Interview with Jerron "J-Dog" Paxton
Wednesday, 30 May 2007 00:00
|Interview with Jerron "J-Dog" Paxton|
|Blues and folk musician. |
18 years old, blind from age 16.
From Los Angeles, California.
Interviewer: Roi Geyari.
Listen to J-Dog's music at:
Roi: When and where were you born?
J-Dog: January 26, 1989 in Los Angeles, California.
Roi: What caused your blindness?
J-Dog: Don't know, doctors are still looking.
Roi: How and when did you learn about your relation to Robert Johnson?
J-Dog: My grandma and I were watching a documentary on the blues (Martin Scorsese presents the blues) and between Son House and Charlie Patton was a piece on Robert Johnson. I joke with my grandma and says, "His name is Johnson is he your brother?" She says, "No just a cousin." But, I didn't realize she was serious until she said Noah Johnson (Robert Johnson's real father) was her father's cousin.
Roi: Was that what made you want to play this music?
J-Dog: I started playing blues after I fell in love with bluegrass, Cajun, and old time music that my grandma sang. When I got a fiddle, which I can't play anymore, I played a little classical, then bluegrass. I switched to the banjo, and now I'm stuck on the guitar.
Roi: Do any of your family members talk about Johnson?
J-Dog: Since my grandma was the oldest sibling she's the only one who remotely remembers him. She was 10years old when he was killed. The only thing she remembers about him was her father talking about him getting killed with some bad juju (magic).
Roi: Which Robert Johnson songs can you play?
J-Dog: I can play all his song except for "Hell Hound on my Trail". Granny says it wasn't mine to play… I never figured out what that meant.
Roi: How big was Johnson's influence on your music?
J-Dog: He wasn't as big as Skip James, Blind Blake, Charlie Patton or Son House, but he was up there.
Roi: Did you know who Robert Johnson was before you saw the documentary?
J-Dog: I knew the name and the music but not the story. He wasn't mentioned in my family until the documentary.
Roi: Was music a big part of your early life? Do you have any close family members who are musicians?
J-Dog: I didn't give a damn about music until I got interested in the science of how a violin produces sound. I was 12 years old then. No one in my family plays expect for my great grandfather Joe Johnson (1883-1960) who I never met.
Roi: do you know anything about Joe? What instrument did he play, where was he from?
J-Dog: I know he was born sometime in French Louisiana on August 1883 and he died in 1960. He had two daughters from a previous marriage before he married my great grandmother Bertha Law.
The only real instruments he played was fiddle, banjo, and maybe a little guitar. He only did it for his own enjoyment. He never though of become professional.
Roi: Did you learn how to play all of those instruments by yourself?
J-Dog: I had banjo lesson and violin lessons at a conservatory once a week. I got my first guitar on Saturday right after the banjo lesson. I had it for a week without a lesson on it and could already play every song I had on video tape at my house (Mississippi John Hurt, Son House, Skip James, ect.).
Roi: What kinds of guitars do you play?
J-Dog: A cheap Yamaha guitar that was bought at Cost-co.
Roi: Do you play electric guitars?
J-Dog: Yes, A red semi-hollow-body Ibanez.
Roi: What playing technique do you use?
J-Dog: Two and three finger picking.
Roi: On which finger do you put the slide?
J-Dog: Pinky and index.
Roi: How long did it take you to learn how to play the guitar good enough?
J-Dog: 6 Hours!
Roi: Who taught you how to play the banjo?
J-Dog: John Shlocker from McCabes guitar shop.
Roi: What kind of banjo do you play? Four strings, five strings?
J-Dog: Rollin' the five!
Roi: What about the harmonica?
J-Dog: Picked it up after listening to Sonny Terry's "Whoopin' Blues".
Roi: You mentioned you play the diddley bow. How does your version of this instrument look like? What songs do you play on the diddley bow?
J-Dog: Mine is gone now. It used to be a sting on my garage made of scrap wood and pill bottle played with a teacup. I played song granny liked… Jimmy Reed stuff, Goin' Down Slow and Fever.
Roi: When was the very first time you heard the blues?
J-Dog: I've been hearing it since I was born. My grandma would sing southern hymns, slave ballad, blues and country songs. The first artist that I took notice to was Bukka White in watching the movie "Life" and I heard him coming back from church.
Roi: Do you remember what the first song you learned how to play was?
J-Dog: Crow Jane by Skip James.
Roi: How do your friends and family react to the music you play? Do they know anything about this music?
J-Dog: My family is cool with it. Most all of them listen to blues, but it's mostly electric blues, BB King, T-Bone Walker, Bobby Blue Bland, ect.
Roi: Do you write songs yourself?
J-Dog: I write plenty I just tend to forget them before I record them.
Roi: Do you play any religious songs? Do you have a religious background?
J-Dog: I play plenty of religious songs. I come from a fairly religious background. The reason we don't know much about Robert Johnson is because Papa Joe didn't allow blues in his home and didn't talk about blues musicians. But, Joe was old school. The rest of the family after him and even his wife loved the blues and loved to gamble. I was raised in a Baptist church, but also in a Jewish household for most of my early childhood and that's the religion I took.
Roi: Describe "blues" for me. What do you think about when you play it?
J-Dog: Blues is a story, usually sad and inconsistent, that can be told by any one in any situation. When I play blues I try relating to the song. I play my best when I can have some experience to the song.
Roi: What do you think about blues musicians of today?
J-Dog: Blues today are great. They are an extension of the 1960s blues revivalists. Some of my favorites are Corey Harris, Alvin Youngblood Hart, and Keb' Mo'.
Roi: What about recording professionally? Are you thinking about it?
J-Dog: If I can I'd be happy to. I wouldn't plan on making much money because, even though blues is slowly coming back, blues still isn't that popular. I'd much rather perform in front of an audience than record.