Mr James C. Johnson
Composer / Songwriter
James moved to London in February 1968, to Clydesdale Rd. just off the Portobello Rd. in Notting Hill Gate. He shared a flat with Richard Horner ( from the Evil Eyes ) Richard Sherman (from The Attack ) and Bob Young who at the time was road manager for the Evil Eyes however a couple of months down the line became the road manager for Status Quo wrote several of their hits an became their tour manager and then their manager together with Collin Johnson. James became involved in a huge musical project called The First International Pop Festival. The chairman Don Fredriksson asked James to be his PA/general factotum/impresario. There were three festival offices one in Liverpool St., one at the Rolling Stones office In Maddox St.,and one in Amsterdam. James remembers well, one of many meetings with Mick Jagger discussing the Stones proposed surprise appearance at the festival and also
Mick's idea of touring like a circus with a big top.
An article taken from The Daily Telegraph 10th. March1968.
Popping Down to Rome
A first resounding tinkle is heard from what may become the greatest, or at least the loudest,show on earth. The first European International Pop Festival, a polyphonic Frankenstein is getting itself together,for a seven day happening in May, the 4th to 10th in that tremendous flying saucerdrome, the Pallazzo dello Sport in Rome. Don Fredriksson is the chairman, a Californian veteran of such historic moments as the Beatles? first appearance in the Cow Palace, San Francisco. Fredriksson . . . beams. “The Samurai are coming” he says. “Groovy.of course,we still have over half British groups. They are wild for British groups.” And how about British group followers? Well somehow or other various freeze-busting round trips have been organised, the cheapest being an all-in with beds, tickets and coach travel for £33 10s.
“And we‘ve had two requests for block bookings of 3,000 already.”
Rome stayed cool! At the onset of Hannibal and his elephants,Attila and his Huns . . . Why loose your cool for Zoot Money and his Dantalion,s Chariot, Blossom Toes, The Crazy World of Arthur Brown, Donovan, The Family, The Move (top of Harold Wilson’s pops), The Soft Machine, The Incredible String Band, Traffic, Pink Floyd, Captain Beefheart and his Magic Band, The Byrds, John Handy, The Crome Syrcus with Astarte Ballet, Buffy St. Marie, Julie Driscoll, Fairport Convention, The Pebbles, The Dragonfly, The Robati from Jugoslavia, The Javeri Manipuri Dance group from India, and The Warsaw Skiffle Group from oddly enough Warsaw!
And who said poetry is dead anyway ?
joined a band called Cast. Red Saunders (vocals) Chris Hill (guitar) Pete Bruno (drums) Dave Court (guitar) Jim Johnson (keyboards). Trod the boards at various venues in London.
James was going to attend Winchester College of Music but met Brian Eno who was at the Art College and they formed a band together Dandelion and the War Damage Jim Johnson (keyboards) Brian Eno (vocals) Dave Hallows (bass) Tony Grafton (guitar) Alf MacDonald (drums) Played the University circuit, a great little band. Ended up forming an Arts commune in Camberwell and had a warehouse studio in Spitalfields No.2 Wilkes St. The name of the commune was HUS and the members were Alf MacDonald, Tony Grafton Dave Hallows James Johnson (Jim) Brian Eno, Rob Johnston, Viv Mainwaring, Rob Neely, John Wells.
James attends Blackheath Conservatoire of Music, he was going to continue his studies at The Royal College of Music but instead in October 1970 joined a new band called Marriage. Jim Johnson, ( organ) Chas Cronk, (bass) Ernie Hayes, (guitar) Bill Walley, (drums) Jan Diakow (alto&tenor saxes) Noel Norris, (trumpet).
The band played the London clubs and College circuit. James, during this time, was asked if he would join a new band called Mott the Hoople he declined as he was already committed to Marriage, well there you go!
James marries Moyna Ryan and moves to the country and continues to write and compose.
James joins Harley Quinne, who had a hit in 1972 with New Orleans in 1973 they released two singles Rock and Roll is back again and Such a Night in 1975 they had recorded the A side for their next single Roadie, with Billy Livesey playing keyboards. James replaced Billy and played keyboards on the B side, Want You Tonight. The line up of the band was Jed Kelly (John Kitchener) (drums) Pete Oakman (bass) John Clare (guitar) James (Jim Johnson) (keyboards) James wrote and co wrote songs for an album and musical called Roadie, but due to horrendous management problems the album was never recorded. Come on Pete and John we should do something with this!
