Richard Johnston: Hill Country Troubadour

This 2006 documentary features Richard Johnston performing on Beale Street and several Alabama venues. Johnston is no longer in the music business and is enjoying life away from the spotlight.

His ferocious one-man-band performances captivated, amazed, and astounded audiences. Johnston played around the world, but his home stage was the sidewalk along Beale Street in Memphis, Tennessee. His outdoor shows there attracted larger audiences than the nightclubs lining both sides of the street.

Johnston’s mesmerizing music came 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 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 played to thousands of tourists each week. Many of them stumbled upon Johnston’s show never having heard of him, but they left with his CDs in their hands and they followed his every move on the Internet, anxiously watching for their next opportunity to see this amazing man in action.

“Hill Country Troubadour” tells the compelling story behind Johnston’s music and introduces the fascinating people who helped shape his life.