Johnnie Bassett
Blues Profile

Detroit blues legend Johnnie Bassett was born in Florida in 1935 and ten years later moved with his family to Detroit. Johnnie is self-taught on the guitar and has always possessed a deep love for the blues. He can recall watching Tampa Red, Big Boy Crudup and others perform at his grandmotherís Florida backyard. Johnnie got his professional start in the early 1950ís with the R&B group Joe Weaver and The Bluenotes. They won so many local talent contests that they could no longer compete as amateurs and were hired to back visiting artists like Big Joe Turner and Ruth Brown. By 1957 Johnnie had defined his own clean, expressive tone on guitar. His distinctive guitar playing draws on the influences of T-Bone Walker, Tiny Grimes and Billy Butler. He was also impressed with the guitar playing of Charlie Christian and other early jazz musicians. During the early 1960ís Bassett appeared on the very first recording of Smokey Robinson and the Miracles. Other memorable credits include gigs with John Lee Hooker, Lowell Fulson, Little Sonny and Dinah Washington. In 1994, Johnnie Bassett was the third person to receive the prestigious Detroit Blues Societyís Lifetime Achievement Award. His most recent recordings, featuring his gritty, world-weary vocals and expressive guitar playing can be found on the 1997 Cannonball Blues Across America series: "The Detroit Scene." Johnnie Bassett is exactly like a fine wine -- he keeps getting better with age.

See review & picture at the 1997 Bayfront Blues Festival.

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Copyright © 1997 by Ray M. Stiles
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