Johnny Dyer was born in 1938 in Mississppi and lived on the Stovall Plantation, the same plantation where Muddy Waters was raised.
Legend has it that Johnny’s attachment to the harp began at the age of 7 when he found a harmonica someone had lost on the plantation. He began practicing on the instrument, first secretly under his bed, and later in the fields. (Those were the same fields where the great Muddy Waters once had worked.)
Johnny tried other instruments, but always returned to his first love, the harmonica. His kind of Blues was that of Little Walter, Sonny Boy Williamson and Big Walter Horton; the music he was hearing on a Nashville radio station. Neither the guitar nor the drums could take the place of his beloved harp.
At 16, he played the harmonica in his own band — acoustic harmonica that is. The first time he played a amplified harp was in the early 50’s at a club where he performed with Smokey Wilson.
And then it happened: Muddy Waters discovered Johnny’s talent.
With his new band, The Blue Notes, he now played such well-knowns as Jimmy Reed and Jimmy Rogers, for example.
Johnny blames the Motown phenomenon for the decline the Blues scene suffered in the 60’s. He’s quoted as saying that “Motown just stepped in and crushed everything. Blues was good until Motown stepped in …” Johnny almost gave up. But once again it was Muddy Waters who influenced Johnny’s career. When Johnny saw the large audiences Muddy was still drawing at the Troubadour club, he decided to give the Blues another chance.
In the early 80’s Johnny returned to the blues scene, playing with Shakey Jake and other renowned harpists and his music appeared on Hard Times: L.A. Blues Anthology. According to the Blind Pig website, he also “recorded two singles for Shakey Jake’s Good Time label and in 1983 recorded an album on the small Murray Brothers label with his old band, the L.A. Jukes. He was also featured on on the Black Magic label from Scandinavia.”
Together with guitarist Rick Holmstrom, with whom he teamed up in 1989, he released two recordings: Listen Up! and Shake It!
For a more complete list of his available CD’s go here please.