Guitarist, singer and songwriter Johnnie Bassett grew up with blues music all around him in his native Florida. His unique ability to combine jump blues and Delta stylings gives his playing a distinctive sound.
The self-taught guitarist recalls seeing Tampa Red, Arthur "Big Boy" Crudup and other classic blues artists at fish fries in his grandmother's backyard. Bassett cites Aaron "T-Bone" Walker as a major influence, as well as B.B. and Albert King, Tiny Grimes and Billy Butler.
After Bassett's family moved to Detroit in 1944, he made his debut as a guitarist with Joe Weaver and the Bluenotes, a teenage R&B band. The group won local talent contests and were hired to back up Big Joe Turner, Ruth Brown and others on their tour stops in Detroit. Bassett went into the Army in 1958 and played in a country & western group while stationed in Washington state.
After returning to Detroit, he found work as a session guitarist for Fortune Records by day and in nightclubs at night. In the studios, he played backup to musicians and groups like Nolan Strong and the Diablos, Andre Williams and the Don Juans and the Five Dollars. He also played guitar on the first recording by Smokey Robinson and the Miracles while traveling to Chicago to record as a session man for the Chess Records label. During his Detroit days, he also accompanied John Lee Hooker, Eddie Burns, Alberta Adams, Lowell Fulson and the T.J. Fowler Band at their live shows, as well as Dinah Washington.
In the 1960s, Bassett moved to Seattle, where he backed up Tina Turner, Little Willie John and others. Jimi Hendrix was a frequent guest at the bluesman's club gigs around Seattle. Before the decade ended, he moved back to Detroit, where he's been based ever since.
In 1994, Bassett received a lifetime achievement award from the Detroit Blues Society. He later recorded an album for the Dutch Black Magic label, I Gave My Life to the Blues (1996). Bassett and his band, the Blues Insurgents — which he's been fronting since the early 1990s — have made several U.S., Canadian and European tours in support of LPs including 1997's Bassett Hound and 1998's Cadillac Blues.
An excellent disc all around, available domestically and at domestic prices. The band is in a solid groove with the usual stomps, shuffles, good-time funk and delicious slow blues. During the last few years, Bassett has begun to sound less like '60s-era B.B. King and on this disc he seems to come into full bloom. The band, too, is full of first-class musicians. They draw from disperate sources and concentrate on laying down a tight foundation which lovingly supports Bassett's inventive single-string leads and chordal rhythm guitar work. In this day of gadgets and floor boxes, his sound is refreshingly clean and uncluttered and a pleasure to listen to. If you like straight-ahead electric blues, you can't go wrong with this disc.