For someone who has dedicated his life to rock and roll, the last words Big Sugar and Grady front man Gordie Johnson wanted to hear were “You might never play guitar again.”
“It was a lifetime of rocking catching up to me. I had to seriously consider if I was going to play anymore,” said Johnson.
That lifetime of rocking left Johnson with carpal tunnel and circulatory issues in his left hand. His doctor gave him a choice: take a chance that surgery might correct the problem or give up the profession he has a passion for.
“I thought I’d go with the maybe,” he said.
The surgery left Johnson wounded and in pain. In order to bring the hand back to life, he picked up a guitar and started to play, every day.
“The only way to get a guitar player’s hand back in shape is to play the guitar. You don’t squeeze on a ball. There’s no finger exercises you do. You play the guitar,” he said.
Wednesday night Johnson and his latest musical project, Sit Down, Servant! play The Blue Grotto. Tickets to the 19-plus show are $15 and the doors open at 8 p.m.
The music is a throwback to the spiritual, folk and blues music he grew up playing on his guitar during idle moments at home.
“If I pick up a guitar and play, that’s what I play. I never sit around and play Jimi Hendrix songs. I never have,” Johnson said on the eve of Sit Down, Servants! inaugural tour.
During his self-devised physiotherapy, one of Johnson’s many side projects, Wide Mouth Mason, was approached to join George Throrogood on tour. None of the band’s other members could make it, but Johnson was up to the challenge. And he’d been coming up with some new songs getting the hand back in shape.
So Johnson and Big Sugar drummer Stephane Beaudin gave the music an electric spin, added a Moog synthesizer, recorded two demo tracks and were hired. Sit Down, Servant! was born.
As for the band’s name, Johnson named the collaboration after a song by gospel singer Mavis Staples. He said it was the first thing he saw when asked what his latest project would be called.
Sit Down, Servant! performs with Thorogood and on its own throughout May and into June. Copies of the band’s first album, I Was Just Trying to Help, are available during Wednesday night’s show at the Grotto.