Blues to Bop | 28-31.08.2014



Johnny grew up in the Southern States, receiving his first harmonica at the age of 9, and being forced to practice his instrument sitting in the car out in the yard! He remembers as a boy listening to jazz on the radio, and sitting in juke joints where he would hear the music of Muddy Waters, B B King, Little Walter etc. Aged 14, at the death of his mother, Johnny moved up to New Paltz, New York State, completing his school education and singing and playing harmonica in his first blues band, the Train Riders.

His next band, The Burning Bush, formed with some of the same players, performed blues and rock and was one of the first psychedelic bands, playing Woodstock around 1960.


During this decade he recorded songs for Mercury Record Company, including 'Deep in the Wilderness', and in 1966 the company were considering sending him with his band to England.


Johnny returned to New Paltz due family responsibilities and played in this area with various musicians under the name 'The John Mars Band'. In 1967 he travelled to California, arriving in San Francisco. This was the summer of love! He immediately started to look around for musicians to form a band, and put together his first one, 'The Last Mile', which became 'The Johnny Mars Band'. These were free festivals and gigs, because it was about partying and making music, an experimental time.


In May 1972 Johnny came to England with his wife, Elaine, playing at the 100 club in London and making new musical contacts there. He also made his first European album, “Blues from Mars”. In 1991 Johnny also played as featured soloist on an album for the popular group Banarama. Their singles "The Preacher Man, Megalomaniac and Long Train Running" rose on the charts and Johnny subsequently made TV appearances across Europe and performed in their video.

Johnny continued to perform in major blues festivals and concerts in the UK and across Europe, as well as in the States, developing his career as a harmonica player and experimenting with electrics and pedals.



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