Richard Johnston: Hill Country Troubadour

Richard Johnston performing on Beale Street as seen in "Richard Johnston: Hill Country Troubadour," a documentary shot in 2004 and 2005. Please note: Johnston no longer performs on Beale Street.

Richard Johnston’s ferocious one-man-band performances captivate, amaze, and astound audiences. He plays around the world, but his home stage is the sidewalk along Beale Street in Memphis, Tennessee. His outdoor shows there attract larger audiences than the nightclubs lining both sides of the street.

Johnston’s mesmerizing music comes from the backwoods of north Mississippi where the landscape is dotted with hills. That’s why it’s called Hill Country blues. The Hill Country sound has influenced musicians ranging from Led Zeppelin and the Rolling Stones in the 70s to Iggy Pop and Bono in the 90s. After years of searching for direction, Johnston went to north Mississippi to hear Hill Country music in its natural setting.

He ended up staying there, learning from masters of the music like R. L. Burnside and Jessie Mae Hemphill, while amply filling the huge vacancy left by the death of the mystical bluesman Junior Kimbrough.

Johnston was the headliner at Kimbrough’s juke joint for two years. When the juke joint burned, he moved its music to the street in Memphis where he plays to thousands of tourists each week. Many of them stumble upon Johnston’s show never having heard of him, but they leave with his CDs in their hands and they follow his every move on the Internet, anxiously watching for their next opportunity to see this amazing man in action.

Hearing Richard Johnston’s music is a life-changing experience. “Hill Country Troubadour” tells the compelling story behind his music and introduces the fascinating people who helped shape his life.

For more information about the documentary: maxshores.com/johnston