Michael Johnson Photo

Talent In Action

Billboard Magazine
December 25, 1971

Earl of Old Town, Chicago

If there's any room left for yet another folk singer, then Michael Johnson is ready. Although he's gotten a head start on many contemporaries, a dazzling guitarist, he studied under Brazilian Luiz Bonfa, worked with Back-Porch Majority, joined the Mitchell Trio following Chad Mitchell's departure, was then part of a trio with John Denver and David Boise and worked a year in "Jacques Brel Is Alive . . ." in New York, Los Angeles and Chicago.

Thus, his repertoire ranges from classics and jazz to more traditional folk and even whole sets of Brel numbers. No set is the same. On the evening caught, he was somewhat redundant on the more spirited accompaniment to a few songs, but the audience was with him, especially on the lyrical classic "Leyende," his 11th song - absolute quiet prevailed as he stroked and coaxed notes from his guitar.

The Earl is a challenging place to work because it's a mecca for folk artists, the one spot here where a Joan Baez or Kris Kristofferson will pop in unexpectantly. It's also a spawning ground for such names as Bonnie Kolac, Stevie Goodman, John Prine, Jim Post, Bob Gibson and so on. Owner Earl J. J. Pionke, however, works only local acts.

Former rock guitarist Lonnie Knight (Minneapolis' Litter, Crow - now Sound 40) shared the bill and showed some promising vocal touches as well as some good ideas as a songwriter.


Photo: Mark Ahlstrom