His name is Michael Johnson. He has no plans to put on a cowboy hat, affect an accent, wear one glove or be anyone but himself. Moreover, he is "The" Michael Johnson, and he has performed and lived more music and recorded more hits than you would imagine.
His voice immediately identifies him as the man who sings "Bluer Than Blue", "Give Me Wings", "That's That", "This Night Won't Last Forever" and other landmark songs. His music shows a diversity, depth and heart that only come from years of dedication to a labor of love.
When asked what he would have you know about himself, Michael says: "Tell them that I love it." He started playing at age thirteen and just never quit. Singing, playing, writing and recording are the only things he's ever done and he loves it.
"Tell them I play guitar." He really plays guitar. He studied in Barcelona and he plays on all his records with a unique and distinctive style. His playing is an important part of his show.
"I am a soloist at heart." Michael often performs alone, and he has elevated the art. He prefers the intimacy and spontaneity of a show that can change with the moment.
"Tell them I'm a showman. I like to talk to people and I love to make them laugh. And, of course, I have to move them with the music. That's the whole thing. Without that, there is no reason to be on stage."
What one remembers of Michael is the texture of his voice, the meaning of the lyric and the music of the guitar - singer, song and sound. And the feeling of being at home with a friend.
For a more in-depth biography, read the 1995 Vangard bio or the Interviews page.
Denver, Boise & Johnson
from left: Michael Johnson, David Boise, John Denver, unidentified woman, Mike Douglas, Paul Prestopino.
When Chad Mitchell departed from the trio in 1965 to pursue a solo career, the then-unknown John Denver was recruited as his replacement. The group's original name was changed to the Mitchell Trio, and more personnel changes ensued during the next few years. Joe Frazier left in 1967 and Mike Kobluk departed in the following year, replaced by David Boise and Mike Johnson. With none of the original members remaining, the trio was renamed Denver, Boise, and Johnson. After working with the Mitchell Trio for nearly four years, John Denver decided to strike out on his own, after Mike Johnson had left the group.
"Folk Music: More Than A Song" by Kristin Baggelaar and Donald Milton
Peter Yarrow and Michael Johnson, October 1972
MJ, Les Paul &George Benson
When EMI America recording artist Michael Johnson (right) opened at The Other End in New York recently, he was welcomed to his two-night engagement by jazz guitarist George Benson (center) and inventor/guitarist Les Paul.
CRITICS' COMMENTS"A dazzling guitarist and wonderfully expressive singer. No two shows are alike."
". . .a masterful guitarist who can pull off some amazing stunts with such incredible nonchalance that he doesn't seem quite human."
Bruce Viland, Chicago Daily Tribune
"Michael Johnson is one of the greatest and most sensitive guitar players I know. His singing is warm and captivating and his songs are the best."
Amy Kurland, Bluebird Cafe, Nashville, TN
"I doubt if any concert performer works an audience better or cherishes the power of a well placed wisecrack more than Johnson does."
Rick Shefchik, News Tribune, Duluth MN
"Only seeing him in person will convince you that he actually DOES all those things you're hearing."
Eliot Wald, The Daily Planet, Chicago
". . .Johnson's so-cool approach to vocals and cerebral approach to lyrics are a welcome balance to the overwrought delivery of so many artists."
Billboard Magazine, New York
"The long awaited return of master singer songwriter/guitarist Michael Johnson. . .is surely
one of the year's most highly anticipated and overdue projects. . .a true cause for celebration."
Music City News, Nashville TN
"One of our smoothest balladeers demonstrates he still has the masters touch. . ., soft, intricate vocals. . . elegant production."
FACTS AND INFORMATION
Born in Alamosa, Colorado - grew up in Denver
1964: Won an international folk singing contest. First prize was a record deal from Epic Records. ("I sold 23 copies and I still know where 13 of them are. They sent me a royalty check for 11 cents, which I have framed.")
1966: Studied classical guitar in Barcelona with eminent guitarist GracianoTarrago.
1967: Lived in a garage in Bel Air with Steve Martin and Gary Mule Deer.
Toured the Orient with Randy Sparks and The New Society.
1968: Joined the Chad Mitchell Trio with John Denver and toured for a year.
1969: Acted in New York off Broadway and the toured for a year with the company of "Jacques Brel Is Alive And Well And Living In Paris".
1970: Signed with Atlantic Records
1975: Started his own (successful) record label.
1978-80: Signed with EMI America Records and released smash singles "Bluer Than Blue", Almost Like Being In Love", and "This Night Won't Last Forever".
1985-88: Signed with RCA Records and released hit songs, "Give Me Wings", "The Moon Is Still Over Her Shoulder", "That's That", "I Will Whisper Your Name".
1990: Signed with Atlantic Records again. Didn't recognize anybody.
1995: Signed with Vanguard Records
1997: Signed with Intersound Records. Released his 14th album, which included "Whenever I Call You Friend," a duet with Alison Krauss.
There Is A Breeze
Atlantic Records, 1973, re-released on Sanskrit Records and EMI America, 1981
For All You Mad Musicians
Sanskrit Records, 1975, re-released on EMI America, 1982
Ain't Dis Da Life
Sanskrit Records, 1977, re-released on EMI America, 1982
The Michael Johnson Album
EMI America, 1978 --Includes the hit singles: "Bluer Than Blue" and "Almost Like Being In Love".
EMI America 1979 --Includes the hit singles: "This Night Won't Last Forever" and "I'll Always Love You".
You Can Call Me Blue
EMI America, 1980
EMI America, 1981
EMI America, 1983
I Love You By Heart
RCA, 1985 hit single - duet with Sylvia
RCA, 1986 - Includes the hit singles: "Gotta Learn To Love Without You", "Give Me Wings" (#1 country song and Billboard Country Song Of The Year 1986) and "The Moon Is Still Over Her Shoulder" (#1 Country song, 1986)
RCA 1988 - Includes hit singles: "Cryin Shame", "I Will Whisper Your Name" and "That's That"
The Best Of Michael Johnson
Atlantic Records, 1992
Vanguard Records, 1995
Then And Now
Intersound Records, 1997 with "Whenever I Call You Friend", with Alison Krauss.
LIVE At The Bluebird Cafe
American Originals, 2000
Redhouse Records, 2012
The Tonight Show with Jay Leno
Music City Tonight
Prime Time Country
The American Music Shop
The Texas Connection
Austin City Limits
CMA Awards shows
ACM Awards shows
Michael's music and concerts have taken him all over the world.
He has performed many times in Spain, Japan, Holland, Switzerland, The Philippines, Alaska and elsewhere. He spent 1993 on the road with the Clint Black -Wynonna Judd tour. In 1997 he toured with Alison Krauss and Union Station.
His annual December 26th concert in Minneapolis is legend. He has performed with many symphony orchestras. Among the artists whom Michael is proudest to have appeared with are: Judy Collins, George Carlin, Vince Gill, Roger Miller, Bill Monroe, John McGloughlin, Josh White Sr., Cheryl Wheeler, David Sanborn, Wynonna, Trisha Yearwood, Andy Kaufman, Jennifer Warnes and many others.