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Johnny Shines

Best known as a traveling companion of Robert Johnson, Johnny Shines' own contributions to the blues have often been unfairly shortchanged, simply because Johnson's own legend casts such a long shadow. In his early days, Shines was one of the top slide guitarists in Delta blues, with his own distinctive, energized style; one that may have echoed Johnson's spirit and influence, but was never a mere imitation. Shines eventually made his way north to Chicago, and made the transition to electrified urban blues with ease, helped in part by his robust, impassioned vocals. He was vastly under-recorded during his prime years, even quitting the music business for a time, but was rediscovered in the late '60s and recorded and toured steadily for quite some time. A 1980 stroke robbed him of some of his dexterity on guitar, but his voice remained a powerfully emotive instrument, and he performed up until his death in 1992.

John Ned Shines was born April 26, 1915, in Frayser, TN, and grew up in Memphis from the age of six. Part of a musical family, he learned guitar from his mother, and as a youth he played for tips on the streets of Memphis with several friends, inspired by the likes of Charley Patton, Blind Lemon Jefferson, Lonnie Johnson, and the young Howlin' Wolf. In 1932, he moved to Hughes, AR, to work as a sharecropper, keeping up his musical activities on the side; in 1935, he decided to try and make it as a professional musician. Shines had first met Robert Johnson in Memphis in 1934, and he began accompanying Johnson on his wanderings around the Southern juke-joint circuit, playing wherever they could find gigs; the two made their way as far north as Windsor, Ontario, where they appeared on a radio program. After around three years on the road together -- which made Shines one of Johnson's most intimate associates, along with Johnson's stepson Robert Jr. Lockwood -- the two split up in Arkansas in 1937, and never saw each other again before Johnson's death in 1938.

Shines continued to play around the South for a few years, and in 1941 decided to make his way north in hopes of finding work in Canada, and from there catching a boat to Africa. Instead, when he stopped in Chicago, his cousin immediately offered him a job in construction, and Shines wound up staying. He started making the rounds of the local blues club scene, and in 1946 he made his first-ever recordings; four tracks for Columbia that the label declined to release. In 1950, he resurfaced on Chess, cutting sides that were rarely released (and, when they were, often appeared under the name "Shoe Shine Johnny"). Meanwhile, Shines was finding work supporting other artists at live shows and recording sessions. From 1952-1953, he laid down some storming sides for the JOB label, which constitute some of his finest work ever (some featured Big Walter Horton on harmonica). They went underappreciated commercially, however, and Shines returned to his supporting roles. In 1958, fed up with the musicians' union over a financial dispute, Shines quit the music business, pawned all of his equipment, and made his living solely with the construction job he'd kept all the while.

Shines did, however, stay plugged into the local blues scene by working as a photographer at live events, selling photos to patrons as souvenirs. Eventually, he was sought out by blues historians, and talked into recording for Vanguard's now-classic Chicago/The Blues/Today! series; his appearance on the third volume in 1966 rejuvenated his career. Shines next cut sessions for Testament (1966's Master of the Modern Blues, Vol. 1, a couple with Big Walter Horton, and more) and Blue Horizon (1968's Last Night's Dream), which effectively introduced him to much of the listening public. The reception was much greater this time around, and Shines hit the road, first with Horton and Willie Dixon as the Chicago All-Stars, then leading his own band. In the meantime, his daughter died unexpectedly, leaving Shines to raise his grandchildren; concerned about bringing them up in an urban environment, he moved the whole family down to Tuscaloosa, AL.

During the early '70s, Shines recorded for Biograph and Advent, among others, and enjoyed one of his most acclaimed releases with 1975's more Delta-styled Too Wet to Plow (for Tomato). He also taught guitar locally in Tuscaloosa in between touring engagements. Despite his own generally high-quality work, Shines was a fascinating figure to many white blues fans simply because of the mythology surrounding Robert Johnson, and he was interviewed repeatedly about his experiences with Johnson to the exclusion of discussing his own music and contemporary career; which understandably frustrated him after a while. However, that didn't stop him from rediscovering his roots in acoustic Delta blues, or including many of Johnson's classic songs in his own repertoire; in fact, during the late '70s, Shines toured and recorded often with Robert Jr. Lockwood, a teaming that owed much to Johnson's legacy if ever there was one. Unfortunately, in 1980, Shines suffered a stroke that greatly affected his guitar playing, which would never return to its former glories. He was able to sing as effectively as before, though, and helped by some of his students, he continued to tour America and Europe. In the early '90s, Shines appeared in the documentary film Searching for Robert Johnson, and he also cut one last album with Snooky Pryor, 1991's Back to the Country, which won a Handy Award. Shines' health was failing, however, and he passed away on April 20, 1992, in a Tuscaloosa hospital. ~ Steve Huey
full bio

