The Johnnie Johnson Blues & Jazz Society, Inc. Celebrating Hometown Legend, Johnnie Johnson!
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About Us:  Our History

Bill & Cathy Stalnaker

History of the Johnnie Johnson
Blues & Jazz Society, Inc.

May 2005:  We were all deeply saddened this year by the passing of the great Johnnie Johnson on April 13, 2005. He will be greatly missed by all who had the privilege of knowing him, but his legacy will live on forever in the music he created, and the love he gave so generously to family and friends.

The Johnnie Johnson Blues & Jazz Society, Inc. is a nonprofit organization, founded by Bill & Cathy Stalnaker in 2001. Its mission is to promote blues and jazz music in Fairmont, West Virginia, and throughout the region.

Bill Stalnaker, who is a dedicated musician, performs regularly with his own band, Bill Stalnaker and Night Moves.

When Bill and his wife Cathy decided to create and organize a blues and jazz society based in Fairmont, WV., it seemed only natural to name the organization in honor of Fairmont's hometown hero, the legendary Father of Rock 'N Roll, Johnnie Johnson!

In 2001, Bill phoned Johnnie in St. Louis for the very first time to ask for his permission to name the Blues & Jazz Society after him. Bill was very nervous speaking to the legend himself, but Johnnie immediately put him at easy. Johnnie told him he would be extremely honored to have the Blues & Jazz Society named after him, and a friendship was borne!

Since those humble beginnings, the Johnnie Johnson Blues & Jazz Society has grown. It sponsors blues and jazz shows throughout the year, featuring national and regional acts.

But the Society has become best known for the Annual Johnnie Johnson Blues & Jazz Festival, now in its fourth year. The festival will take place this year on July 15-17, 2005 in Palatine Park, Fairmont, WV. This is just a few blocks from where Johnnie was born on July 8, 1924.

Over the years, the friendship between Bill and Johnnie grew. They taught classes together at Fairmont State University, and Johnnie frequently flew to Fairmont to record a blues show with Bill that would air on a local radio station.
Johnnie Johnson
Johnnie Johnson & Bill Stalnaker
Cathy Stalnaker & Johnnie Johnson

In 2004, St. Louis news anchor, Art Holliday, attended the 3rd Annual Johnnie Johnson Blues & Jazz Festival, along with his film crew. Mr. Holliday is currently in the process of filming and producing a feature length documentary about the life of Johnnie Johnson. Mr. Holliday filmed throughout much of the festival, getting a personal tour of Fairmont from Johnnie, including the overpass that's named after Johnson. Holliday also conducted interviews with many of Johnnie's friends, family members and musicians like Richard Young of the Kentucky Headhunters.

Art Holliday is the co-anchor and executive producer of "Today in St. Louis" morning show and "NewsChannel 5 at Noon" at the NBC affiliate in St. Louis, KSDK-TV. We wish him all the best, as he continues production of his documentary, which we know will raise awareness about the legacy of Johnnie Johnson. Holliday recently obtained an interview with Bonnie Raitt for the documentary and earlier this year interviewed Bo Diddley. Later this year Holliday is expected to interview Keith Richards of the Rolling Stones and music historian Bruce Pegg, who wrote a biography of Chuck Berry. We will keep you posted with the exciting developments of this project!

Also at the 2004 Festival, Johnnie celebrated his 80th Birthday! Johnnie was truly an inspiration to behold. At an age where most seniors would have been retired, Johnnie continued to write new music, record new music, and play the piano for delighted audiences across the country!

Johnnie recorded what would be his last CD, "Johnnie Be Eighty. And Still Bad!" in late 2004 with his good friend Jeff Alexander, a songwriter and producer. The band featured:  Johnnie Johnson on piano, Larry Thurston on vocals (all but one track), Victor Johnson on vocals (the other track), Rich McDonough on guitar, Gus Thornton on bass, and Joe Pastor on drums.

For more information about the CD, "Johnnie Be Eighty. And Still Bad!", visit Jeff Alexander's web site:  www.cousinmoemusic.com. You can purchase the CD by mail or online, as well as read the liner notes, peruse some CD reviews, and check out some cool photos of Johnnie and friends!

Getting back to the festival...it was one of Johnnie's wishes that the annual festival, named in his honor, would continue on forever, and become yet another part of his legacy of music. This year's festival features award-winning musicians:  Bob Margolin, Nappy Brown, Carey Bell, Steve James, and Michael Hill's Blues Mob. You can read about this year's artists on our Festival Home Page.

In honor and loving memory of Johnnie Johnson, we are proud to invite you to join us at the 2005 Johnnie Johnson Blues & Jazz Festival, where we will pay tribute to the amazing Johnnie Johnson! This is the only festival in the world of its kind:  named in honor of Johnnie Johnson, and taking place in Johnnie's hometown of Fairmont, WV, just a few blocks from where he was born!

Join Us on July 5-6, 2014 at the 13th Annual Johnnie Johnson Festival, as we celebrate the life and music of the late, great Johnnie Johnson!

 

The 13th Annual Johnnie Johnson Festival! Click Here for Details!
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