Cur-ville: Good Music, Good Dogs, Good Beer. Good Gracious.
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Swerving the Cur-ville community since 2006.
Volume 10, Issue 23, Fall 2013

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Johnny Harper

JOHNNY HARPER is a well-known Bay Area singer, guitarist, songwriter, and producer of recordings and shows. Known for leading his own rocking bands and for his work supporting other celebrated artists, Johnny is also a powerful solo performer, accompanying himself in complex lead/ rhythm and finger-picking styles on electric and acoustic guitars. He is also a born storyteller, whose comments on the music are by turns moving and highly entertaining.


  •   Jay Gould's Daughter
  •   Loafin' on the Water
  •   Work With What You Got

Johnny’s songwriting clearly reflects his deep roots in American folk traditions, and also draws on the socially and spiritually conscious folk-rock songwriting tradition of artists such as Woody Guthrie, Bob Dylan, Curtis Mayfield, and Bruce Springsteen. He has lived and performed in New Orleans, and since the early 1980s has been well known for performing New Orleans R&B styles (Allen Toussaint, Meters/ Neville Brothers, Dr. John, Fats Domino, etc.) with his bands Johnny Harper’s Carnival and Hot Links. He is also a veteran performer of other American roots music styles – blues and gospel, rock and country, soul and Cajun/ zydeco, traditional and contemporary folk music, and more. He has studied and performed The Band’s music for many years, and led an all-star house band at a San Francisco tribute concert to The Band in June 2009.

Johnny has toured as lead guitarist with Maria Muldaur’s band, and for 12 years has worked as band leader and guitarist with the legendary blues and folk singer Barbara Dane. He has performed on lead guitar with such Louisiana legends as blues pianist Katie Webster, Cajun fiddler Michael Doucet, zydeco star Queen Ida, and R&B masters like Willie Tee, Joe Krown, Ernie K-Doe, Clarence “Bon Ton” Garlow, and (funk sousaphone giant/ Dirty Dozen Brass Band founder) Kirk Joseph, and with blues/ soul guitar master Robert Ward. The list of prominent Bay Area musicians with whom he has worked in live and recorded performances includes Laurie Lewis, Kathy Kallick, Charlie Musselwhite, David Grisman, Darol Anger, George Winston, Jody Stecher, Kate Brislin, Ray Bierl, Tony Marcus, Bobby Black, the Louisiana Playboys (with Danny Poullard), and the Superior Angels of Oakland. He has produced albums by Mayne Smith, Motordude Zydeco, Edie O'Hara, Kajsa Ohman, John McCord, Sean Dana, Wayde Blair, David Gans, Dale Henry Geist, Katie Webster, and Eric & Suzy Thompson, and has composed and produced music for several films. He is also well known as a music scholar and historian, and has taught private guitar lessons for 25 years. He is presently working on two CDs of his own material, and also on two books – one a history of American folk/ roots music and the rock revolution; the other, a crime novel about two musicians.

THIS GUN FOR HIRE. Johnny is available for parties, house concerts, and musical engagements of all kinds – performing solo or with any size group depending on the situation. His band Johnny Harper & Carnival performs an exciting mix of Johnny's originals, songs of The Band, and New Orleans R&B. He also appears with Johnny Harper & the Hard Times Choir, performing gospel-flavored electric-band versions of the songs of Woody Guthrie. He is also available for guitar lessons, as a producer of albums and recording sessions, as a lecturer on music history, and as a composer/ arranger. Contact Johnny at, 510-710-5969.

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