Top Rail News Flash * May 2007
©1995 Top Rail Chatter, P.O. Box 100933, Arlington, Va. 22210
Mike Johnson's yodel songs part of American Music History!
Janet McKee and Peter Stark of the Library of Congress watch as Mike Johnson signs his yodeling songs into American Music History.
In March 2007 Mike Johnson of Arlington, Virginia reached one of the most important milestones of his music career. His Yodel Song Archives, and related material, are now officially a part of the Recorded Sound Reference Center's permanent collection. The Reference Center is the intake and processing part of the Library of Congress' Motion Picture, Broadcasting and Recorded Sound Division. Once processed into their database, the system is programmed to automatically transfer the works to the appropriate categories for their Reading Rooms and the Library's online website databases for public consumption.
On the 26th of April 2007, Mike Johnson went over to the Library of Congress to sign the finalized Gift Agreement with Ms. Janet McKee, the Reference Center's Manager, and Mr. Peter Stark, the Library's Gift Coordinator. Johnson included a provision allowing to Library to make single song copies for their patrons and music researchers without having to obtain a clearance for each request.
Johnson's works were particularly attractive because yodeling performances by African-American Yodelers are somewhat rare. Johnson has not only been a consistent Yodeler on the Independent Country Music circuit for more than 40 years, he has also written over 100 yodeling songs, a number of which have become quite popular among his following.
While there have been scores of famous Anglo-American Country Music Yodelers, the few famous African-American Yodelers, like Charles Anderson, Monroe Tabor, Beulah Henderson, and the Mississippi Sheiks, had their heyday during the Minstrel and String Band era, roughly between 1888 and 1925. Their recordings are even more rare, most of them either lost, too fragile to play, or in the hands of tight-fisted private collectors. McDonald Craig of Linden, Tennessee, became a notable standout during the 1960s and '70s. A superb Jimmie Rodgers Yodeler who grew up in a Bluegrass-Mountain Music household is also the only Black Yodeler to ever win First Place at an annual  Jimmie Rodgers Yodeling Championship held in Meridian Mississippi.
Then Mike came along and combined the Jimmie Rodgers, Swiss, and Cowboy yodeling styles to create his own unique sound and began writing his own yodeling songs.
Copies of Mike Johnson's donated works and descriptions below.
Left to Right pictured above:
1. CD- Black Yodel No.1, The Song The Songwriter [13 songs]
2. Mike Johnson's Yodel Song Archives Vol.1 [2-discs - 64 songs]
3. CD-Mike Johnson Yodeling 40 Years [50 yodel songs]
4. Mike Johnson's Yodel Song Archives Vol.2 [2-discs -50 songs]
5. CD-Did You Hug Your Mother Today? [10 songs]
6. Stranding in the rear: Mike Johnson, The Official Short Version [46-page biography includes Mike's family and formative years, with photographs]
Not pictured above:
6. DVD- Mike Johnson Live [different performances]
7. DVD- Mike Johnson Black Yodel No.1 [yodeling performances]
8. Mike Johnson color portrait
9. 114 yodel song lyrics
The soon to be 61-year old [June 2007] Johnson began his music journey as a boy in the 1950s when he became hooked on the music of the Singing Movie Cowboys, Gene Autry, Roy Rogers, Rex Allen and Herb Jeffries. Jeffries was the first and only African-American Singing Movie Cowboy who starred in four feature-length all-black cast western movies during the 1930s, before he made his mark with the Duke Ellington Band. Johnson imitated them and many others and around 1958 his transition to country music began when he was captivated by the sounds of a Pedal Steel Guitar coming from Mary's Blue Room one Saturday night. This little honky-tonk bar-restaurant was on Capitol Hill, in the 300 block of Pennsylvania Avenue, S.E., right next door to the famous Tune Inn. Johnson began performing in the mid-1960s and did his first Nashville recording session in 1981. Along the way he formed Pata del Lobo Music publishing, Roughshod Records, and the Top-Rail Chatter Independent's Country Music magazine. In 2002 the National Traditional Country Music Association inducted him into America's Old Time Country Music Hall of Fame.
His yodel song "Yeah I'm A Cowboy" has appeared several times over the years and most recently on the international release "Rough Guide to Yodel" by the World Music Network in London. This 18 song compilation CD by Bart Plantenga features 18 World Famous Yodelers, including our own Mike Johnson on track 14. Plantenga is a noted Netherlands DJ, music historian, and author of the 2004 best seller, "Yodel Ay Eee Ooo The Secret History of Yodeling Around The World." He recently had a 5-page article on Mike Johnson published in the March 2007 issue of Big Mag, a Netherlands publication, and gave a yodel lecture slide show with Mike as the featured artist. Johnson is also included in his forthcoming book "Yodel In Hi-Fi."
In the last three years Mike's Internet presence has grown considerably, in spite of the November 2003 neck injury that ended his long, interstate trucking career. Three of his neck vertebrae collapsed on his spinal cord. His first official performance following his rehabilitation was in May 2005 when he went to New York's Bowery Poetry Club to participate in Bart's yodel-book lecture with Yodelers Randy Erwin and Lynn Book. You can see Johnson on 16 of his own YouTube videos and purchase out his products at our Roughshod Records online store. DJs can download his music from the AirPlay Direct site.
Mother's Day is next Sunday, 13 May 2007, so don't forget to say Happy Mother's Day with a song and grab a copy of Mike's 1994 Mother's Day radio hit "DID YOU HUG YOUR MOTHER TODAY?" at CD Baby.
On a closing note, we wish to salute our legendary Bluegrass friend, Wade Mainer, who turned 100 years on the 21st. of April 2007. Mainer was very instrumental in the early stages of Bluegrass development. We here had the privilege of editing a video to DVD of Wade's birthday bash celebration at the Fenton Community Center, for our friend Virgie Warren's Bluebird Country News in Flushing, Michigan. It's an honor knowing you Wade, and we wish you 100 more!
Adios amigos! Hope to see you down the road!
Joe Arnold, Top-Rail Editor
Courtesy of Roughshod Records