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Thursday, Oct. 18, 2012 05:20 pm

Call me Black Magic Johnson


Black Magic Johnson performs at Robbie’s this Friday, Oct. 19, from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. at a CD release party celebrating their new recording Call Me.

Reggie Britton is one of my best friends as well as one of the most admired and respected artists on my personal list. We met in the early ’90s when Reggie showed up at my Thursday night gig at Bedrock’s. He asked if he could play drums with us, and being a smart aleck, I asked if he could play the drums. He said yes. I said when. He said now. I told him we didn’t have any drums, and he informed me he had a set in his car. That was the start of a long-term musical relationship and friendship still vital and valid to this day.

His first drumming and singing gigs came in his father’s band while still a teenager. As a young adult he moved to Springfield and gravitated to the Blue Mondays scene of the mid-80s held at Bruce’s Tavern by the recently formed Illinois Central Blues Club. There he met and played with Eddie Eugene, Eddie Snow, Fenton Robinson, Springfield Shaky, Joe Tenuto, Bill Evans and a host of others. Later he joined forces with Harry Nino and Mike Booth to create Oysters Rockefeller, one of the region’s most popular blues bands during the mid to late ’90s.

But at this point Reg was still more of a drummer and part-time vocalist, being a band member rather than leader and driving force. That all changed when he joined with Phil Noll, a multi-instrumentalist from Columbia, Mo., and one-time bassist for Oysters Rockefeller. Together they became Black Magic Johnson, an acoustic duo with Reggie doing the singing and drumming and Phil playing stringed acoustic instruments. One night when Phil couldn’t make a gig, I suggested Reggie use Raoul as a replacement, and they clicked like a clock. Soon bassist Chris Warren sat in and the original BMJ as a “band” happened.

Together for some seven years, the blues trio played everywhere with plenty of originals by Reggie and Raoul along with cool blues covers and released Food for Thought in 2006. Then Reggie heard from sources (hi Amber) that guitarist Alexis Rogers had a hankering to play the blues. With a personnel change in the works, Raoul dropped out and Alex came in along with Reggie’s longtime cohort Dan Glover on rhythm guitar. Bob Hagler plays bass most of the time and Willie Chrismon works as fill in to make the latest Black Magic Johnson.

About three years ago the current BMJ combo (now together for almost six years) began a recording project with the Suit and Tie Guy (he’s in our news a lot lately) in Chillicothe at STG Soundlabs studio. After preliminary recording sessions, the band took its time in overdubs, mixing and mastering, but now have a finished product ready for public consumption. Call Me, the new CD recording by Black Magic Johnson will be available this Friday at Robbie’s when the band plays an Uptown Friday Night show from 5:30-7:30. The blues quartet also has plans for CD release parties on Oct. 26 at the Walnut Street Winery in Rochester and Nov. 3 at the Trading Post, with a Halloween show at Celtic Mist Pub on Oct. 27 in the mix.

The record contains “11 or 12 songs” all penned primarily by Reggie, played by BMJ members with added sounds from various sources.

“The Springfield music scene has been a blessing out of the many blessings in my life,” said Reggie, when asked for some last words. “Come out and support your local musicians. We need all the support we can get.”

Amen to that, brother. Amen to that.

Contact Tom Irwin at tirwin@illinoistimes.com.

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