Selected Discography

x

Track List: American Music: Hightone Records Story

Disc 1

1. Phone Booth

3. Tore Up

4. Smoking Gun

5. 747

6. Don't Be Afraid Of The Dark

8. I'll Get To Heaven On My Own

9. Moaning And Groaning

10. They Call Me Sundown

11. Sugar Bee

12. The Devil's Livin' There

13. Going Down South

14. It's A Minor Thing

15. Fast Food Slow Death

17. Miss Ida B.

Disc 2

1. American Music

2. Lord Of The Highway

4. Blue Collar Blues

6. California Sun

7. Sparkling City

8. I Ain't Lyin'

10. Telewacker

12. Open The Door To Your Heart

14. Saturday Jump

16. Rockabilly Funeral

17. Fourth Of July

18. Hollywood Bed

19. Little Bitty Kiss

21. Eve Of Destruction

Disc 3

2. Rainin' Rainin' Rainin'

3. Goodbye Lonesome, Hello Baby Doll

5. Stay Out Of My Arms

7. Honky Tonk Queen

8. Ramblin' Fever

9. I'm Pretending

10. Corpus Christi Bay

11. Wine Don't Lie

12. The Greatest Story Ever Told

15. Sting In This Ole Bee

16. Here I Am In Dallas

17. Truck Drivin' Man

18. It Stops With Me

20. Walk Away If You Want To

Disc 4

1. Dallas

2. Blue Blvd

3. West Texas Plains

4. Link Of Chain

6. By Way Of Sorrow

8. The Wild Ox Moan

9. No Love Today

12. All My Tears

13. Padre Prays For Rain

14. Midnight And Lonesome

16. Since You Went Away

18. Tonight We Ride

x

Track List: Blind Pig Records - 25th Anniversary Collection

Disc 1

3. Daddy Played The Guitar And Mama Was A Disco Queen

5. Sinner Street

6. Can't Keep A Good Man Down

8. Last Chance

9. Work With Me Annie

10. That Same Thing

11. Wake Me Up Early

12. What A Good Feeling

13. My Babe

14. Pleated Pants

15. All You Left Behind

16. Honey Bee

Disc 2

1. Gone To Hell

2. Cain

3. Pressure

4. Help Wanted

6. Love Gotcha

7. Here No More

8. Who Stole the Hot Sauce?

10. Slippin' & Slidin'

13. Early Hours

14. Is It Love

15. Peace In Hell

16. Nothin' But The Blues

17. Ida B.

18. Fear No Evil

x

Track List: Chicago Is Just That Way

Disc 1

2. When Things Go Wrong With You

3. Put Your Money Where Your Mouth Is

4. That's Her Own Business

5. 1950 Blues

6. It's Good Like That

7. Love Her With A Feelin

8. New Deal Blues

9. Don't Blame Shorty For That

10. Sweet Little Angel

11. She's Dynamite

12. Pretty Baby Blues

13. Early In The Morning

14. Boogie Woogie Woman

15. I Won't Let Her Do It

16. Green And Lucky Blues

17. I'm Gonna Put You Down

18. But I Forgive You

19. Too Late Too Long

20. I'll Never Let You Go

21. Got A Mind To Leave This Town

22. Please Mr. Doctor

23. I Should Have Loved Her More

24. So Crazy About You Baby

Disc 2

1. Kidman Blues

2. Bedroom Blues

3. Buzz Me

7. Evil Hearted Woman Blues

8. (Now I) Got The Blues

9. Don't Ration My Love

10. Mistake In Life

11. Grinder Man Blues

12. Roll Dem Bones

13. My Woman's A Pearl Diver

15. Mean Red Spider

16. Jitterbug Blues

17. Hard Day Blues

18. Burying Ground Blues

19. Horse Shoe Boogie

20. Ruby Moore Blues

23. That's All Right

24. The Blues What Am

25. I Ain't Done Nothing Wrong

26. Going Down Slow

27. Stockyard Blues

28. Keep What You Got

Disc 3

1. Jivin' Boogie

2. Brown Skin Woman

3. 5 Foot 4 Gal

4. I've Done You Wrong

5. Worried Man Blues

6. Money Taking Woman

9. Blue Monday Blues

10. Lowland Blues

11. Savoy Boogie

12. Candy Man Blues

13. Why Should I Cry

14. Hard Times

15. School Days

17. Telephone Blues

18. Little Store Blues

19. Lovin' Man Blues

20. One Doggone Reason

21. Coming Up Fast

23. I Want My Baby

24. Let Me Ride Your Mule

25. My Baby Walked Out

26. Chicago Is Just That Way

27. I Love My Whiskey

Disc 4

1. Look What You Are Today

2. A Lie Is Dangerous

3. Hand Me Down My Walking Cane

4. Big City Blues

5. Do You Remember

6. Just Tell Me Baby

7. One Sunday Morning

8. That's All Right

9. I'm In Love

10. Boogie Man

11. It Keeps Rainin'

12. Boogy Fool

13. Raisin' Sand

14. Why Did I Make You Cry

15. Kidman Blues

16. Ludella

17. Boll Weevil

18. Red Headed Woman

19. Rollin' And Tumblin' Part 1

20. Rollin' And Tumblin' Part 2

21. Bad Acting Woman

22. Just Keep Loving Her

23. Wine-O-Woman

24. Crawlin' King Snake

25. Leavin' Day

26. Southbound Train

27. (I'm Gonna) Dig Myself A Hole

28. Dust My Broom

Comments

Report as inappropriate
My uncle
Report as inappropriate
If you like Johhny Shines you should check out his daughter Caroline Shines...she has an incredible voive and plays evry week at Little Willie's club in Tuscaloosa, Alabama. she is a very graciuos person and is willing to spend hours talking about her father and all the other great blues greats she had the pleasure of meeting. She sings the blues like no other woman i've ever heard. check her out on youtube or myspace
Report as inappropriate
Johnny Shines is Robert Johnson with an electric guitar.
Report as inappropriate
sprestridge
I interviewed Johnny Shines a year or so before he died. I asked if he thought Robert Johnson thought that he'd sold his soul. Shines looked at me like I was dumb and said, "You don't own your soul. How you gonna sell what you don't own?"
Report as inappropriate
Johnny Shines and Robert Johnson were friends. They traveled the roads together making what we now call "Delta Blues". Johnny ended up settling in Chicago. There we got alot of his works recorded. What a blessing....
Report as inappropriate
Johnny Shines stands on one corner and Robert Johnson stand across the street on the other corner and for a dime they have a "Battle of Giants"....E v e r y o n e wins!!!!

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