Johnny Rawls’ life was changed one Christmas morning in Mississippi in the 1950s when his blind grandfather pulled out a guitar and started playing blues. Rawls learned the rudiments of playing from his grandfather, started playing professionally while still in high school, and has gone on to release over 15 albums, the most recent of which earned a 2018 Blues Music Awards nomination for Soul Blues Album of the Year.
Rawls will bring his band and his deep soul blues sound to The Palms Playhouse (13 Main St., Winters) on Saturday, July 14 starting at 8 p.m.
As a student, Rawls also played saxophone and clarinet, but his true calling is as a guitarist, singer and arranger. His high school teachers recognized his skills and arranged for him to play with touring musicians including stars like ZZ Hill, Little Johnny Taylor, Joe Tex and the Sweet Inspirations.
In the mid 1970s, Rawls went to work for O.V. Wright as Wright’s band director. After Wright’s death in 1980, Rawls’ led Little Johnny Taylor’s band until 1985, when he began touring as a solo artist and made his first solo recording under the Rainbow label. He’s toured with blues greats B.B. King, Little Milton Campbell and Bobby Bland.
There’s a timeless quality to Rawls’ music, which the Charlotte Observer described as “a steamy brand of blues anchored by Rawls’ masterful guitar playing.” While his singing and playing are anchored deep in the soul blues tradition, Rawls is no archivist and his songwriting and arrangements keep the music fresh.
Rawls has received more than 10 Blues Music Awards nominations, including nominations this year for Soul Blues Artist of the Year and Soul Blues Album of the Year for “Waiting for the Train.”
In reviewing that album, American Blues Scene noted that, “What’s always been satisfying about Johnny
Rawls is that he brings an old-school sense of panache to everything he does,” while avoiding overplaying. “At this point, the music just flows.”
Tickets for Johnny Rawls’ July 14 show at The Palms are $22 and are available at Pacific Ace Hardware in Winters, Armadillo Music in Davis, Davids’ Broken Note in Woodland, online via The Palms’ website and Eventbrite, and at the door if not sold out.
For more information, visit palmsplayhouse.com and johnnyrawlsblues.com.