buildings, the people, and the music, most of all! Robbie Montgomery owns two restaurants, one in Ferguson and one in “The Grove” called Sweetie's Pie Restaurant. Stacey's playin' around town. We've lost Bennie Smith, Little Milton, Johnnie Johnson, and many more. But look at who all we have the opportunity to see now and watch grow in to the next blues legends...Alvin Jett and the Phat Noiz Blues Band played at BB's for an American Heart Association Benefit, recently. Rich McDonough came up on stage and Jammed with Alvin Jett. Two great St. Louis guitar masters on stage together trading licks. How AWESOME is that! They blew the crowd away that night! At Stacey's birthday party celebration, you saw the likes of Art Dwyer, Tom Maloney, Marty Abdulla, Kirk “Dr. Drum” Grice, Earl Gibson, John Anderson, to name a few.

I love when the music community comes out to see their own! The Soulard Blues Band still plays one of the Sharpies greatest hits, “Do the 45.” We're still mixin' it up here in Ole St. Lou. Kinda makes ya proud, don't it?

Stacey's band, Broadway Rythym consists of Michael Aguirre, vocals and guitar, Quinton on drums, Eugene Johnson on bass and vocals, Mark Hewitt on sax, and John Henderson on guitar. This great line up backs up Stacey Johnson at BB's on Tuesday nights. Check out BB's website for dates and times. www.bbsjazzbluessoups.com

Michael Aguirre is up and coming in this industry. He never played “soft” before he started with Stacey Johnson. Stacey's “Old School” and plays to that sound. Mike has accomplished another ring of his talent with this band. I spoke with Mike at Stacey's birthday for this interview. It will be 42 more years before he makes it “50” years in this biz. He'll be older than Stacey is now! A lot of guys will be older than 63 before they see “50” in this biz!

MV: “So Mike, how do you like being the “Baby” and playing with Stacey Johnson now?”
MA: “I Love It!” I started out in East St. Louis and North St. Louis and dives and to be here at BB's is a blessing!” “Awesome! Sums it all up!”
MV: “Are you learning anything?”
MA: “I'm gonna learn everything I can!” “There's a lot of great talent here tonight for Stacey's birthday and I'm gonna soak it all in!”

Michael Aguirre is a prime example of the “newest” blues stars that this city has to offer. He plays with his own band in Illinois called “New Rising Son”, he sits in with Marquise Knox, another young rising star, and the Rockin' Jake Band when Jake comes into town. He has been a fabulous alternative for John May and the Cryin' Shame Blues Band. No one can replace Tony T. God rest his soul!

Stacey enjoys having Mike in the band and likes the role of “Mentor”. I encourage you all to keep listening to the blues sound here in our great city and give our talent it's due!

My thanks to Stacey Johnson for his time and to Michael Aguirre for his comments. I also like to thank my historian, Charlie Taylor.

Check out the Bennie Smith interview at www.stlblues.net/smith.html

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