(born July 1, 1936)
Born Sylvester Thompson in Holly Springs, Mississippi, Johnson sang and played with blues artists Magic Sam, Billy Boy Arnold, Junior Wells and Howlin' Wolf in the 1950s, before recording with Jimmy Reed for Vee-Jay in 1959. He made his solo debut that same year with Federal, a subsidiary of King Records of Cincinnati, backed by Freddie King on guitar. He then began recording for Twinight Records of Chicago in the mid-1960s. Beginning with his first hit, "Come On Sock It to Me" in 1967, Johnson dominated the label as both a hit maker and producer. In 1971, Willie Mitchell brought Johnson to Hi Records, the two recording three albums which spawned a number of singles. Produced in Memphis with the Hi house band, these yielded the hits "We Did It", "Back for a Taste of Your Love" and "Take Me to the River", his biggest success, reaching Number 7 on the R&B chart in 1975. However, at Hi Records, Johnson was always to some extent in Al Green's shadow commercially, if not artistically. Mitchell also chose to use mainly in-house material rather than Johnson originals.] After the Hi years ended, Johnson produced two LPs for his own Shama label, the latter of which (Ms. Fine Brown Frame, 1982) was picked up for distribution by Boardwalk Records and produced Johnson's last hit record, the title cut. Around the mid-1980s, Johnson started a fast-food fish restaurant business, semi-retired from performing and only making occasional appearances at blues club gigs. He made a comeback in the music industry in 1994, releasing the album Back in the Game on Delmark Records. The album featured the Hi rhythm section and his youngest daughter Syleena Johnson.