In the early 1950s Syl Johnson was associated with pioneers of blues music as we know it today. Magic Sam, Billy Boy Arnold, Junior Wells and Howlin’ Wolf all enlisted Syl to play on their records or jam with them live. After a decade of frequenting these circles, Chicago R&B and soul specialists Twinight Records recruited him to record with the label. 


It was the in the mid 1960s, with Martin Luther King’s speech still ringing in America’s ears and the Civil Rights Act freshly inked that Syl Johnson’s single 'Come On Sock It to Me' became a hit. Sorry '‘Bout Dat' and 'Different Strokes' soon followed, making Syl Johnson the highest selling hitmaker and producer at Twinight Records. His track ‘Is It Because I’m Black’, which bluntly explored themes of the African-American identity and social issues, became his highest charting track whilst on the label. 


Soon, everyone wanted to be a part of Syl Johnson’s rise and he was quickly lured to join Hi Records, one of Memphis’ premier soul labels of the seventies. This is where Syl wrote his biggest success to date, 'Take Me to the River'. 


The love for Mr Johnson’s music continues strong today and has been reinvigorated by a new generation of youthful fans. In 1992 Wu-Tang Clan, Public Enemy, The Fresh Prince and MC Hammer all sampled his song 'Different Strokes' which prompted Syl Johnson to return to the scene, releasing album Back in the Game in 1994. RZA offers high praise: “There are many great soul singers, but few have inspired hip-hop, from its early beginning to now, as much as Syl Johnson.” 


In September 2011, Syl Johnson visited Australia for an historic four­‐concert tour backed by local deep funk collective The Bamboos. On September 1, he came in to PBS to record a classic Studio 5 Live session on Soulgroove ‘66, which we present to you as we continue our Studio 5 Rewind series for 2021.  


Tune in to The Breakdown from 3pm on Friday January 29 to hear Syl Johnson’s full 2011 Studio 5 Live session, proudly supported by our mates at Mountain Goat.