The Rockin’ Johnny Band has been one of Chicago’s most loved blues bands since 1995. Their music has been played on WXRT’s “Local Anaesthetic” and “Blues Breakers” radio shows, the band has often been featured at The Chicago Blues Festival, and they regularly work in Chicagoland’s best blues clubs such as Buddy Guy’s Legends. Their CDs and live performances have drawn great reviews in Living Blues, The Chicago Sun Times, Pioneer Press, and National Public Radio’s “848”.
Guitarist Johnny Burgin came to Chicago from South Carolina to attend the University of Chicago, and earned the name “Rockin’ Johnny” as a DJ at the college radio station WHPK. Rockin’ Johnny began playing in the ghetto clubs of Chicago’s West Side with blues singer Taildragger, and then began touring nationally as a sideman with former Howlin’ Wolf drummer Sam Lay and blues piano legend Pinetop Perkins.
After learning from the masters, he put his own band together. Things started happening for the Rockin’ Johnny Band after they took a Monday night residency at The Smoke Daddy in Chicago’s Wicker Park neighborhood. Their original, energetic approach soon made them a strong local draw week after week and year after year, bringing in blues aficionados, every musician in town, and a younger crowd that normally didn’t go to hear blues bands. The atmosphere the band generated was so electric, that Delmark Records offered them a contract after hearing just one set. This was especially exciting because the prestigious Chicago label is revered by blues aficionados as the home of Junior Wells and Johnny’s idol, Magic Sam!
Since those days, they’ve regularly toured Europe, played festivals and headlined clubs all over the Midwest. The Rockin’ Johnny Band has recorded five CDs including “Grim Reaper”, released in April of 2012. A true “musician’s musician”,Rockin’ Johnny has been one of Chicago’s most in-demand blues session men since the 90s, contributing his incisive playing to over a dozen CDs by artists such as Billy Boy Arnold, Jimmy Burns, Tail Dragger, Little Arthur Duncan, Paul DeLay and many more.
The Rockin’ Johnny Band plays vintage Chicago blues, but also is known for a wide repertoire which ventures into Stax style soul, swing, and lots of originals that are harder to classify. On stage, the band performs with spontaneity and fun, always showcasing fantastic guitar playing. Living Blues states: “top notch ensemble work, with power, drive, and a keen sense of dynamics”. The band consists of true veterans: Rick Kreher (rhythm guitar) played rhythm guitar with Muddy Waters for four years; John Sefner (bass) was formerly with Studebaker John and Eddie Kirkland; and Steve Bass (drums) also plays with Chicago blues legend Eddy Clearwater.
Here’s what some of Chicago’s most in the know critics and music business figures have to say about Rockin’ Johnny and The Rockin Johnny Band:
Bruce Iglauer, Alligator Records: “Rockin Johnny delivers the raw, rough-edged spirit of real Chicago blues”.
Dick Shurman, writer for Living Blues, blues producer: “Rockin’ Johnny has brought a refreshing jolt of talent, feeling and affirmation of the Windy City’s guitar tradition. Johnny has always been known as a crowd pleaser with rawness, drive, a tight band and a scholarly and musical mastery of the local blues repertoire and vocabulary. He’s extra interesting and distinctive because, instead of the overdone warhorses sometimes called “the set list from hell,” Johnny mines more obscure building blocks like Little Smokey Smothers, Hip Linkchain or Willie James Lyons, adding to his appeal to hard core purists as well as more casual lovers of powerful Chicago blues. It adds up to a winning combination of depth, a bite like the winter wind, tradition and an up-to-the minute wallop, and offers a guaranteed winner for all who see or book the band.