A lifetime of playing his guitar led to a crippling case of Carpal Tunnel syndrome and his muscles still need time to heal from his recent corrective surgery. But Johnson couldn’t ignore an invitation to accompany George Thorogood and The Destroyers across Canada and before he knew it, he had a whole new band: Sit Down, Servant!!
“This tour (was) offered to us and I didn’t even have a band,” Johnson tells me from his Montreal hotel room. “I hadn’t been playing at the time because I had surgery on my hand, so I was a little nervous at first. I was at a bit of a loss for exactly what I was gonna do, in terms of playing anymore. I needed a period of rehabilitation to be able to get well enough to play. So this opportunity came up and I thought: ‘Man, all nice theatres, all across Canada, play some slide guitar, blues, gospel and traditional stuff … I really wanna do this tour!’ So I just set my mind to it. Where I’d previously just been worried about my hand and not being able to play the way I used to, I just focused on getting this gig. So I went into the studio for an afternoon, cut a couple of songs … mixed them and sent them to Thorogood’s management, and I got the gig. In one afternoon! So, cool, I’ll focus on this instead of thinking about my sore hand.”
Recorded in a scant two days, Sit Down, Servant!!’s debut, I Was Just Trying To Help proved to be great therapy for the prodigious Johnson. The pressure-free project finds him seated, rearranging classic gospel and blues songs with just his guitar, some bass pedals, and drummer Stephane Beaudin behind him. Though certainly more relaxed than, say, Big Sugar or Grady, Sit Down, Servant! is not a record that solemnly sings for salvation. Rather, it’s Johnson at his most natural and inspired.