A Life of the Blues: Johnny Riley

DAISETTA, June 4, 2015 - I met Johnny Riley in high school, It was around 1981 and we were 9th graders at Hull-Daisetta High school, Johnny was the first person I met as a new student that moved there half way through the school year, From the first day I met Johnny he expressed his interest in music and was already an accomplished musician that could play a variety of instruments and was part of a local gospel band called Soul Patrol, even then to watch Johnny play was impressive.

About 5 years ago Johnny contacted me and asked for advice of getting a real music career going, I gave him the best advice I could and he asked me to write a biography for him for his website which I was more than happy to do for one of my oldest friends, I wrote what I could and Johnny filled in the blanks for the things I didn’t know, This had been the first time we had been in contact in 30 years, And in just 5 years Johnny’s career is booming, Playing and entertaining all over the United States at such venues as Buddy Guy’s Legends Club in Chicago, Hollywood Casino and Sam’s Town Casino in Tunica Mississippi, Harlowes Casino in Greenville Mississippi, Cypress Saloon in Houston and many other venues, He has been featured on Texas Roadhouse TV and the Midnight Jamboree Grand Ole Opry show, The drive and determination that Johnny pits into his music and career phenomenal.

Johnny has released two CD’s since 2013 that are absolutely great, The first CD, Have Mercy on Me, Which contained several songs written by Johnny, The first song on the album called No Letter Blues seemed to pay homage to the broken heartedness of a man who had lost the love of his life, As you listen to the song, If you ever had a broken heart, It will take you back, Being one of those who have been heartbroken, I could almost see the song as I listened, Another song, Erase the Pages, I tell you, we have all been there, We all have things we could forget, but this song isn’t one of them, Johnny’s version of John the Revelator is spot on, There are ten more songs on Have Mercy on Me with the title track being my favorite.

Johnny Riley Performing at Hollywood Casino, Tunica Mississippi

Johnny’s second CD release came in 2015 titled Crossroads of my Life, leave it to Johnny to outdo himself, This album is a perfect score, Every song on this album personifies modern Delta Blues, The title track tells a story of the life of blues of a man who has dedicated his life to the blues against the advice of some of those who had doubt, score one for Johnny. The second track, Cold Cold Summer is one of my favorite tracks on the album along with Old Love on My Mind, Johnny also revisits two remastered songs on this album with No Letter Blues and John the Revelator, Other tracks include Anger Sets In, Lonely is the Night, Be My Woman, Your’re Wrong and I Wonder. Every song Johnny writes tells a story, many of them come from his life experiences, If you are a fan of the blues, you will not be disappointed.

  This year 5 years after my old friend decided to become a serious performer, After several tries, I decided to finally catch a live performance, So I made the journey from my home to Tunica Mississippi and Sam’s Town Casino, This was not only my first time seeing a live performance by Johnny, it was my first time seeing my good friend in 29 years,  I arrived a little early and just tinkered around the casino while I waited, I was sitting in the bar when Johnny came in and he recognized me right away, We had a few minutes to catch up before the show started and it seemed like we had just hung out the day before, Johnny is the real deal folks.


The show started at 9 and all I can say is wow, my friend really knows how to perform and get the crowd into it, People would stop in their tracks just to watch Johnny to perform, people were dancing at their slot machines as they played, Johnny’s performance is seemingly flawless, and as you watch Johnny play, you can see the passion and determination this pan puts into not just each performance, but each note of every song, In between sets, Johnny will come out into the audience and introduce himself to anyone who is there and sit and talk like an old friend. The live performance was so awesome, I made the 3 hour one way drive two more times in the month of may and would not hesitate next time he is playing near me. So if you want to hear some great music get your hands on his CD’s, If you want to see and feel some good music, go to a show, neither will be disappointing.

Johnny Riley Tour Dates: http://johnnyrileymusic.com/dates
Johnny Riley on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/johnny.riley.37
To Book Johnny Riley: http://www.msdeltablues.com/
To Buy Johnnys Latest CD: http://www.cdbaby.com/cd/johnnyriley3

By: Loyde McIllwain

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