Guitarist Johnny Burgin came to Chicago from South Carolina to attend the University of Chicago, and earned the name "Rockin' Johnny" as a DJ at the college radio station WHPK. Rockin' Johnny began playing in the ghetto clubs of Chicago's West Side with Blues singer Taildragger, and then began touring nationally as a sideman with former Howlin' Wolf drummer Sam Lay and Blues piano legend Pinetop Perkins.
After learning from the masters, he put his own band together. Things started happening for Rockin’ Johnny after he took a Monday night residency at The Smoke Daddy in Chicago’s Wicker Park neighborhood. His original, energetic approach soon made him a strong local draw week after week and year after year, bringing in blues aficionados, every musician in town, and a younger crowd that normally didn’t go to hear blues bands.
The atmosphere he generated was so electric, he was offered a Delmark recording contract after hearing just one set. Since those days, he’s toured Europe twice, played festivals and headlined clubs all over the Midwest. Rockin’ Johnny has released three studio CDs and a live CD, and recorded at BLUES on Halsted. Rockin’ Johnny has also gone on to become one of Chicago’s most in-demand session men, contributing his incisive playing to over a dozen CDs.
Here’s what some of Chicago’s most in the know critics and music business figures have to say about Rockin’ Johnny:
Bruce Iglauer, Alligator Records: “Rockin’ Johnny delivers the raw, rough-edged spirit of real Chicago blues”.
Dick Shurman, writer for Living Blues, blues producer: “Rockin’ Johnny has brought a refreshing jolt of talent, feeling and affirmation of the Windy City’s guitar tradition. Johnny has always been known as a crowd pleaser with rawness, drive, a tight band and a scholarly and musical mastery of the local blues repertoire and vocabulary. He’s extra interesting and distinctive because, instead of the overdone warhorses sometimes called “the set list from hell,” Johnny mines more obscure building blocks like Little Smokey Smothers, Hip Linkchain or Willie James Lyons, adding to his appeal to hard core purists as well as more casual lovers of powerful Chicago blues. It adds up to a winning combination of depth, a bite like the winter wind, tradition and an up-to-the minute wallop, and offers a guaranteed winner for all who see or book the band.”