Arc of a welder
Jimmy Johnson knows that a welding gun should be positioned at a 45-degree angle with its contact tip about 3/8 of an inch away from the steel. He also knows about shielding gas, wire feed and voltage. And this 77-year-old knows how to lay down deep, strong blues lines on his guitar so that they melt and burn into his lyrics and soul-deep vocals, too.
Unlike a lot of musicians, Johnson didn't spend his youth chasing dreams of musical glory. As a young man in Chicago, he worked as a welder, fusing together pieces of steel. It wasn't until 1959 that Jimmy Thompson - now known as Jimmy Johnson (though the reasons for the name change are unclear) - joined a band and began slinging his guitar around Chicago's West side with harpist Slim Willis. He was already 30 years old.
It'd be another 20 years before he'd see the release of his first U.S. album, the critically acclaimed “Johnson's Whacks.” Impetus for that release was generated, in part, by his participation in Chicago label Alligator's Grammy-nominated “Chicago Blues” anthologies, featuring Johnson, Carey Bell's Blues Harp Band, and saxophonist Eddie Shaw and his band known as the Wolf Gang, among others.
More acclaim and attention were heaped on Johnson after the releases of his “North/South” album and the 1983 follow-up disc, “Room Preacher.”
The blues became much more real and tragic five years later, when Johnson was driving his band's van on a road trip in Indiana. It swerved and crashed, killing bassist Larry Exum and keyboardist St. James Bryant.
Johnson, who was injured in the crash, laid aside his musical career for a few years before his triumphant recording comeback in 1994, “I'm a Jockey.”
These days, he's treated to the adoration of fans of his soulful blues who remember how the guitarist helped revitalize blues in the 1980s with his funked up rhythms, upper register teardrop vocals and delicately phrased jazz chords.
Be ready for Johnson's signature thick grooves, shuffles, slow-smolder blues and maybe, just maybe, even a few minutes of azure Rastafarian bliss - the Mississippi-born, Chicago blues great went in for a reggae song, “The Street You Live On,” on his 1999 release, “Every Road Ends Somewhere.”
F Jan. 20, 8 p.m., Famous Dave's, 3001 Hennepin Ave. S., $5. 822-9900, www.famousdaves.com.
The Children's Theatre Company presents previews of the world premiere of Barry Kornhauser's “Reeling,” Tuesday-Thursday, Jan. 17-19. The production is inspired by the slapstick and madcap melodrama of the comedic silent films of the 1920s.
The play follows the travails of a little fellow who tries to make his way through a world of kooky chases and narrow escapes as he seeks to win the heart of his one true love.
“Reeling” is directed by Peter C. Brosius. The 15-member cast features CTC resident company member Dean Holt playing the lead.
“Reeling” officially opens on Friday, Jan. 20.
Tu Jan. 17-March 4, varying times, Children's Theatre Company, 2400 Third Ave. S., $19-$34 (adults); $13-$28 (children, students, seniors). 874-0400, www.childrenstheatre.org.
Two rivers run through him
As a child, photographer Mark Kawell was forced to leave his flooded riverbank home. In his latest exhibit, “Mendota: Two Waters Converge,” he returns to the lands of his youth to capture the convergence of the Mississippi and Minnesota rivers on film.
Kawell printed his photographs on archival German mould-made paper, giving the large-format images a warm, velvety look.
“Mendota: Two Waters Converge” opens Saturday, Jan. 21 at Gallery 360 with a reception from 7 p.m. to 10 p.m.
Gallery hours are Monday-Saturday, 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.; Thursday from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m.; Sunday, noon to 5 p.m.
Gallery 360 also is showing the work of Mary Bergs, Matt Doubek and Kristen Arden.
Sa Jan. 21-Feb. 26, varying times, Gallery 360, 3011 W. 50th St., Free. 925-2400.>/i>
Theater of the people
Intermedia Arts is teaming up with artist Michael Agnew to present introductory training in Theatre of the Oppressed - a form of popular theater of, by, and for people struggling for liberation.
Theatre of the Oppressed (TO) was established in the early 1970s by Brazilian director and leftist Worker Party activist Augusto Boal.
TO employs a variety of games, exercises and unique theatrical formats to explore oppression and liberation, all done in the hope of stimulating debate and motivating action leading to social change.
The TO workshop culminates in a performance in the Forum Theater process.
To learn more about Theatre of the Oppressed, visit www.theatreoftheoppressed.org. For more information on Michael Agnew, go to www.gtcdrama.com.
The TO workshop will be at Intermedia Arts, 2822 Lyndale Avenue S., on Saturday and Sunday, Jan. 28-29, from noon to 6 p.m. Registration is $65. For more registration information, contact Melis Arik at 874-2809 or send her e-mail at [email protected].
The original anarchist puppet, Mr. Punch, Lord of Misrule, is ready to rock and sock authority figures and the confounding rules governing our world. The gleeful mayhem should appeal to revolutionaries of all ages.
Su Jan. 22, 11 a.m., Bryant-Lake Bowl, 810 W. Lake St., $7 adults; $5 kids (12 and under). 825-8949, www.bryantlakebowl.com.