James and John Kitchener* form a band called Cluster with blues harmonica player extraordinaire Rod Garfield, (harmonica Vocals) Kevin Dyson (guitar lead vocals) Derek Perris* (bass) Dave Knowls (sax) Jim Johnson (keyboards) John Kitchener* (drums) *John and Derek now sadly deceased and greatly missed.
James, John Kitchener and Derek Perris form a new band called Prairie Dog with Dave Benson (lead vocals) Paul Hirsh (guitar). This line up changed several times the other guitarists in the band were Steve Cox, then along came Phil Wright and finally Brett Todd replaced Derek Perris on bass and Howard Richardson came in to play lead guitar replacing Phill.
James played in various pubs with Jess Roden who had become a good friend Jess (vocals) Jim (piano). Pubs that spring to mind, The Dundas Arms at Kintbury Berks. The Boot at Vernham Dean Hants. And The George at Vernham Dean. Also during that year James wins a pitch for his first TV commercial Cadbury's Snack, various other TV commercials followed amongst them Nationwide Building Society Hennara, Lego, Johnsons Cotton Buds and Savlon.
James forms a band with Paul Trubridge and Terry Jones called H2o they had strong interest from RAK records, given studio time and had publicity shots, but unfortunately RAK wanted to turn the band into another Racey, (sorry boys) but it wasn't for us. James did various sessions for RAK and maintained contact and friendship with Brenda Brooker,who was head of publishing
James forms a small record label Open Space Music, from which there were two releases. The first release was a song which he had composed and John Kitchener had co-written the lyrics to : 'We Call it Christmas' with Reg Tsiboe as the vocalist . . . loads of airplay voted by some radio stations as best Christmas song that year . . . disaster with the distribution company not one copy reached the shops! The next single was from a wonderfully talented singer songwriter James had signed to his label John Dawson-Reed, the title I am with you Mary. Same problems with the distributors, had enough pull the plug!
Meets M.Guy Fletcher who along with Doug Flett, has written and had hits with, Ray Charles, Elvis Presley, Blood Sweat and Tears, Joe Cocker, Kiki Dee, The Hollies, and Cliff Richard to name but a few. Anyway Guy, loved James' compositions and his arranging talent and invited him to join Guy in writing an instrumental work about European Cities along with Bryan Daley, famed for his Postman Pat compositions but lesser known for his classical guitar playing skills, Bryan and Jimmy Page probably did most of the guitar sessions for bands back in the sixties. Metropolis was formed, along with guest players Charles Morgan (drums) Ronald Aspery(saxophones and piccolo) Alistair Lomax(oboe) Paul J. Libson (fretless bass) and The Ladies of the Brompton Oratory Choir, London. the album was called The European Suite, depicting musically the cities of Vienna, Rome, Paris, Athens, Madrid, Dublin and London. They formed a record company The Havoc House record Co. and launched the album in September1985 which was the European year of music, in London, at the Mansion House with the Lord Mayor of London presiding and presented specially signed framed copies to the Ambassadors of the cities on the album. Later that year they were approached by CBS Masterworks who were interested in the world rights to the work. They negotiated a contract and subsequently signed a worldwide deal with CBS. Tracks from the album have been used extensively for documentaries, short films and were used for The Commonwealth Games background music. This should be re-released!
Rod Garfield phoned James and said “I have this idea about a piece of music reflecting the plight of the Rainforests I have a theme but I am stuck, could you come over and have a listen and see what you think” Rod played the piece to James who loved it, his imagination was fired a story line was formulated and James set to work. He wrote an opening to Rods' theme and composed the rest of the work. Rod played the opening theme on piano and played harmonica on later movements. James was responsible for musical direction all the other piano and keyboard parts the arranging and orchestration, which was made up of layered sampled sounds. Steve Hampson a very talented guitarist engineered the first half of the album and played electric guitar Nick Beere another fine talent played acoustic guitar, Barbara Thompson a highly celebrated and talented saxophonist and flautist and Huellas, authentic travelling musicians from the mountain region of the Andes also played on the album.
