Johnnie Mae's funeral

Jef Jaisun
Wed Oct 10 13:35:27 EDT 2007

It's artists like Johnnie Mae who make me glad every day that I got 
off my ass in Seattle and hit the road. If I'd never attended the 
Chicago Blues Fest I never would have known she existed. Instead, I 
was fortunate enough to see her perform probably half a dozen times, 
and each time she flat ruined me. The wheel chair in later years 
almost seemed irrelevant, because, as others have noted, when the 
spirit moved Johnnie Mae she'd stand up from that chair and sing her soul out.

There was nothing quite as emotional and moving as hearing her chant a capella,

"I had a tussle with the Devil
  And Lord, I won..."

Or the year of the Big Chill, when she was bundled up in wraps and 
extra clothing, moaning into the mic, "I'm cold, I'm so cold...." 
Whew. I still get chills just thinking about it, and not from the 
weather, then or now.

For me, Johnnie Mae was a must-see highlight of the Chicago Blues 
Festival. I'm glad Barry gave her a slot on the Petrillo main stage 
several years ago. She more than deserved it. Chicago blues just 
won't be the same without her.


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