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Donald Ray Johnson has a rich history in blues music, both inside and outside of Calgary, Alberta. Growing up across from the Allen Military Academy in Bryan, Texas, Donald would rush home from school to listen to the marching band's practices, especially the drum cadences. Meanwhile, during the summer, he worked in the cotton fields of the Brazos Bottom's plantation to earn money for school clothes.

Electronic Press Kit

Mr. Donald Ray Johnson

A Brief Bio

In 1961, Donald was introduced to high school band director Waymond Webster, who taught him to play traps on the drumset. By age 14, Donald Ray began his professional career with blues piano legend Nat Dove. Throughout his teens, Donald played with the two local bluesmen: organist Joe Daniels and guitarist Lavernis Thurman. They even played a live radio show every Saturday night.

On January 18, 1966, Donald Ray entered the US Navy, serving aboard the aircraft carrier USS Bon Homme Richard. After two tours in Vietnam, he was honorably discharged and relocated to San Diego.

While working in the house band at the Downtown Hustlers Club, Donald met quite a few LA-based artists, including Lowell Fulsom, Bobby Womack, and Pee Wee Crayton. 

Early in 1970, Don was called by long-time friend Nat Dove to play weekends in LA with Phillip Walker.

Some 29 years later, the relationship with the Phillip Walker Band still exists. By 1971, Donald had moved to LA to work with the Joe Houston band, backing some of the West Coast's top blues artists.

While trying to find a weekend gig, Don met songwriter/producer Perry Kibble, who was in the process of developing a group that featured the talents of two young African-American women (bassist Janice Marie Johnson and guitarist Carlita Durhan). The group later became known as A Taste of Honey.

Now living in Calgary, Alberta, Don has become a beloved and respected member of the Canadian blues community. Named "Best Canadian Male Blues Vocalist" in 1997 by Real Blues Magazine, Don was also nominated "Best Blues Drummer" the same year. He was also named "Best Male Blues Vocalist" in 1998 by the Toronto Blues Society, and was recently nominated "Best Blues Artist" by the Alberta Recording Industry Association (A.R.I.A.) 

Salmon Arm Roots & Blues Festival

Don was honored to be invited to the 2008 Salmon Arm Roots and Blues Festival this summer. This festival is one of the best organized events you'll experience, and if you have a chance to catch it in Salmon Arm, British Columbia, we highly recommend that you do.

The 2008 festival was headlined by The Neville Brothers, and included Don's cousin, Linda Tillery, and The Cultural Heritage Choir. Donald himself performed on August16 and 17. During the 16th, he and David Wilcox conducted a phenomenal mid-morning workshop with several other Canadian musicians. On the 17th, he was honored to have the opportunity to meet two of the true legends of blues: 93-year-old Honey Boy Edwards, and 68-year-old, Elmore James Jr. What a treat!

Blues Workshop Band