Ode to Jef Lee Johnson: The Promise of Lovolution

Charles Blass By

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Jef is on to his new adventures but it's comforting to know energy never dies. All-One in the Quantum. We played on numerous projects during the 70's in Philly and our mutually extreme twisted sense of humor and outlook on life gave way to very interesting times of exploring the unlimited realms of creativity. He was true to himself which brought forth the originality he was known for. Watching his massive contribution to the world of music and art through the years was not surprising given his unrestricted approach to this existence. Jef and I played in some cover bands and worked on some original material but nothing was recorded except for idea tapes. The highlights were just the fact we were working on original material and spent a lot of intense time improvising through various styles. The art of improvisation came naturally to both of us as well as the group of Philly musicians we had regular sessions with. All during this time was also the constant off-the-wall humor, extreme wordplay and running commentary on life. Jef had the rare ability to really go "out there" without regard to boundaries or limitations. In other words, we got along famously. —Darren Ginn

He changed the way that many of the young guitarists that I grew up with in the Philadelphia area conceive what is even possible on the instrument sonically, technically and as a vehicle for expression. I think he literally melted my entire face off on several occasions and he certainly left a lasting impression... —Mike Spiegel

I'm glad that I brought tears to his eyes sometimes from laughter when we was travelling or hangin back stage, cracking stupid jokes. Because I know he was troubled about his lost love. Just two weeks ago we was sendin old skool rap videos back and forward for laughs. He was really into Son Of Bazerk. —Deejay Grazzhoppa

Here's my first cab ride to soundcheck with Jef: "All this is part of the song... We're playing that tonight... You see these flowers?... I'm playing them tonight...." Of course, with absolutely no rehearsal beforehand. —Pat Dorcean

We went over to Morocco to do trio gigs. One of the gigs was a double bill with Hamid el Kasri and at the end we played together. Wild! I asked one of the musicians where 'one' was and he had no idea what I was talking about. Jef totally understood it instantly, as he always did. Incredible experience. —Chico Huff

Jef Lee Johnson was by far the most talented guitarist I know. He often joined me on live gigs adding more vibe and greatness to the shows than I could have imagined. In the studio he was generous with ideas, always innovative. And as a friend, he was caring and "real," always pushing me to be the best writer, artist, person I could be, always believing in me. That is a very huge thing, to have someone like that in your corner.

He taught me so much without even trying to; he changed the way I thought about music. I used to struggle with writing, always wanting my songs to be perfect. I think we all do that. But the truth is, life is imperfect in every way, so then so should art be. He taught me that, gave me the freedom to know that what I was writing, my voice, the understated way I play my guitar...was good enough... no, was right, just as it should be. —Lizanne Knott

Jef Lee Johnson, Prince of Humility, was uncomfortable when we confessed all the good we thought of him. He loved to be loved just like he loved others: discreetly. A glance, a sympathetic ear was enough. His guitar said the rest. —Frederic Goaty

Jef Lee was never widely known to the outside world as he should have been, but he is (I can't write 'was') one of the greatest musicians of our time. His time here was full of tragedy, and we wish somehow we could have made this a better world, to deserve and honor and celebrate a person of such exquisite quality. We will keep on trying for that new world. We love you always, Jef Lee. —Margaret Davis Grimes

Jef Lee is a real manifestation of the blues, and beyond that, a genius. The music he plays transports us all. —Henry Grimes

A sad, sad day for music-lovers. Describing one of my friends as "an unrecognized musical genius" might narrow it down to a few dozen people but if you asked THEM who that phrase best described they might likely have chosen Jef Lee Johnson.

He did what no one else could do. Look him up on youtube—there are plenty of clips—and you will see. And don't be hypnotized by his brain-crushing guitar playing; check out his songs to experience his humanity.

We have only just started to miss him. —Mitch Goldman

A guitar crooner in a world of guitar screamers. Jef, Thank you for all your wonderful time here with us making music and making the world better. I only wish you could have known the joy you have given me and so many others with your music and your spirit. Meet me in the middle of the air... —Dean Bowman



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