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Delta Blues Symposium XIV presents  bluesman James "Super Chikan" Johnson

March 14, 2008 --The Department of English and Philosophy at Arkansas State University presents Mississippi bluesman James “Super Chikan” Johnson and hisJames "Super Chikan" Johnson with one of his signature "Chik-can-tars." band at Delta Blues Symposium XIV: Sense of Place. Johnson will perform Thursday, March 27, at 8 p.m. in the Fine Arts Recital Hall, Fine Arts Center, 114 S. Caraway Road, Jonesboro. This event is also sponsored by the College of Humanities and Social Sciences.  All symposium events, which continue until Saturday, March 29, on the ASU-Jonesboro campus, are free and open to the public. For additional information on this and other symposium events, visit or call (870) 972-3043.

James “Super Chikan” Johnson, born in 1951, earned his name from his fascination with his family’s chickens and his attempts to communicate with them while growing up in the farming community of Darling, Miss. His uncle, legendary bluesman Big Jack Johnson, influenced Johnson’s own brand of music. Johnson’s first instrument was a “diddly-bo,” a homemade instrument made of a length of wood with a strand of wire stretched end to end. He eventually built a four-string diddly-bo to accommodate additional sounds he was hearing. Using a Prince Albert tobacco can and Popsicle sticks, he slid the sticks under each string on top of the can, providing different pitches. But the demanding work on the farm required that he also picked cotton, which he began doing at the age of eight.

Johnson bought his first acoustic guitar in Clarksdale, Miss., when he was thirteen, but since that guitar had only two strings, so he made it cackle like the chickens. From listening to Jimmy Reed, Elmore James, Lightnin’ Hopkins, and Slim Harpo, Johnson adapted Reed’s style to his two-string guitar.

Recognizing him as a hard worker and eager learner, a land leveller offered him work out of the cotton fields, and eventually Johnson drove a truck. Johnson would write down lyrics that would come to him while driving down Delta roads day after day, and friends encouraged him to record himself playing and singing. He played with Frank Frost, Sam Carr, Wesley Jefferson, and Jackie Brenston, and subsequently gained much experience that would shape his own music. But despite the experience he gained during those years, he was driven to “crow” on his own and developed his own distinct style. While drawing some influence from such artists as Muddy Waters, John Lee Hooker, and Chuck Berry, Johnson performs with an incomparable individual style. Moreover, he developed his talent for painting, and the guitars themselves became his canvases. Using five-gallon military gas cans, he created what he calls his Chik-can-tars.

In 1997, Johnson produced “Blues Come Home to Roost,” followed by two more albums, “What You See,” and “Shoot That Thang.” He won the Best Blues Album and Best Debut Album from the 1998 Living Blues Magazine Awards and was nominated for a 1998 W.C. Handy Award for “Best New Blues Artist.” In 2004, Johnson won the Mississippi Governor’s Award for Excellence in the Arts.




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