Art&Seek presents This Week in Texas Music History. Every week, we’ll spotlight a different moment and the musician who made it. This Week in Texas Music History, we’ll learn about a bluesman who was also a cowboy.
You can also hear This Week in Texas Music History on Sunday at precisely 6:04 p.m. on KERA radio. But subscribe to the podcast so you won’t miss an episode. And our thanks to KUT public radio in Austin for helping us bring this segment to you. And if you’re a music lover, be sure to check out Track by Track, the podcast from Paul Slavens, host of KXT’s The Paul Slavens Show, heard Sunday night’s at 8.
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“Snuff” Johnson was born on Aug. 10, 1913, in Cedar Creek, Texas. He grew up in a sharecropper’s family, learning music from his father and uncle. As a teenager, Johnson worked as a cowboy and would later record the music of black ranch hands. However, his biggest influence was fellow Texas bluesman Mance Lipscomb. Johnson emulated Lipscomb’s rhythmic guitar style and his flair for storytelling through songs.
Snuff Johnson was in his 70s when he first recorded. His 1999 album, Black Cowboy Blues and Church Songs, reflects the broad range of his repertoire. Before he died in 2000, Johnson performed frequently at Austin blues club Antone’s, where he helped pass along his authentic rural blues to a whole new generation.
Next time on This Week in Texas Music History, we’ll learn how one man almost made Dallas — not Nashville — into Music City, USA.