Born on a plantation in 1937, Johnson got married and joined the Army at age 17. He first performed in public during his term in the Army in the mid-'50s, and after singing around Thibodaux, Louisiana in the early '60s, he recorded four singles for AFO Records in 1962, a label Harold Battiste, Toussaint, Dr. John and other New Orleans-based musicians founded. With a growing family and a wife, Johnson reached a crossroads of sorts, and decided to put his singing career on the back burner for a number of years (though he did record eight more singles between 1965 and 1972 at Toussaint's home studios).
Between 1972 and 1992, Johnson put show business aside, working as a longshoreman and running a music club, Mr. J's, in Thibodaux for a number of years. After being urged to go back on stage and sing by both his fiancée and his bassist Alonzo Johnson (Rockin' Dopsie), he sang in public once again in 1993 at the New Orleans French Quarter Festival. Johnson began making regular appearances in Crescent City clubs and in late 1995, returned to Toussaint's studios to record his first full-length album. Toussaint wrote nine of the album's twelve songs specifically with Johnson in mind. On the album, Johnson sings songs with a wide variety of tempos. His gospel-influenced, soul-drenched vocals are unique, powerful and moving.