Smokestack Lightnin' Home Page -- The Blues Profile Page

Mary Johnson (19001970) was an American classic female blues singer, accordionist and songwriter. Her most noted tracks were "Dream Daddy Blues" and "Western Union Blues." She wrote a number of her own tracks including "Barrel House Flat Blues", "Key To The Mountain Blues" and "Black Men Blues." Johnson variously worked with Peetie Wheatstraw, Tampa Red, Kokomo Arnold and Roosevelt Sykes, and was married to her fellow blues musician, Lonnie Johnson.
Mary Johnson

Born Mary Williams, in Yazoo City, Mississippi, United States, she ultimately recorded twenty two tracks between 1929 and 1936. These comprised eight songs in 1929, six in 1930, a couple more in 1932, four in 1934, and her final two recordings in 1936. Over that timespan her accompanists included Henry Brown, Judson Brown, Roosevelt Sykes, Peetie Wheatstraw, Ike Rodgers, Tampa Red, Artie Mosby, and Kokomo Arnold.

Prior to her recording career, Johnson relocated to St. Louis, Missouri in 1915, where in her teenage years she worked with several of that time's leading blues musicians. She married Lonnie Johnson, although their marriage only lasted from 1925 to 1932. Nevertheless, they had six children. Johnson worked in the St. Louis area until the mid-1940s. Her song, "Key To The Mountain Blues", was recorded in 1948 by Jess Thomas as "Mountain Key Blues."

By the 1950s, Johnson had long since given up a music career, and concentrated on her religion and worked in a hospital. In 1960, Johnson was interviewed by Paul Oliver with extracts in his book, Conversation With The Blues. Oliver stated "Living with her mother Emma Williams in an apartment on Biddle Street, St. Louis, Johnson has known considerable poverty for many years."

Johnson died in 1970.

In 1995, her entire known recordings were released by Document Records on the compilation album, Complete Works in Chronological Order (1929-1936).

Click the PLAY button below to start the stream