Peter Johnson has been playing harmonica for over 40 years and says "I'm still learning" .
Born in Gateshead, England, his first musical influences came from his dad's 78rpm record collection. Lots of 40’s jazz bands but then quite a few boogie woogie piano records and, oh yes, a couple of Sonny Terry records ….…. The rest is history as they say. His father (Stan) already played folk tunes on the chromatic harmonica and his brother (Philip) played guitar. Pete dabbled with both but then chose to focus on the harmonica. The purchase of the LP "On the Road" by Sonny Terry, J C Burris and Sticks McGhee from JG Windows record shop in Newcastle was a major turning point. Featuring two harmonicas and guitar/vocals, Stan, Phil, Pete wished to emulate this but just how do you get that blues harmonica sound? In the days well before YouTube instruction it wasn't that easy to find out! A TV show featuring J D Loudermilk, writer of "Tobacco Road" was the catalyst as he actually explained the concept of cross-harp playing. That was it.
During his early teens, Pete and his brother and father did perform as a trio covering works off the LP "On the Road" and J C Burris' "One of These Mornings", amongst others, appearing at various folk clubs in the North East of England such as "The Glebe" in Washington.
At the age of eighteen Pete moved to Leeds to attend university. There he met Jeff Webster (piano player/singer) in Grobs Wine Bar and frequently sat in playing harmonica with him. Jeff introduced Pete to the music of Sonny Boy Williamson (II) and Little Walter and opened up a new vista of harmonica playing. From Monday nights at Grobs things morphed into the Sunday night Blues club at The Pack Horse pub with players such as Steve Philips, Brendan Croker and Sholto Lenahan. Steve and Brendan later recorded with Mark Knopfler under the guise of "The Notting Hillbillies". More harmonica directions were unveiled to Pete and now he was listening and practicing along to the likes of Noah Lewis, Will Shade, Jazz Gillum, Yank Rachell, Sonny Boy Williamson (I).
Completing university in 1980, Pete then moved to Den Haag, Holland, for work.
Back in Newcastle at the age of 16, Pete, his mother (Sonia) and father had attended a concert at The Guild Hall on Newcastle Quayside where the feature artist was harmonica player Snooky Pryor and the support act was Shakey Sam. Snooky Pryor and band had had trouble on the road getting from Birmingham to Newcastle so Shakey Sam, performing as a solo act (guitar/vocals/harmonica) played an extra set. In the break Pete was talking with him and discovered that he was actually Dutch. Shakey Sam (Simon Vlietstra) gave Pete some promo material and a copy of his solo record. Pete then remained in touch with Simon. So, on arrival in Holland Pete immediately contacted Simon to find out where he and his and band (featuring Jan de Jong (b) and David Gardeur (p)) were playing. He met up with them in a small cafe by a canal in the vicinity of Barendrecht. Simon got Pete up to sit in on three songs and then at the end of the night asked him if he wanted to join the band! As the band was based in Friesland, rehearsals meant a 2 hour drive north after work for an evening of practice and then a 2 hour drive back home. Pete toured Holland extensively with the Shakey Sam Blues Band (which had a very strong following across the country) until the untimely death of Simon on May 1981. Next Pete teamed up with Dick Groenewold (aka "Dicky Greenwood") (v/g/b) to form the band "One Way Out" , the final line up of which included Loek vd Knaap (g) (now with Living Blues Experience) and Ronald v Drunen (dr). After the demise of "One Way Out" in 1986 Pete played with other bands. This culminated in Pete recording with these bands in Amsterdam in 1988 and putting out his vinyl album "Blowin' the Family Jewels" on the Blue Shadow label (BS4704).
In 1988 Pete moved to Calgary, Alberta, Canada, where he continues to reside. Soon after arriving in Calgary, Pete met up with Gary Martin (Hubert Sumlin's nephew). Pete continues to work with Gary to this day as part of "Gary Martin and The Heavenly Blues".
In 2019 Pete paired up with Jay Coda Walker, an evocative singer/songwriter/guitarist and inventor of the 'swivel slide' (www.swivelside.com). Working as a duo (or as a four-piece), they perform many of Jay's originals and put interesting twists on cover tunes from various genres (country, blues, rockabilly, and pop).
Pete plays blues harmonica styles from 1920/30's through to present day. He also plays Celtic, Folk and Jazz material.