Fiddle Rick Johnson: The Knows of You Never Know
When he was six years old, Rick Johnson started taking fiddle lessons, but it was not until much later that he appreciated how much his mother had urged him to continue. He may not have liked it at the time, but he is now glad he continued.
“When I was in high school,” he said, “I didn’t want to [do it anymore]. It wasn’t until college that I began to understand that yeah, this was a good idea. I am glad I still did this.”
Today, Johnson and his fiddle are regulars on the Southern Illinois music scene. He has a weekly stint at Tres Hombres’ beer garden on late Friday afternoons, and he occasionally can be found performing along the Shawnee Hills Wine Trail. Looking back on what he has accomplished, Johnson said he is thankful for the past and present, and looking forward to the future.
“It’s been a great ride,” Johnson said of being a part of the scene, before joking: “You would think that after all this time playing, I would know much more.”
Johnson was the fiddle player in the great Broken Grass, which dominated the local scene in the early 2000s and broke the mold of contemporary bluegrass. Broken Grass effectively introduced the ‘Dale to what was coming to be known as newgrass. The band toured the country, playing as many shows as 150 in a year in more than twenty states.
But Broken Grass disbanded in 2005. “For some reason you don’t know, these things don’t work out,” Johnson said. He soon found himself looking for other musical projects. He formed three bands, Black Diamond Highway (now defunct), Fiddle Rick and the Big Dippers, and the Big Muddy String Band with Tilley Camozzi and Stevie D.
Last spring, Johnson released his second album, You Never Know. Johnson said he wants to continue showcasing new music on a regular basis.
“I have a home studio, so I like to come out with a new album every year or so,” he said.
Almost every note on his CDs was played by Johnson.
“I play all the instruments,” he said. “The guitar, the bass, everything.”
The Tres Hombres show was halted for a portion of the summer because of the record heat, but Johnson said the performances, which start at 5 p.m. and last until 9 p.m., will resume this week, weather-permitting. The early show, he added, “helps people who want to get an early start to their weekend.”
Other upcoming shows include performances Saturday, August 18 at Owl Creek Vineyard and Friday, August 31 at Kindling Grill and Spirits. The latter only recently began opening up its stage to live performers.
“They just started having bands on Fridays and occasionally on Saturdays,” he said. “They are great to work for, and I am glad I get to help them get started.”
Johnson laughs when asked if the fiddle was sort of a “gateway instrument” for him, but he is also reflective about how those early lessons helped mold him into who he is today.
“I was lucky to have a mother who saw through it,” he said.
Find out more at <http://www.FiddleRick.com>. To stream music from both of his CDs, find Johnson’s page on Nightlife’s web project at <http://www.CarbondaleRocks.com>.
who: Fiddle Rick Johnson
where: Tres Hombres; Owl Creek Vineyard; Kindling
when: every Friday, late afternoon / early evening; Saturday, August 18; Friday, August 31