(November 25, 1928)
Jimmy Johnson was born James Earl Thompson in Holly Springs, Mississippi. Several of Johnson's brothers had careers in music, among them are soul musician Syl Johnson and Magic Sam bassist Mack Thompson. In his younger years, he played piano and sang in gospel groups. He and his family moved to Chicago in 1950, where he worked as a welder and played guitar in his spare time. He began playing professionally with Slim Willis in 1959, changing his last name to Johnson like his brother Syl. As a guitarist he was influenced by both Buddy Guy and Otis Rush and he played with Freddy King, Albert King, Magic Sam and Eddy Clearwater among others. In the 1960s he played more R&B music, working with Otis Clay, Denise LaSalle, and Garland Green. He also had his own group from the early 1960s, and by the late 1960s he had released his first single. By 1974 he had returned to blues playing, working with Jimmy Dawkins and touring Japan with Otis Rush in 1975. His first solo material appeared on Alligator Records and Delmark Records in 1978-79, when he was fifty years old. He was an award-winner at the first Blues Music Awards held in Memphis in November 1980. His career continued to pick up until December 2, 1988, when his touring van crashed in Indiana, killing his keyboardist St. James Bryant and bassist Larry Exum. Johnson was injured and took an extended hiatus from the music industry, but returned to record for Verve Records in 1994. In 2002, he recorded with his brother, Syl. He remains active, touring Europe in 2009, playing both the UK as well as Copenhagen Blues Festival in Denmark.