Livin’ the Blues with James “Super Chikan” Johnson

CLARKSDALE, MISSISSIPPI 

James “Super Chikan” Johnson’s chicken shack, out back behind his family’s Clarksdale home, is a work in progress. He’s currently expanding it out to accommodate his art, guitars, and inner sanctuary that he calls home.

Blues enthusiasts from all over the world celebrate Super Chikan’s unique, old school take on the blues – including a wide variety of homemade guitars that he both plays and sells. Here you’ll find the diddley-bow hybrid he calls a “bow-jo”, his rooster guitar, ax guitar, 38 calliber gun guitar, and ceiling fan guitar. A simple cigar box guitar will set you back around $3,800, while a diddley-bow bow-jo will run you closer to $5K. And they sell.

But before his success, Mr. Johnson “lived the blues” in a different context – as Wikipedia explains, “moving from town to town [as a child] in the Mississippi Delta and working on his family’s farms.” From a sharecropping existence, picking cotton, to working the John Deere tractors that replaced the sharecropper, to driving truck throughout Arkansas and Tennessee, Mr. Johnson made a conscious decision to stay in the South and to do it with a smile.

Which life lessons led him back to his early childhood memories, back onto the front porch where he’d listen to the likes of blues legends Muddy Waters and Jimmy Reed, among others, who would stop by to visit his grandfather, to talk shop, play their music, and in so doing, to quite literally live the blues.

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2 Comments

Filed under Americana, Mississippi River Town, On CNN

2 responses to “Livin’ the Blues with James “Super Chikan” Johnson

  1. Scott Sobiech

    Still tracking your voyage Neals Most. Sweet, sweet, sweet interview with James Johnson. I imagine your really soaked up his spirit during that exchange. Wish I was there too. Thanks for highlighting him and his muse! What a life story. And the best part, he’s nowhere near done.

    “You start out with nothing…and you end up with 90% left.” -Chikan Man

  2. Keith Humphrey

    Great interview, you have to see this man in person, he is one of the best around. I have seen him play in person several times and it is well worth the trip to Ckarksdale to hear Super Chikan.

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