From the Archives: Fall 2005 Issue of Lupus Now
Circle of Hope: A Jazzy Contribution
By Mary Medland
Although he claims not to be able to sing so much as one note on key, Joe Johnson has both music fans and critics singing praises for his skills. As a supreme saxophonist who says his forte is what he calls urban smooth jazz, Johnson plays rock, country, and gospel music with effortless mastery.
In addition to his two CDs (the single “You Know What’s Up” from his most recent CD, “Life of the Party,” has made it to the Top 10 in the National Radio and Records Chart), Johnson has built a long resume of musical accomplishments—playing on more than 600 radio and television spots, and opening for a mile-long list of legends that includes Aretha Franklin, Anita Baker, Sade, Alex Bugnon, Peabo Bryson, and Barbara Mandrell.
And if that’s not enough, Johnson also founded his own record label, YASNY (You Ain’t Seen Nothing Yet) Labels Group. YASNY has produced more than 50 CDs for a variety of artists, including jazz singer Marcia Butler, and YASNY gospel singer Reverend Lawrence Thomison’s CD was nominated for a Grammy.
As a child growing up in Memphis, TN, Johnson’s talent was encouraged: He played in the church choir and his high school marching band, before heading to Tennessee State University in Nashville on a music scholarship.
But it was one of his mother’s closest friends and neighbor, Ella Mae Flowers, who has lupus, who caused Johnson to want to support the Lupus Foundation of America—and to donate a nice percentage of the proceeds from “Life of the Party” to the LFA.
“Mrs. Flowers worked at an army base and lived across the street from us,” he says. “She practically raised us when were young and is one of the nicest, sweetest people you’d ever want to know.
“She is a pastor of a church in Mississippi, the type of person who does everything well and is completely devoted to her husband and her family.
“At the time, I really didn’t know much about the disease, so I began doing some research,” Johnson says. “Today, Mrs. Flowers is doing amazingly well. She still works in her garden, drives back and forth to her church, and she’s in good spirits.”
However, Johnson, who is married with one child and another on the way, isn’t content to just donate money to LFA.
“I’m really looking forward to being a national spokesperson, and when I’m on the road, my musicians and I will wear the lupus purple wristband and will take a few minutes at each show to talk to our audience about the Foundation’s work,” he says.
The music just gets sweeter.