Johnny Dickinson

Part of our bluesy Thursday night line-up: Blues Legends

Northumberland has always had one of the UK’s proudest and most distinctive folk music traditions with many internationally recognised exponents. In addition to that, the southern boundary of the rugged and historic county – Tyneside – has a close affinity with, and a strong following for, American blues which dates back at least five decades to the halcyon days of the seminal Club A Go Go and visits by Muddy, Wolf, Sonny Boy and the like.

Slide-guitarist/singer/writer, Johnny Dickinson, from the county town of Morpeth, was subjected to both elements in his formative years and the resultant musical alloy has been burnished painstakingly ever since. In the early ‘80s, Kerrang magazine – a standard-bearer for blues-rock rather than roots music – tagged Johnny’s first band, Splitcrow, a “most likely to succeed” outfit, a view borne out by an impending major UK tour. After moving to London he became a founder member of the influential twin-guitar and harmonica- powered (and multi-award winning) band, Paul Lamb & the Kingsnakes.

Since 2004, Dickinson has largely pursued a solo career, a format he appears to be totally at ease with. Of course, it helps if the music makes a lasting impression! His solo debut, Castles & Old Kings, certainly did that. BBC Radio 2 took notice at once, with Dickinson picking-up guest spots on the Mike Harding and Mark Radcliffe shows and, proving his versatility, recorded a live broadcast session for Paul Jones Blues show. UK tours with the Australian guitar-phenomenon, Tommy Emmanuel, then Kelly Joe Phelps and an Irish tour with John Martyn spread the word quickly. Shows followed in Denmark, The Netherlands, Croatia, Italy, Germany, Poland and Austria with players like John Renbourn, Louis Winsberg, Jan Ackermann and Thom Bresh (virtuoso son of Merle Travis) among many others. Back in the studio, Dickinson fitted in a side project for the Northumbrian Anthology (an aural encyclopaedia of the region’s folk music) and the resulting album, Border Ballads, a composite of Johnny’s music and the words of the Victorian writer and poet, Algernon Charles Swinburne, was highly praised, winning MOJO’s Folk Album of the Month in the process.

Since 2011 the combined effects of contracting a lymphoma, followed shortly afterwards by being diagnosed with the very rare Guillain Barré syndrome have seen Johnny restricted to performing only a handful of gigs so this is a rare chance to catch one of Britain’s finest blues guitarists.

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