James 'Super Chikan' Johnson

Every so often, over the past ten years or so, I'll throw in the one recording I own by Super Chikan. Before today, I thought this was the name of a band (and a good name it is for a group). Now, I've discovered my erroneous thinking and I'm glad I did.

It turns out the name 'Super Chikan' actually refers to one James Johnson of Clarksdale, MS. Besides his funky brand of Delta blues, the man has a great story behind the interesting title. According to the Mississippi (yep, still using the old tune to spell that one!) Folklife & Folk Artist Directory at
http://www.arts.state.ms.us/folklife/artist.php?dirname=johnson_james, due to Mr. Johnson's fascination with the chicken in his yard as a boy, he garnered his first nickname, 'Chicken Boy'. Later, as a rather expeditious taxidriver, he gained the 'Super' part of his name and he's gone by that combined title ever since.

I first enjoyed his singing style on a tune all about how he had spent plenty of money on his lady and her hair care products (24 cans of hairspray) only to arrive home after work to find her snazzy hairdo all "messed up", presumptively by some unwlecomed suitor. This is some pretty serious business that Super Chikan approaches with plenty of levity, making the song a lot of fun. The rest of what I heard so long ago was just plain old good blues music with a funky flair.

Aside from the good quality music, Mr. Johnson is also well-known for his handmade, scrap metal 'Chicantars' as he calls them. The pictures reveal a wide variety of instruments made form oil and gas cans among other sheet metals. I'm not sure that the recordings I've heard were made on these incredibly original instruments, but if they were, then all the more impressive is his sound, in my opinion. Some 'Chicantars' for your own feasting eyes:

Listen to Super Chikan 'cause he knows what he's talkin' about!

1 comment:

  1. Turns out Super Chikan isn't the only one crafting handmade instruments and playing them for the public.

    Here's another string experimenter (his love is the banjo, I gather) by the name of Iner Souster:


    and @



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