Johan Blohm (1962) is a Swede who grew up listening to his father’s country and rock ‘n’ roll records. The influence of Jerry Lee Lewis, his musical hero, can be heard in his vocal and piano style. Visit his website for his full biography, video clips and CD’s. Listen to Johan’s latest album, Reconsider Me, on Spotify.
Can you tell how your discovery of boogie woogie music was?
My first experience of real genuine boogie woogie was when I saw an old video clip on TV with Albert Ammons and Pete Johnson playing a duet, the song was “Boogie Woogie Dreams” and I was blown away by the grove and the energy that came out of these two pianos. Since that day I have been a Boogie Woogie fan.
Did you already play the piano when you first heard boogie woogie music?
Yes, I did play piano for many years before I came across real Boogie Woogie music. I started playing piano when I was six years old and up until I was about thirty years old I played rock ‘n’ roll and country in the tradition of Jerry Lee Lewis, Charlie Rich and Mickey Gilley. This is what I still play most of the time but these days I spice it up a little with some boogie woogie.
Which boogie woogie sheet music books did you use while learning this music style?
I never used any sheet music books, I taught myself to play boogie woogie. I can’t read sheet music. I listened to the old masters like Albert Ammons, Amos Milburn, Pete Johnson and Freddie Slack and got ideas and inspiration from them.
I taught myself everything I play, everything I do is more or less improvised and doesen’t come out exactly the same every time. The backside of teaching yourself is that you don’t get everything right but the great thing is that you get a unique style, haha!
Who are your great examples in music in general and boogie woogie specifically?
My boogie woogie heroes are the players I mentioned earlier. My all-time musical hero is Jerry Lee Lewis, nobody will ever come near him when it comes to play rock ‘n’ roll piano and/or singing. Hank Williams, Gram Parsons, Charlie Rich, Patsy Cline and Merle Haggard are other examples of my musical heroes.
Do you have dreams for your career and if so, what are these?
On a basic level I will be happy if I am able to play my music and make a living with playing until I get really old. But I also wish to be able to do shows all around the world and have my music spread to all who love piano rock ‘n’ roll and boogie woogie. And I wouldn’t mind If I could earn some money with it as well!
What makes me happy is when I do a show for an audience that is genuinely interested in my music and who is really listening and enjoying the show. All too often I find myself playing in a pub where nobody is there for the music, they just want to get drunk and don’t care about the music. I wish I were performing more often for true music fans and do less of the uninspiring gigs at the pubs but in reality you have to take what you can get, we all have bills to pay.
What can amateur boogie woogie pianists do to secure their first gig?
Well, I really don’t have a good answer, I’m afraid. In my youth I was looking up venues myself, I called them and tried to convince them to book me. Once every tenth time or so they actually did. After a few years I got tired of this and I got connected with people in the business who was far better at booking than I ever was. I think the key is to find a booker who can help. But it’s a struggle, nobody wants to book you if you’re unknown and you won’t get known if you don’t get any gigs.
It’s a classic catch 22. Being stubborn and never giving up helps. If there is genuine talent it will surely be recognized sooner or later.