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May 18, 2011

Young, 'Junior' taking stage at Shalin Liu

Grammy-Award winning Luther "Guitar Junior" Johnson, who has taken his blues sound around the world, lands in Rockport Friday, hoping to get the audience rocking in their seats.

And on Saturday, another legendary American musical figure will perform at the Shalin Liu Performance Center, with Jesse Colin Young and his quartet taking the waterfront stage.

Producer Seth McNally said he looks to bring American Icons to New England.

"Luther Johnson is a true blues legend, the real deal, and one of the last direct links to Muddy Waters," said McNally. "This is one of the guys whose influence is widespread in contemporary music.

"Jesse Colin Young was practically the musical voice of the peace movement for a short time in the late 60s," he recalled. "The song 'Get Together,' both then and now, has such widespread appeal that it became a part of the American Music Fabric."

In a phone interview with the Times, Johnson recalled how honored he was to have been part of Muddy Waters' band in Chicago for eight years.

"He always told me I could make magic on my own, and taught me how to move the people," said Johnson, who now resides in the mountains of New Hampshire.

His band Friday night will include guitar, horn, drum, bass and guitar.

A native of Itta Bena, Miss., Johnson headed for Memphis at 15 where he first saw McKinley Morganfield — better known as Muddy Waters — perform. Not long after, his family moved to Chicago, where Luther would learn his craft from talent such as Magic Sam and later with Muddy Waters.

When asked about how he got his nickname, he recalled his early years as a teen-age musician in Chicago.

"I used to walk down the street and sing, and people would get behind me and walk and sing with me, and they made me Luther 'Guitar Junior' Johnson," he said.

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