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Chicago Blues Icon Jimmy Johnson Dies At 93

CHICAGO (CBS) -- Chicago blues legend Jimmy Johnson died Monday. He was 93.

"Husband, Father, Brother, Mentor and Friend, Jimmy was an Incredible Man who Lived an Extraordinary Life. Jimmy was Kind, Generous, Funny, Bright, Loving, Clever, and Exceptionally Talented," a message on Johnson's website read. "His Love and Knowledge will be impossible to replace but his Influence will continue to live on in the countless people he touched with his Intelligence and Grace."

Johnson wrote in a mini-autobiography that he was born Nov. 25, 1928, as the first boy of 10 children with one older sister.

"Life was very hard in Mississippi. Most days we worked from sunup until sundown," Johnson wrote. "Already at 8 years old, I worked the fields picking, chopping and plowing cotton while also helping to tend to the farm animals."

Johnson wrote that he went to Memphis when he was 16 and worked odd jobs in construction and digging ditches. He later received a postcard from his uncle in Chicago, who was coming for a visit back in Mississippi and invited Johnson to move to Chicago with him afterward.

In Chicago, Johnson worked as a welder for Harrison Street Steel, and saved money so as to move his mother and his children to join him in Chicago.

"I finally had money, real money, a nice car, good clothes and at the age of 28 had the great pleasure of buying my first guitar," he wrote.

Johnson played his first gig in 1958, and went on to have a long and illustrious career as a blues and soul musician.

"My music has taken me all over the world and I've had the great pleasure of playing with some of the greatest musicians of all-time: BB King, Albert King, Freddie King, Buddy Guy, Otis Rush and Magic Sam to name just a few," he wrote. "All have had a tremendous influence on me and my music. It's difficult to put into words just how much they all continue to mean to me."

Johnson also went on to make music with BB King, George Benson, and Buddy Guy - and they are all seen hanging out together at Buddy Guy's Legends bar in the South Loop.

His discography includes the albums "Tobacco Road," "Bar Room Preacher," and "Johnson's Whacks," among others.

Johnson was also a regular performer at the Chicago Blues Festival for many years – including the most recent Blues Festival at Millennium Park in 2019. The festival was canceled in 2020 and 2021 due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Mayor Lori Lightfoot proclaimed June 12, 2019, Jimmy Johnson Day.

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