Guitarist Randy Johnston has been living and working in New York since 1981, playing guitar with some iconic jazz musicians: the late singer Etta Jones, tenor saxophonist Houston Person, legendary bebop alto saxophonist Lou Donaldson and just about every influential Hammond B-3 organist you can think of (Dr. Lonnie Smith, Jack McDuff, Jimmy McGriff, Shirley Scott, and Joey Defrancesco make up a partial list).
Johnston was born in Detroit but when he was thirteen moved with his family to his father’s home turf - Richmond, Virginia. According to his website bio, he felt like an outsider when he came to live here. He says he was beat up by other students for being a Yankee, but fought back by throwing himself into his music. This opened him up to meeting an entirely new community. Through high school he played in rock and soul bands and also worked with small jazz combos around the area. He eventually left to study music at the University of Miami and ultimately made the move to New York.
Three and a half decades after Johnston left, he’s still fondly remembered in Richmond. This month he was featured at the monthly guest educator concert that the Richmond Jazz Society presents at Capital Ale House. This was a show I was dying to see. Johnston brought Pat Bianchi to play the Hammond B3 organ--Bianchi is one of the most exciting, imaginitive B-3 players around today--but our station was still fundraising and the show sold out very quickly.
Fortunately, I had the opportunity to record an interview with Randy Johnston. He discusses his Richmond roots, his friendship with singer Etta Jones, working with Lou Donaldson and goes into some detail about how the electric guitar works in conjunction with the Hammond B-3 organ. The segment also includes a few selections from his new recording “People Music,” featuring organist Pat Bianchi and drummer Carmen Intorre and released recently on Random Act records.