RALPH BOYD JOHNSON CD Release Party
Friday, November 29
Crescent Heights Community Centre
For popular Calgary singer-songwriter Ralph Boyd Johnson, it was music, not the ladies, that drove the darkness from most of his days.
By the age of 16, he was spending his weekends in jail before dropping out of school entirely. At the time, it seemed like the easy road, but later, after years of piling coal, pouring concrete and painting houses, his past was dragging behind him. Johnsons career path took a swerve when he found himself at a meat packing plant.
"I was throwing beef at the front of the line and the guys at the saws, theyre the hierarchy. They ran out of beef for five minutes, so I snuck back there, with the foreman there having a cigarette, and I was like 21 and he was saying You stick with this, you keep your head up and do things right and you could be working on the saw. Then I saw the hand holding his cigarette was missing a bunch of fingers."
Johnsons new album, Dyin To Go, was produced by Tim Williams and Billy Cowsill. The road to the CDs 12 tracks began with a sucker punch from love.
"Songwriting saved my life, man. When I was young I wanted to be a rock star, but I couldnt sing. So I decided I would get a guitar and learn to play it and this has been all really uphill.
"I was completely tone deaf. I couldnt tune a guitar and thats why I started writing songs. Of course it came out of breaking up with a girl and I was going to write a song. I was lovesick, beside myself, borrowed my fathers guitar and started monkeying with it."
While he didnt get the girl back, he eventually wrote 300 songs, and the hard road he had traveled schooled him for the chaos that followed.
"The one thing about the music business is it is going to fall apart at every opportunity. Anything that could possibly go wrong will go wrong, squared to the root. Whenever you get an important gig or a prestige gig, I expect the sound system to go down or the monitors to go down. I expect Bullwinkle to show up and pull a rabbit out of his ass. Something crazy is going to happen.
"But nobody can actually kill me well, they can, but its not legal, they cant kill me for this stuff. So with that in mind, what can really happen to me? As long as I practice and do my stuff and Im prepared, Im OK."
And with an album to promote and journeys across Canada and England in the works, the songwriter has a vision he can achieve with all his fingers still firmly attached to his hands.
"My advice to anyone in this world is make a will up and work backwards on it. Decide how many people are going to come to your funeral and what did you leave behind and who did you leave it to what meant something to you? What do you want to be remembered as? Because thats all youve got, man. One of these days youre just a memory like anything else."