Stephane Beaudin

Stephane Beaudin

Injury almost sidelines popular guitarist

Gordie Johnson goes back to the blues basics for his new gospel-tinged group while recovering from surgery

It’s the kind of music Gordie Johnson knows inside and out.

It’s the music he grew up listening to as a kid – and the kind he played while recovering from surgery that could have ended his playing days forever.

Johnson, the frontman for Big Sugar – and Grady, as well as bass player for Wide Mouth Mason – heads out with drummer Stephane Beaudin in a new band Sit Down, Servant. It’s a combination of traditional blues and gospel with an undercurrent of electric dub set for the Queen’s Friday (May 18) at 8 p.m.

Johnson said he drew from his childhood idols, like Son House, for the new sound.

“They all sang spirituals, blues songs, folk songs – they played everything,” he said. “It’s all the music I grew up with – it’s the music I play when I’m sitting around the house.”

Johnson recorded an album of songs which he penned as well as traditional spirituals that he arranged, using synth bass and a dub echo to put his signature on them.

The recording was in response to a request from George Thorogood’s tour for an opening act – Johnson didn’t want to pass up the offer, despite his other bands being unable to participate.

To give Thorogood’s tour people a taste of what he had in mind, he recorded 10 songs – in two days.

“I didn’t have all day,” Johnson said.

Playing and recording the songs showed Johnson that he was still able to make music like he had prior to the surgery for carpel tunnel syndrome in his wrist.

The problem developed after the previous Big Sugar and Wide Mouth Mason tour, which left his hand numb.

“My hand had seized up and I pretty much lost the use of it,” Johnson said.

He was given two options: he might never play again, and he might play again if he underwent surgery. Rehabilitation afterward included playing the music he knew so well.

“They were the easiest songs I could play because I played them all my life,” Johnson said.

He still has pain and soreness in his hand, but he’s still playing and will keep playing as long as he’s able. Big Sugar and Wide Mouth Mason plan to tour later this year, and Grady will be recording a new album in the new year.

“I’m just happy to be above ground,” Johnson said.

Tickets for Sit Down, Servant at the Queen’s are $15. Doors open at 7 p.m. Please call 250-754-6751.

arts@nanaimobulletin.com

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