Born in Columbia, Mississippi in 1951, Johnny grew up in Purvis (near Hattiesburg) and Gulfport. Johnny’s interest in music began in early childhood. He played clarinet in the school band when he was in 5th grade. Over the next couple of years, he graduated to saxophone, trumpet and other instruments. Johnny became interested in guitar when he heard his grandfather playing one on Christmas morning, and by age 13 was already a serious player. Johnny’s high school band teacher had a professional band that backed touring soul artists and asked Johnny to join his band as a saxophone player. This began Johnny’s professional career. At age 15, he was backing artists including ZZ Hill, Little Johnny Taylor, Joe Tex, and The Sweet Inspirations on their tours in the Southeast. In the mid-1970s, Johnny became the band director for soul singer O.V. Wright, and toured with O.V. until his death in 1980. Wright’s band, under Johnny’s leadership, continued to perform as the Ace of Spades band for several years.
A prolific songwriter, Johnny has released more than 15 albums since his debut solo album, Here We Go, in 1996 on JSP Records. The Blues Music Awards (and the predecessor, the W.C. Handy Awards) have nominated ten of Johnny’s albums for Soul Blues Album of the Year, with “I’m Still Around” winning in 2019 and “Ace of Spades” winning in 2010. Roots Music Report declared Johnny’s 2017 release, “Waiting for the Train,” one of the top 50 blues albums of the year. Johnny also has multiple nominations/awards from Blues Blast Magazine and Living Blues Magazine. With his 2018 release, “I’m Still Around,” Johnny returned to his roots in Mississippi Soul Blues. All the songs on this album were written and arranged by Johnny, and reflect his favorite subjects – falling in and out of love, making love, and enjoying and being thankful for life. Johnny is extremely proud to have won the Soul Blues Album of the year at the 2019 BMAs for this release. A true “road warrior,” Johnny tours extensively throughout the US, and internationally, playing approximately 200 dates every year. He’s performed at major blues festivals, including the Chicago Blues Festival and the Waterfront Blues Festival multiple times. Whether he’s playing in a small intimate club or at a large blues festival, Johnny always delivers a high-energy show to the delight of audiences everywhere. The performance at Nicky’s, 49 South Palm Avenue, is a dinner engagement, with charcuterie board (Nicky makes them herself!) and a choice from two Chef’s Specials included. Dinner will be served from 6 pm, and Rawls will begin performing at 7. He’ll be accompanied by Oren “Doc” Plous on keyboards, Michael Dempsey on bass, and Andrew LaCroix on drums. Due to seating arrangements, reservations are a must. 941.330.1727.