Get this crazy baby off my head!


Johnny Heartsman

Johnny Heartsman - Sacramento - 1987 - CrossCut

"One of the last great West Coast bluesmen... Heartsman's blues was chock full of greasy jazz and sophisticated soul." - Nick Dedina

The blues world is full of shadowy figures, names known only from discographies and from the recollections of better-known artists. Johnny Heartsman was one of those shadowy figures. The veteran Bay Area bluesmen spoke about him with awe. They talked about a man who played on literally hundreds of 45s from the mid-1950s until the late 1960s. They talked about a man who was a master of both guitar and keyboards, a fine horn arranger and subtle vocalist. Johnny had played on sessions with Al King, Jimmy Wilson, Johnny Fuller, Tiny Powell and dozens of others. He had toured with Jimmy McCracklin and Joe Simon. But in 1967, after the breakup of his marriage, Johnny left his home base in Oakland and, for all practical purposes, disappeared. Heartsman never stopped playing though, and occasionally appeared at a club or festival, sometimes cutting loose on organ or, however unlikely in the blues world, flute. His voice was at once mellow and rich, and he left an indelible stamp wherever he played. Johnny Heartsman continued to perform in Sacramento, on regular tours of Europe, and at various U.S. blues festivals until his death in December of 1996. © HDtracks 2007 - 2009

A relatively obscure musician, the late Johnny Heartsman was a great vocalist and master multi-instrumentalist. "Sacramento" is a good example of Johnny Heartsman's unique blues, jazz, and soul sound. Had he lived, this guy would have produced some classic recordings. Although "Sacramento" is a good album, his "Made in Germany [live]" is a tremendous display of the guy's talents, and is an album you will never tire of


1 It Takes One to Know One
2 Garbage Can Woman
3 Poor Me
4 Silky Pete
5 Train, Train Blues
6 Sweet Frisco Blues
7 Worried About My Baby
8 Crying Guitar Blues
9 Put the Finger in It
10 It Must Be Love
11 Griff

All tracks composed by Johnny Heartsman, except "Train, Train Blues" by Bob Geddin


Johnny Heartsman - Guitar, Fender Bass, Hammond B-3, Vocals
Rex Kline - Drums
Garry Wiggins - Tenor Sax. on Tracks 4, & 9


Shaven-headed Johnny Heartsman did so many musical things so well that he's impossible to pigeonhole. His low-moaning lead guitar work greatly distinguished a myriad of Bay Area blues recordings during the '50s and '60s, and still played his axe with delicious dexterity and dynamics into the '90s. But Heartsman was just as likely to cut loose on organ or blow a titillating solo on flute (perhaps the unlikeliest blues instrument imaginable). He possessed a mellow, richly burnished voice to boot. Through one of his principal influences, guitarist Lafayette "Thing" Thomas, a teenaged Heartsman hooked up with Bay Area producer Bob Geddins. Heartsman played bass on Jimmy Wilson's 1953 rendition of "Tin Pan Alley," handling guitar or piano at other Geddins-supervised dates. He cut his own two-part instrumental, the "Honky Tonk"-inspired "Johnny's House Party," for Ray Dobard's Music City imprint and watched it become a national R&B hit in 1957. The early '60s brought a lot more session work — Heartsman played on Tiny Powell's "My Time After Awhile" (soon covered by Buddy Guy) and Al King's remake of Lowell Fulson's "Reconsider Baby." By then, Heartsman's imaginative twiddling of the volume knob with his finger to produce an eerie moan had become his guitaristic trademark. Stints in show bands, jazzy cocktail lounge gigs, and a stand as soul singer Joe Simon's trusty organist came prior to the inauguration of Heartsman's edifying back-to-the-blues campaign. In 1991, Dick Shurman produced Heartsman's most satisfying set to date for Alligator, The Touch. He remained a versatile performer until is death in December of 1996. © Bill Dahl, allmusic.com


b. 9 February 1937, San Fernando, California, USA, d. 27 December 1996. Heartsman grew up in Oakland and became renowned as "one of the blues' most accomplished instrumentalists" (Dick Shurman). As a youngster he was inspired to play guitar by the music of T-Bone Walker, Pee Wee Crayton, and Lafayette Thomas. He quickly developed into a sought-after bandleader and studio musician. He recorded on guitar, bass, organ, and flute (he made his own first recordings in 1957 for the Music City label) and has played with a long list of west coast blues, R&B, and soul artists including Jimmy McCracklin, Joe Simon, Johnny Fuller, Jimmy Wilson, and Tiny Powell. Buddy Guy borrowed much of Heartsman's playing on his version of "My Time After Awhile". In 1976 Heartsman settled in Sacramento. He died following a heart attack in December 1996. © IPC MEDIA 1996-2009, All rights reserved