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A Fresh Start

Hey, everyone! I know it’s been forever since I last updated this site. But that’s all changed now. My web guy (and awesome bassist) Lane Baldwin and I agreed my website needed something new. Here’s the begining of a new thing for me.

The Nighthawks started off 2010 with the departure, for health reasons, of longtime drummer and my longtime pal Pete Ragusa! He was replaced in the lineup by Mark Stutso, amazing vocalist and drummer, most recently with Jimmy Thackery and the Drivers for a mere 18 years. We did the usual nearly 200 gigs including two trips to Europe. We released an all acoustic set we did @ XM/Sirius studios, at the urging of Bill Wax himself. We decided to call it “Last Train To Bluesville” to honor the XM/Sirius blues channel. It was Pete’s last recording with the Nighthawks.

Meanwhile the Thrillbillys struggled to finish their second CD while holding down their Sunset Grille Thursdays and still playing in their various other bands. Invited to open for the Nighthawks at their annual State Theatre Thanksgiving show, I rushed to finish the post production of the Thrillbilly CD in time for the show. I made it, and it is called “Where There’s A Thrill, There’s A Way”, available on! Check our website for more info.

2011 started out on a sad note when we lost my beloved Mother-In-Law, Phyllis Grainger. She was a real pip, and loved to come to shows and rock out. She is sorely missed!

In early May, the Nighthawks were invited to perform at the Blues Foundation Awards Show in Memphis, TN. The band was nominated for Acoustic CD of the Year. I’m still as amazed as I was that night when the presenter said “and the winner is…The Nighthawks!” We each got a Blues Award, including Pete Ragusa, who was presented his by the ‘Hawks at the State Theatre show later in the year. Boy, the phone started ringing! We worked ourselves to a nub the remainder of the year, including some big Theatre shows doubling up with the Skip Castro Band at years end…great fun!!

Another sad note was to learn our ol’ pal Hubert Sumlin, whom we were trying to get on our newest recording for our new label, Severn Records, had passed away. We’d had a couple of gigs with him that he couldn’t make for health reasons, and just like that…gone! What a sweet Man! Always laughing and smiling. The CD had to be done without Hubert. Recorded live in studio at Severn Records in Annapolis, MD, we finished recording, dubbing and mixing in 2 weeks. The CD will be out this April and is called “Damn Good Time”!

2012 started with my getting a new right hip. I needed it and it’s done and doing well, and after 6 weeks of recovery/rehab I’m good to go and clocked to rock! Keep an eye on the Nighthawks schedule, and we’ll seeya out there!

I’m still here!

March 23, 2010

Not only has another year drained away, 1/4 of this year is already gone! What happened? Sorry about the delay in reporting the goings-on in the world of Johnny C. The year started with the release in Feb. of The Nighthawks “American Landscape” CD that got great national airplay and excellent reviews. The CD features two songs written by your old pal Johnny, “Where Do You Go (When You Go Where You Go Without Me)?” a funky R&B number, and “Jana Lea”, a rockin’ “Swing-a-Billy” tune about the delightful Mrs. Castle. Of the top 50 National Blues releases last year, the record was ranked 30th.

Life adhered to the usual road pounding lifestyle most expect from the Nighthawks. Some highlights include a Hudson River Cruise in Manhattan packed with blues fans to hear the ‘Hawks back up Pinetop Perkins and Hubert Sumlin. Another was a slew of gigs with Bobby Radcliff, DC guitarist who relocated to NYC decades ago. Mark Wenner talked him into coming down to DC to throw in with the ‘Hawks for their Thanksgiving week gigs. Talk about Hot!

No sooner do listeners get “American Landscape” digested, here comes “Last Train From Bluesville”! Bill Wax, XM Bluesville program director, had invited the Nighthawks to come play in their studio, to do a couple tunes that XM/Sirius could play on their Deep Cuts channel. Things went well, and an hour and 10 songs later they had a disc that would become the next Nighthawks CD. “Last Train To Bluesville” the first all acoustic CD by the Nighthawks was released in Feb. 2010. It has been met with rave reviews (Blues Underground Network gave it a 5 star rating and had it at #2 Nationally the week of 3/8/10) and generous airplay.

2010 will find the ‘Hawks in Europe most of the month of May, and a West Coast trip later in the Fall of 2010, as well as a Hubert Sumlin gig in Switzerland in November. Click on News & Tours on the Nighthawks website, for a look at where they’ll be, and check the new ‘Hawks facebook page…almost 1,000 friends in the first week!

How about those Thrillbillys! They also are finishing up a new CD, mostly original tunes recorded at Actiondale studio, Annandale, VA. They are still holding down Thursdays at the Sunset Grille, and doing the occasional Private Party when the schedule permits. One tune of Johnny’s, “Chrome Naked Girls” will feature Tele-King Bill Kirchen at his Dieselbilly best!

Speaking of Bill Kirchen, his newest CD features guests Nick Lowe, Elvis Costello, Maria Muldaur, Dan Hicks, Paul Carrack, and Johnny thumping the bass for all. It should be out by the Summer 2010 as well! Keep Listening!

