Johnny Heartsman

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Johnny Heartsman
Johnny Heartsman.JPG
Johnny Heartsman, 1991.
Background information
Born (1937-02-09)February 9, 1937
San Fernando, California, United States
Died Script error: The function "death_date_and_age" does not exist.
Sacramento, California, United States
Genres Electric blues, soul blues[1]
Occupation(s) Singer, songwriter, musician, arranger
Instruments Vocals, bass guitar, flute, keyboards, guitar
Years active 1953–1996
Labels Alligator Records

Johnny Heartsman (February 9, 1937 – December 27, 1996)[2] was an American electric blues and soul blues musician and songwriter.[1] Heartsman showed musical diversity, playing a number of musical instruments, including the electric organ and flute. His distinctive guitar playing appeared on a number of 1950s and 1960s San Francisco Bay Area recordings, and he was still playing up to the time of his death.[1]

His best known recording, "Johnny's House Party", was a R&B hit in 1957.[3] His other better known tracks were "Paint My Mailbox Blue" and "Heartburn". He variously worked with Jimmy McCracklin, Sugar Pie DeSanto, Big Mama Thornton, Ray Agee, Jimmy Wilson, Johnny Fuller, Al King, Tiny Powell and Joe Simon.[2][4]

He is not to be confused with the American jazz singer, Johnny Hartman.


Heartsman was born in San Fernando, California, United States.[1] Originally influenced by Lafayette Thomas,[4] in his teenage years Heartsman started operating as a session musician, in the studio with local record producer, Bob Geddins. One of his earliest involvements was playing the bass guitar for the 1953 recording of "Tin Pan Alley" by Jimmy Wilson.[1] His own efforts yielded the instrumental track, "Johnny's House Party (Parts 1 & 2)" on the Music City label, which reached number 13 on the US Billboard R&B chart in June 1957. The record billed the act as 'John Heartsman, the Rhythm Rocker and the Gaylarks'.[3]

His session work continued into the early 1960s, and he played on Tiny Powell's "My Time After Awhile", and Al King's cover version of "Reconsider Baby". Heartman's guitar playing technique involved imaginative use of the guitar's volume control, producing "an eerie moan".[1] Heartsman's later work included playing in show bands, appearing in concert in cocktail lounge settings, and as the touring organist for Joe Simon. He spent 1970-1973 in Midland, Texas, as the houseband leader at The Chateau Club. It was here that he hired young blues guitarist and singer/songwriter Jay Boy Adams. Adams credits Heartsman as one of his musical mentors. By the late 1980s, Heartsman had reverted to playing the blues, and he released his debut album, Sacramento, in 1987.[1] It was described by one reviewer as "a great success".[4] He had previously appeared at the San Francisco Blues Festival in 1985. The record producer, Dick Shurman, oversaw Heartsman's The Touch, released by Alligator Records in 1991.[1]

Over the years, Heartsman's songwriting ability saw him pen tracks for Jesse James ("Are You Gonna Leave Me"), Roy Buchanan ("Goose Grease"), John Hammond, Jr. (Got to Find My Baby"), Amos Garrett ("Move On Down The Line"), and several more for Joe Simon.[5]

He continued his varied career before succumbing to the effects of a stroke in Sacramento, California, in December 1996, at the age of 59.[1][2]


Year Title Record label
1987 Sacramento CrossCut
1991 The Touch Alligator
1995 Made in Germany (live album) In-Akustik
2000 Still Shinin' Have Mercy


See also


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External links