A gospel singer from one of the Sanctified sects, Johnson was from Columbus, Mississippi, and was last heard of in Arkansas in 1964. Remembered by Lonnie McIntorsh as ‘the singingest woman I’ve ever known’, Johnson possessed a huge contralto voice, with a rasping vibrato as wide as a church door. She was at her best when accompanied by McIntorsh’s metronomic guitar, or that of Will Shade; her own Sanctified Singers were endearingly ragged, and she had to order them to ‘Come on’ or ‘Get the beat’. The fact that recordings including such ad libs were released speaks for their raw authenticity. Two tracks by the Memphis Sanctified Singers (on which Shade played guitar) beautifully contrast her rough style with Melinda Taylor’s sweeter voice.
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