Johnny Dyer

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Johnny Dyer

Johnny Dyer was one of those guys who was so steady, and had been doing what he did so well for so long, that he's sometimes overlooked. But don't take Johnny for granted - he's one of the truly great harp players of his generation, the generation that came out of the heyday of the blues harp in the 1950s. Born in Mississippi in 1938, and having spent some of his formative years on Stovall's Plantation in Rolling Fork (also home of Muddy Waters), early on Johnny absorbed the subtlety of phrasing and easy swinging chops that are at the core of all the great blues harp players.

These elemental qualities were ingrained so early that they were completely automatic and natural in Johnny's playing, but often took later generations of harp players a lifetime of study to get a handle on - if they ever grasped them at all. Add to that a voice as rich as Mississippi mud, and you've got a bluesman who is about as heavy as they come.

Even with these deep roots and surplus of natural talent, Johnny spent most of his life as a strictly local, part-time player in the Los Angeles area, where he relocated in the late 1950s. After testing the waters by leading his own band through the early '60s, he eventually took a day job to support himself until the 1990s. But over the next decade, Johnny released a series of well-received CDs on labels such as Black Top and Blind Pig, and he even earned a prestigious Blues Music Award nomination for "Blues Song of the Year" for the title cut of his CD release with guitarist Barry Levenson on the Storyville label, "Hard Times Won."

In 2004, Johnny became a charter member of the Mannish Boys and was featured with the band live and on record on some of their deepest blues material, often paying tribute to his two early inspirations, Muddy Waters and Chicago blues harp icon, Little Walter.

Johnny Dyer died at his home in San Dimas, California on November 11, 2014, at the age of 75.