Johnny Shines

April 26, 1915 – April 20, 1992

Recording history: 1946 for Columbia, 1950 on Chess, 1952-3 for J.O.B., late 1960’s for Vanguard/Testament/Blue Horizon and others…1970’s for Spivey/Testament/Biograph/Advent/Tomato and others…1980’s & later for Rounder/Blind Pig/Wolf and others

Also recorded with: Chicago Blues All-Stars, Koko Taylor, Willie Dixon, Johnny Nicholas, Robert Jr. Lockwood, Snooky Pryor

Important/historic recordings: “Evening Sun”, “Brutal Hearted Woman”, “So Glad That I Found You”

Random fact: An important figure in Delta and Chicago blues styles historically, Johnny Shines’ recorded legacy could (and should) have been much bigger, but for the fact that he quit the music business during the heyday of post-war Chicago blues (mid-1950’s through mid-1960’s), while other transplanted Delta artists such as Muddy Waters & Howlin’ Wolf recorded prolifically in Chicago.

About: Born John Ned Shines in Tennessee, and spent much of his formative years in the Memphis area playing slide guitar, learning how to play guitar from his mother. Was inspired by some early blues greats such as Blind Lemon Jefferson, Charley Patton and Lonnie Johnson, and soon was performing and learning from other area musicians such as Howlin’ Wolf, and in the mid 1930’s with Delta blues great Robert Johnson. Not long before Johnson’s untimely death in 1938, the two went separate ways and Shines eventually made his home in Chicago in the early 1940’s.

Johnny Shines’ earliest recording sessions for Columbia (1946) and Chess (1950) went unreleased, but he continued to perform locally in Chicago on his own and with other performers. In 1952 and 1953, he made some great records for the J.O.B. label, but still hadn’t met much success in the music business. Various business-related frustrations caused Johnny to quit the music scene for a while and thankfully was “re-discovered” in the mid-1960’s while photographing other blues performers. His recordings on part of the Vanguard label’s legendary LP series called “Chicago/The Blues/Today!” marked his return to the music scene. Plenty more recordings followed suit, many of them featuring the same great harmonica player from his Vanguard session – Big Walter Horton.

Through the 1970’s Shines toured and recorded with another important Delta/Chicago artist with connections to Robert Johnson – Robert Jr. Lockwood. Several other fine albums (including some live recordings) have also been released from this time period. Johnny suffered a stroke in the 1980’s but still continued to perform on his own and collaborate with others. The same year that he died – 1992 – he was inducted into the Blues Hall of Fame.


Recommended Recordings in-print (with harmonica):

  • “Drop Down Mama”- MCA/Chess - collection of  early Chess blues including two from Johnny Shines)
  • “Evening Shuffle/J.O.B. Recordings” – Westside - CLASSIC Chicago blues w/Big Walter Horton
  • “Masters Of Modern Blues” – Testament – another session with Big Walter
  • “Back To the Country” - Blind Pig – later recording with Snooky Pryor (Johnny Shines only handling some vocals)

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