Ry and Evan

The great guitarist Ry Cooder just celebrated his 70th birthday! Still alive and playing great. Unfortunately, the same cannot be said of cult-artist, guitarist/singer/songwriter Evan Johns, who just passed away at sixty years of age in Austin Texas, where he has again been living for the past few years. Evan is renown for not just his music---having been a bandmate of the legendary Danny Gatton, as well as a solo artist with three albums on Rykodisc, and many others on other smaller labels, but also as a man with a serious drinking problem.

Evan came out of the same Virginia/Washington D.C. Rockabilly/Blues/Hillbilly club scene as Danny and Roy Buchanan (must be something in the water!). But Evan started drinking beer at age eleven (!), and a lot of it. During the week I spent with him in Atlanta Georgia in the late 90’s recording the Moontan album, Evan ate one meal, the rest of his diet that week consisting of an 18-pack of room-temperature Budweiser in cans, a day. He suffered one of the many comas of his life soon after the albums completion (brought on by liver failure, of course), cancelling the planned tour in the support of the album. I never saw him again (he lived in Vancouver, B.C., I in Burbank, CA), though talked to him on the phone a few times.

Evan has a lot of albums out there, but none of them captured his live power, which is the stuff of legends. His singing style was that of a Blues "shouter", also reminding me a little of George Jessel and Al Jolsen! He played a beat-up old Telecaster, straight into a blackface Fender Deluxe Reverb, cranked up to 10. He mixed all the styles mentioned above, as well as Surf instrumentals, Garage/Punk, humor, and just plain fun. One of a kind!

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Nice summary- bdp24

it is hard to imagine that Virginia / D.C. was ever known for Rockabilly, Hillbilly-styled music?

That’s what I thought when I first learned of that scene jafant. You know who else came out of it? It’s unbelievable! Bo Diddley, Patsy Cline, Ralph Stanley, The Carter Family, Emmylou Harris, Gram Parsons, John Fahey, John Sebastion, Zal Yanovsky, The Country Gentlemen, The Seldom Scene, Mary Chapin Carpenter, Steve Earle, Neko Case (whom Evan Johns worked with), Roy Clark, Robert Cray, and Ruth Brown. Plus a lot of locals who never made a name for themselves in the big world outside that scene. It was, and remains, for whatever reason, a hotbed of musical activity. A lot of Punk and Hardcore came out of there too, like The Bad Brains and Minor Threat.