Syl Johnson

Syl Johnson

Real Name:
Sylvester Thompson
b. 1st July 1936, Holly Springs, Mississippi, U.S.A.

American funk/soul/blues singer and music producer.

Johnson sang and played with blues artists Magic Sam, Billy Boy Arnold, Junior Wells and Howlin' Wolf in the 1950s, before recording with Jimmy Reed for Vee Jay Records in 1959. He made his solo debut that same year with Federal Records (2), a subsidiary of King Records (3) of Cincinnati, backed by Freddie King on guitar.

He then began recording for Twinight Records of Chicago in the mid 1960s. Beginning with his first hit, Come On Sock It to Me in 1967, Johnson dominated the label as both a hitmaker and producer.

Like other black songwriters of the period, several of his records at this time explored themes of African-American identity and social problems in songs including Is It Because I’m Black, which reached Number 11 in the R&B charts in 1969.

In 1971, Willie Mitchell brought Johnson to Hi Records, for whom he recorded three albums and a number of singles. Produced in Memphis with the Hi house band, these yielded music of power and enduring value, including the hits We Did It, Back for a Taste of Your Love and Take Me to the River, his biggest success, reaching Number 7 on the R&B charts in 1975. However, at Hi Johnson was always to some extent in Al Green’s shadow commercially, if not artistically.

After the Hi years ended, Johnson produced two LPs for his own label Shama, the latter of which (Ms. Fine Brown Frame, 1982) was picked up for distribution by Boardwalk Records, Inc. and produced Johnson’s last hit record, the title cut.

Around the mid-eighies, Johnson started a fast-food fish restaurant business, and became semi-retired from performing, only making occasional appearances at blues club gigs.

In 1992, Johnson found out that his classic song Different Strokes have been sampled by number of rappers including Wu-Tang Clan, MC Hammer, and Geto Boys. Stimulated by this fact, he decided to make a come back in the music business. In 1994, he released the album Back in the Game on Delmark Records. The album featured the the Hi rhythm section and his youngest daughter Syleena Johnson.

Blues guitarist and singer Jimmy Johnson (8), and bassist Mack Thompson are his brothers.

Syl Johnson Discography Tracks


Syl Johnson Dresses Too Short (Album) Twinight Records, Twinight Records US 1968 Sell This Version
Syl Johnson Is It Because I'm Black (Album) Twinight Records, Twinight Records US 1970 Sell This Version
Syl Johnson Back For A Taste Of Your Love (Album) Hi Records US 1973 Sell This Version
Syl Johnson Diamond In The Rough (Album) Hi Records, Hi Records, London Records, London Records Jamaica 1974 Sell This Version
Syl Johnson Total Explosion (Album) Hi Records US 1975 Sell This Version
Syl Johnson Uptown Shakedown (Album) Hi Records Canada 1979 Sell This Version
Syl Johnson Brings Out The Blues In Me (Album) Shama Records US 1980 Sell This Version
Syl Johnson Ms. Fine Brown Frame (Album) The Boardwalk Entertainment Co, Erect Records UK 1982 Sell This Version
900.517 Syl Johnson Suicide Blues(LP, Album) Isabel Records 900.517 France 1983 Sell This Version
Sylvester Johnson* Foxy Brown (Album) Shama Records US 1988 Sell This Version
DE 674 Syl Johnson, Hi Rhythm Syl Johnson, Hi Rhythm - Back In the Game(CD, Album) Delmark Records DE 674 1994 Sell This Version
TRI0001 Syl Johnson & Syleena Johnson Syl Johnson & Syleena Johnson - This Time Together By Father And Daughter(CD) Twinight Records TRI0001 US 1995 Sell This Version
Syl Johnson Bridge To Legacy (Album) Antone's Records US 1998 Sell This Version
H0082CD Syl Johnson Hands Of Time(CD, Album) Hep' Me Records H0082CD US 1999 Sell This Version
DE-729 Syl Johnson Talkin' Bout Chicago!(CD, Album) Delmark Records DE-729 US 1999 Sell This Version
Syl Johnson & Jimmy Johnson (8) Syl Johnson & Jimmy Johnson (8) - Two Johnsons Are Better Than One (Album) Evangeline Records UK 2001 Sell This Version
NUM032.2 Syl Johnson Do You Know What Soul Is?(LP) Numero Group NUM032.2 US 2010 Sell This Version
Syl Johnson My Funky Funky Band Twinight Records US 2017 Sell This Version

Singles & EPs

12358 Syl Johnson Teardrops / They Who Love(7", Promo) Federal Records (2) 12358 US 1959 Sell This Version
45-12374 Syl Johnson I've Got Love / Lonely Man(7") Federal Records (2) 45-12374 US 1960 Sell This Version
Syl Johnson I've Got To Find My Baby/(She's So Fine) I Just Gotta Make Her Mine (Single) Federal Records (2) US 1961 Sell This Version
Syl Johnson Please, Please, Please / I'm Looking For My Baby (Single) Federal Records (2) US 1962 Sell This Version
F 12454 Syl Johnson Little Sally Walker / I Resign From Your Love(7") Federal Records (2) F 12454 US 1962 Sell This Version
45-12474 Syl Johnson I Wanna Know / Well Oh Well(7") Federal Records (2) 45-12474 US 1962 Sell This Version
EMB E.P. 4535 Lulu Reed* / Syl Johnson Lulu Reed* / Syl Johnson - Rhythm & Blues Volume Four - Blue Beat Style(7", EP) Ember Records EMB E.P. 4535 UK 1964 Sell This Version