John Marter Drummer par excellence (Frankie Miller Band, Mr. Big Marillion and SAS band) engineered the second half of the work assisted in some of the arranging and produced the album. James and John have played together many times and worked on numerous projects, some of which are The Kevin Girdler album with Alan Wetton and Carmello Luggeri. No Dogs Required with George Villers, Clive Bates and Nick Beere Grace in Danger track, sessions at the BBC.Played together many times in Deja Who, The Rod Garfield Blues Band, Marcus Malone Band, Nicky James, and many more!
There are two more movements left to record all these years later. James has written them but money ran out etc. etc.
The intervening years until 1996:
Film work, writing and recording with Nicky James, writing with Marcus Malone and also producing him, writing with Janie Johnson, writing and playing with Richard Young and Steve Hampson,
numerous sessions and guesting in bands, on many occasions The Rod Garfield Blues Band.
James met Cozy Powell they became good friends Cozy loved Jim's work and said he had a project he would like him to be involved in, months went by and Cozy said “it's still not ready yet” years passed. Then one day the phone rang. “Hi Jim would you like to come and play keyboards for Peter Green I've been working to try and get Peter back playing again and finally we are ready, we already have a keyboard player Spike Edney(from Queen) but Spike can't do the whole tour so would you dep for him, also I would like you to do some writing with Peter”. Of course James said yes,and toured the UK and Europe with the Splinter band in1996/1997 the other members of the band were Neil Murray (bass) and Nigel Watson (guitar). On 5th April 1988 Cozy was tragically killed in a car accident, it was devastating news James other dear friend drummer John Kitchener had died of cancer back in October two friends gone it was too much, another funeral. James had written and read a eulogy at John's funeral and also did a reading at Cozy's funeral. This is an Email Neil Murray sent to Joe Siegler who hosts Cozy's Web Site. Dear Joe, Cozy's funeral took place on Saturday 18th April at a crematorium in Wiltshire, which is about 90 miles west of London. It was a simple service, with hymns and prayers, as well as a reading by a friend of Cozy's keyboard player Jim Johnson, and an emotional tribute by one of Cozy's closest friends, Frank Aiello, who was the singer with Bedlam and Hammer. The service ended with 'Let It Be' by the Beatles. There were dozens of floral arrangements and wreaths, with messages of sympathy from Toni Iommi, Geoff Nicholls, Tony Martin, David Coverdale and many others. Those attending in person included Brian May, Jeff Beck, Peter Green, Don Airey, Glen Tipton (Judas Priest), Denny Ball (Bedlam), Spike Edney and Jamie Moses (Brian May Band), along with family members and other close friends. There are no definite plans for a memorial/tribute event, but I'm sure that something will be organised after people
have had time to get over the initial shock of Cozy's death. Yours sadly, Neil
Cozy had always loved 'The Rainforest Suite' which James had written with Rod Garfield, and was going to play on the yet to be recorded movements, and he was always urging him to get the work finished. Those movements are still yet to be recorded but there is a CD of the work so far, dedicated to Cozy Powell and John Kitchener.
'The Rainforest Suite' is performed as a Ballet/ modern dance in Krakow in Poland by some dance students. How did this come about? Well James met Mirjana Angelina a good friend of Cozy's who also loved 'The Rainforest Suite' and asked if she could play the work to one of her directors, Mirjana has a school of dance and acting in Munich. She played the Suite to Kathleen Thompson, who had set up schools of dance and acting in several post Communist countries, one of which was Poland. She adored the music and asked if she could choreograph it for a performance by her students. James of course agreed and was guest of honour at the performance, which was a brilliant success.
James has played the Suite to Wayne Sleep, who also loves the work and is keen to choreograph it for this country. All that is needed is for the finances to be in place to bring this to fruition.
During the past five years James has been composing music and writing songs. Played keyboards for a concert for Bob Bowles Blues Band, was MD and organised and played in the band for a series of concerts for Trinity performing arts school with Angela Turton. One of which was for, and performed by handicapped children.
People James has worked with recently Jo Meacham, Jamie Little,Tim Walters, Nicky James, Nick Beere, John Marter, Tony Kiley, Darryl Middlebrook, Chris Hook,Reg Tsiboe, Snowy White, Helen Bonner and John Trotter.
James has just released a CD single called 'World Anthem' with guest friends, Snowy White, John Marter, Nick Beere, Nicky James, Lydia Johnson (one of James's daughters), and Josh Mason.
James has again set up his own company da Vinci Brothers Limited (design in music),
and the CD is available via the Web Site da-vincibrothers.com as are all sorts of other goodies!
Watch this space ! ! !