By Jim Hagerty
The Rockin’ Johnny Band, one of Chicago’s top blues acts, will perform in Rockford for the first time in more than ten years Friday, July 8, at the Adriatic Cafe.
For band leader Johnny Burgin, this appearance is a highlight in a two-year comeback streak that has included a tour of Spain, Italy and Holland. The band also played the Crossroads Stage at the 2011 Chicago Blues Festival June 10.
The comeback CD, “Now’s the Time”, has received frequent airplay on Tom Marker’s “Blues Breakers” radio show.
According to Living Blues, “Now’s the Time presents consistently provocative and finely-nuanced original guitar work.”
In the 90s, Johnny Burgin came from South Carolina to the University of Chicago. After a chance meeting with a fellow DJ at the college radio station (where he took the name Rockin’ Johnny), Burgin went to Stella’s Lounge to hear blues vocalist Tail Dragger.
Dragger’s style, and the world of blues music, captivated the young Burgin. The rest has been blues history still in the making.
After jokingly telling Burgin, “you can’t play no blues,” Tail Dragger hired him, which led to a hands-on apprenticeship alongside Chicago notables Lurrie Bell, Johnny B. Moore, Sam Lay and others.
After forming the Rockin’ Johnny Band in the mid ’90s, Burgin quickly became a mainstay at several Chicago clubs, playing mostly ’50s and ’60s styled blues. Since joining the circuit, the Rockin’ Johnny Band has recorded three CDs and played and recorded with Paul DeLay, Little Arthur Duncan, Jimmy Burns and Tail Dragger.
Exiting the business in 2002 to raise a family, Burgin took a job at the Rockford Farm and Fleet on W. State Street. He returned to the blues scene in 2009.
“(His) skills, passion and commitment (are) undiminished,” noted blues producer Dick Shurma said of Burgin.
Thursday’s show is at 9 p.m. Cost is $5.
Before the show, Rockford’s Crossroads Blues Society will hold a meeting at the Adriatic. Members, and those interested in joining, are welcomed to attend.
The Adriatic Cafe is at 327 W. Jefferson St., downtown. The club can be reached at (815) 967-9939. More information about the Rockin’ Johnny Band is at rockinjohnnyband.com.