Still Alive and Well

May 28, 2009

Hey peeps! Sorry for the delay in news updates, but what can I say…..been busy! 2009 began with a bang when the Nighthawks played the State Theatre (Falls Church,VA) with beloved friends and reunited bands, the Charlottesville Allstars, and D.C.’s the Rosslyn Mtn. Boys. Two days later Banannie & I arrived in OK to visit my home folks; Mom, Sis, Son and Grandson #4! We got to watch my Oklahoma Sooners fall in defeat yet again in a National Championship game. What is it 4 since we won in 2000? Congrats to the Gators and their fans. The Sooners do claim the Heisman Trophy winner, QB Sam Bradford, and the Naismith award winner, F Blake Griffin! Congratulations to them!

Back to DC in time for the Inauguration of the new Prez, Barack Obama, and a couple of gigs with old pals Bill Kirchen and Jack O’Dell, including a sold out Too Much Fun reunion at the famed Birchmere in Alexandria, VA.

My Nighthawks schedule resumed in late Jan., but was temporarily interrupted when the ‘Hawks gave me permission to go to London, U.K. to help Bill record his next CD. Jack, Bill, Austin Delone and I knocked out 13 tunes in 10 days, mostly Kirchen originals. The album will feature guests Nick Lowe, Paul Carrack, Elvis Costello, Jorma Kaukonen, Maria Muldaur, and Dan Hicks amongst others. The project was hosted by Malcolm Mills, the president and owner of Proper Records, and Paul “Bassman” Reilly (Balam Alligators, Nick Lowe, Rockpile) Producer and Engineer. We recorded at Proper Records warehouse where they have a really nifty studio.

Jack & I flew back into DC where my regular Thrillbilly Thursday nite awaited. Next day the Nighthawks whisked me away for the weekend and a few days later we were off to FL for Bike Week festivities and a 2 week tour. February also witnessed the release of the new Nighthawks CD, “American Landscape”, which has been getting national airplay as well as support on XM’s Bluesville and Deep Cuts channels (Thanks guys!) The reviews are in, and are 100% positive, most believing (along with the Nighthawks) “American Landscape” to be the best Nighthawks CD ever.

The Nighthawks have been hitting the road, with a 2 week road trip in April that found us hitting NC, TN, IN, IA, NE, & AR. Indianapolis was great, we got to see old DC pal ( and my webmaster & brother in bass) Lane Baldwin who drove 90 miles one way with his new wife to hear us. Another highlight was the Zoo Bar in Lincoln, NE! The place was packed, the crowd and band were way into it and I sadly remembered that it used to always be like this. We returned home to a weekend with Hubert Sumlin in mid-May, including our local and favorite festival The Chesapeake Bay Blues Festival. Right on the Beach of the Bay, we shared the bill with Lydia Pense & Cold Blood (I saw them in 1969!!) they were hot and tight! Shemekia Copeland, Johnny Lang, Blood Sweat & Tears, Big Bad Voodoo Daddy and Los Lonely Boys.

Memorial Day weekend just passed and we did the usual Rolling Thunder gigs that speckle the weekend around DC. Reportedly a half million motorcycles road to the Wall that Sunday!

Meanwhile the Thrillbillys are still holding court at the old Sunset Grille (comin’ up on my 18th anniversary there!) in Annandale, VA, and have resumed work on our next CD, a studio CD with numerous originals on it. Speaking next CD’s, the Nighthawks are already planning our next release, which is already recorded (at XM studios, DC) and is totally acoustic and live.

I have a busy Summer. So far, no weekend days off until October, so if I fall behind in the JC news, forgive me. Just click on Contact Johnny and drop me a line! Until then, thanks for supporting live music, Johnny C

We’re Back!

June 04, 2008

Hey everybody! Been awhile since we updated the news page. The Nighthawks have finished recording a new CD at Cue Recorders, Falls Church, VA. No title yet, but we have 13 songs to choose from, including four penned by yours truly. We hope to have it available by the end of Summer.

The ‘Hawks have a busy Spring and Summer planned with Festivals, Outdoor Concerts, Wine festivals, and more on the schedule. We have 3 dates at the end of June playing with the legendary Hubert Sumlin. Check the Nighthawks web site for the when and where’s.

After playing a number of “Rolling Thunder” events Memorial Day weekend, the ‘Hawks played for wounded soldiers at Walter Reed Army Medical Center Sunday June 1st. It was fun, the troops seemed to enjoy it, and there was excellent Barbeque supplied by my old friend Bobby Mitchell’s fantastic Catering Co. “Puttin’ On The Ritz”. Hope we can do it again for our combat veterans!

The Thrillbillys are also in the Studio working on a new CD of (so far) all original tunes. Mike Harvey’s home studio in Annandale, VA is great! He’s a delight to work with, and the stuff sounds awesome! No clue as to when it may come available, but I’ll keep ya posted.

The Thrillbillys are still doin’ Thrillbilly Thursdays at the Sunset Grille in Annandale. In mid-May I had my 16th anniversary of playing most Thursdays at “the Grille”! Yikes! Thanks to Shel and Kay for putting up with me for all of these years!

