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About Robert Johnson

The name Robert Johnson is associated with legends of deals made with Satan himself. One of several professional drummers who share what is an extremely common name in musical circles, Robert Johnson came up with his superior drum sound without resorting to supernatural pacts. He also couldn't have made any deals involving eternal life, succumbing to cancer in the '80s when he wasn't much older than 30. If he had died a decade or even a half-a-decade earlier, it would have been bigger news -- such is the fickle nature of pop music. In the '70s, disco was one of the biggest fads and Johnson had been primary in laying down the beat for the extremely popular KC & the Sunshine Band.
The group came out of Florida with much local talent involved. Johnson was born in Miami, while songwriter Harry Wayne "K.C." Casey hailed from Hialeah. Guitarist Jerome Smith and trumpeter Ronnie Smith were also denizens of a state that would eventually be better-known for hanging chads than musical Smiths. Politics of any sort was hardly the point when it came to hits such as "Blow Your Whistle" (not about corporate watchdogs), or "Do It Good" (not about prosecuting white collar criminals). By the time "(Shake, Shake, Shake) Shake Your Booty" came around, Johnson was the only drummer besides Ringo Starr to have played on three chart-topping hits during one year. His influences included jazz as well as the expected allegiance to James Brown. With a name like Robert Johnson, a nickname would be a necessity, and this drummer's was "Shotgun," immortalized on dance floors with an instrumental entitled "Shotgun Shuffle." This is not the same Robert Johnson who played with jazz guitarist Wes Montgomery and his brothers in the '50s -- not unless he was only two-years-old at the time. ~ Eugene Chadbourne

Hazlehurst, MS
May 8, 1911

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