Thrillbillys Live CD Now Available

July 13, 2006

Thirllbillys LIVE! at the Sunset Grille

Click the pic to order the CD at CD Baby

Hey, y’all! Got some breaking news for ya. The Thrillbillys CD, “THRILLBILLYS LIVE! At the Sunset Grille” is out, at the moment you can pick it up at live gigs, but soon we’ll have an e-purchase option for you good folks.

The Thrillbillys are still holding strong at the Sunset Grille on Thursdays, and have an unbroken string thru June and July.

Speaking of Thrillbillys, I’m proud to announce my friend and fellow Thrillbilly, David Kitchen, is a National Finalist for the Mountain Stage Newsong Songwriting Contest. Dave represents the Greater D.C. Metro area, and we will be following his progress and wish him luck.

Mountain Stage, if you don’t know, is a Public Radio Show turned TV show that features an array of artists from diverse genres. I had the pleasure of performing on their live radio show in Charleston, WV, 3 or 4 times when I played with Bill Kirchen. The players we shared the stage with included Pat Metheny, Ralph Stanley & the Clinch Mtn. Boys, John Mooney, Robert Cray and Robin & Linda Williams, amongst many others, some from overseas.

Whatever the Mtn. Stage folks do it’s always first rate. Checkout the New song website: you can play the candidate songs including David’s. You may also sample his songwriting expertise by checking out the opening cut on the Thrillbilly CD,” If Love Is Blind, (I Hope I Never See You Again)”.

A Quick Update

April 5, 2006

Hey, y’all! Just wanted to give you a little update on what I’ve been doing lately. Spent a weekend gigging in St. John, Virgin Islands in late March. Paradise! Got totally sunburned snorkeling. Waterproof sunscreen? Hah! Don’t believe it! The people there really seem starved for good, live American Roots music. There are a surprising number of little bars that are able to host musicians. Ran into Mitch Woods (of the Rocket 88’s- SF Bay area). He was there tickling the blue ivorys around some of the islands. Speaking of tickling the ivorys, the Nighthawks were joined by John Cleary, keyboardist for Bonnie Raitt, for a set at the Beach Bar in S.J. Man, he’s great! A british Professor Longhair! Bonnie’s doin’ some of his songs on her new CD.

Last week, I saw my old pals Eddie & Martha Adcock. They were opening for, and Eddie was performing with, the Country Gentlemen reunion at the State Theater, Falls Church, VA. It was great to see Jimmy Goodreau (mandolin) with whom I’ve played many times, and Tom Gray one of my favorite people as well as bass players. He was my mentor in Bluegrass upright bass, with his work for 4 decades with the Seldom Scene, as well as the Country Gentlemen. Randy Waller was stepping in for his Dad, Charlie Waller, who passed in ’04. Randy’s guitar playing was amazing! Charlie was great..Randy’s phenomenal!! He was playing his dads axe too which made it really sound like Charlie was still there! I had to leave before their show (gig to play) but they did about 4 songs in the dressing room, and I’ll tell you, those fans got a treat that night. Bluegrass- Finger Pickin Good!!

I did double duty Sun.4/2, at Sullys in Chantilly, VA. A Benefit for a young musician, Chris Hopson, who’s battling 2 kinds of cancer. The benefit featured the Nighthawks, Thrillbillys, Uncle Chunky, Tom Principato Band, Smylin’ Jack, Bloody Meri, and a few others. What a smashing success! The place was packed to the rafters, and it was a beautiful day so the parking lot was jammed with Harleys. All the bands rocked! Uncle Chunky’s bassist didn’t show (sick) so Damian Grasso, their drummer, picked up the bass and roared!! El Toro Gamble filled in beautifully on drums, and Damian’s brother, Tony always rocks on guitar, but I was truly impressed with Damian’s abilities. I’ve known these young fellas since they were in diapers, I felt like a proud Uncle watching them. The benfit raised dang near $10,000!!! Hope that helps Chris! Thanks to everyone who came out; I hope ya’ll had as much fun as I did!

A Very Special Show

March 19, 2006

ChrisFEST – Sunday, April 2, 2006

Folks, I need your help. I’m asking you to mark this date on your calendar and get your bad self out to this show at Sully’s in Chantilly. Chris Hopson, son of the General Manager of the Sunset Grill, needs our help to cover the costs of cancer treatment. And that’s what this benefit is all about. I’ll be there with my band The Thrillbillys and The Nighthawks. We’ll be sharing the stage with a ton of great bands, including Wild Card, Smylin’ Jack, Bloody Meri, Uncle Chunky, Tom Principato, Last Call and the Johnny Artis Band. There’s an all day buffet and great BBQ, and we’ll be doing several raffles throughout the day. Doors open at noon and the party goes on all day and night.

Click Here to download a flyer with all the info. And if you want to help out, you can print some and pass them out to your friends.

So. . . mark it down, y’all. Sunday, April 2. Noon. Ya gotta be at this one, OK?