The steamroller Johnny Sansone has overwhelmed audiences around the planet with his powerful vocals, sizzling Blues harp and mastery of his accordion and electric guitar playing. His sets are fully stocked with original songs from over 150 of his published titles. A crowd favorite at every venue, Johnny turns out seamless energetic passion with his spellbinding mixture of Blues, Soul, Swamp Rock & Zydeco. His bareknuckle approach is reminiscent of a southern elder prophet that has lived on the hard road that draws his sermon from deep dark backwoods well. His performances are pure, unpretentious, and come with a full-grown swagger. Johnny Sansone is the personification of the finest that the New Orleans music scene has to offer.
– 10 Blues Music Association nominations, and a win for Song of the Year.
– 2 Grammy Nominations.
– 10 solo recordings and session work with releases by Tab Benoit, Samantha Fish, Mike
Zito, Albert Castiglia, Anders Osborne, Dr. John, Cyril Neville, and many others.
– Movie and TV show appearances and soundtracks including HBO’s Treme, Banshi, CSI
New Orleans, Blaze, Music of the Mind, and many more.
– 30 consecutive years of performing at the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival.
Johnny Sansone started out early playing music. His father, a saxophonist who’d been in Dave Brubeck’s band during World War II, introduced him to the saxophone at age 8. Johnny picked up the guitar and harmonica by the time he was 10 and had a life changing experience at 12 when he saw a Howlin’ Wolf show. That was the moment the young Sansone knew he was destined to play the blues as his lifetime vocation. He sat in with Honeyboy Edwards at 13. During the 1970s Sansone studied with blues harmonica legends James Cotton and Jr. Wells. In the 1980s he toured with Ronnie Earl, John Lee Hooker, Jimmy Rodgers and Robert Lockwood Jr.
Sansone led the life of an itinerant bluesman, traveling around the country from temporary bases in Colorado, Austin, Boston and Chicago before settling down in New Orleans in 1990. As leader of Jumpin’ Johnny & the Blues Party, Sansone played harmonica in the fierce Mississippi/Chicago blues style heard on his 1987 debut Where Y’at? and his 1991 release Mister Good Thing.
Living in New Orleans brought a swamp rock tinge to his gruff vocals and emotional playing style, and after attending a wake for Zydeco pioneer Clifton Chenier, Sansone started playing accordion as well. By the time of the 1996 release, Crescent City Moon, Sansone had developed into a full fledged Louisiana artist, combining blues, boogie and the front porch Cajun and Zydeco sounds of the Louisiana bayou country. With guest performances by Sonny Landreth and Jon Cleary, Crescent City Moon won multiple Best of the Beat awards that year. Sansone was signed to Rounder Records’ Bullseye Blues subsidiary, which also released his 1999 follow-up, Watermelon Patch, featuring John Hiatt’s back-up band, The Goners. During the early 2000’s Sansone played in a variety of settings, including a trio with pianist Joe Krown and guitarist John Fohl which released a recording in 2004.
At the beginning of 2005 Sansone joined the super group Voice of the Wetlands Allstars, formed by Louisiana bandleaders who wanted to draw attention to the disappearing wetlands and the destruction of the Louisiana coastline. Johnny, along with members Tab Benoit, Cyril Neville, Dr. John, George Porter Jr, Anders Osborne, Johnny Vidacovich, Waylon Thibodeaux, and Big Chief Monk Boudreaux, released two stellar records, embarked on several tours and annual performances on the main stage at New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival.
After developing a lasting friendship with fellow VOW member Anders Osborne, Sansone began writing great songs about the Louisiana experience tempered by the emotions of the destruction from Hurricane Katrina, and watching New Orleans slowly returning to life. Osborne produced Sansone’s next album, the 2007 release Poor Man’s Paradise. Sansone reached a new level of songwriting skills on this record, and the title track became a staple of the Voice of the Wetlands live performances.
In 2009 Sansone formed an acoustic trio with Osborne and guitarist John Fohl. The idea was they would play a regular Tuesday night show at the legendary New Orleans music club Chickie Wah Wah, to work on new songs. It was an explosive period of creativity for Osborne, who developed the songs on his masterful American Patchwork album during these sessions. But it was also a time of creative breakthroughs for Sansone, who wrote the breathtaking blues “The Lord Is Waiting and the Devil is Too” during these sessions. That song became the title track of his next album, another Osborne-produced venture. To this day it’s hard for Sansone to get through a gig without a fan calling out for “that Devil song!” “The Lord Is Waiting and the Devil is too” was named Song of the Year at the Blues Music Association Awards.
Sansone continued to pen his unique brand of Louisiana story songs on his next album, Once It gets Started, which featured a memorable account of the fire that destroyed the Hubig’s Pie factory. The Night the Pie Factory Burned Down was nominated for Song of the Year at the Blues Music Association awards.
The next release, Lady on the Levee, another Osborne production, features John Fohl on guitar, Joe Cabral on baritone saxophone and Ivan Neville on keyboards. The album rocks with the powerful boogie of “OZ Radio,” a tribute to New Orleans roots music radio station WWOZ. Sansone’s howling, rip-through-the-plaster voice and deep grooved harmonica riffs are the main attractions, but hard core fans will appreciate the wit and wisdom of his character songs, Louisiana stories like Gertrude’s Property Line and the title song, Lady on the Levee, tell the story of the gentrification of New Orleans after the storm.
HOPELAND released in 2018, was produced by Anders Osborne, and features the North Mississippi Allstars. Offbeat Magazine’s review of HOPELAND praises Johnny for his instrumental prowess, particularly on harmonica and accordion, as well as his songwriting and bandleader talent. “… The energy level peaks so hard it could easily fly off the rails, but the perfectly balanced production from Osborne, and the finishing touches from Trina Shoemaker’s superb mixing, keep the buzz and distortion from turning into a train wreck. That’s how you catch lightning in a bottle.” HOPELAND was the top selling record at Louisiana Music Factory during 2018 New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival.
Johnny’s most recent release INTO YOUR BLUES (2022) was a fan generated concept to incorporate an all-blues original collection of songs, influenced by Johnny’s many mentors. With guest appearances by: New Orleans’ king of the gut-bucket-blues: Little Freddie King. Texas Blues guitar hero: Mike Morgan from Dallas. Harmonica Wizard: Jason Ricci. Representing Chicago: Johnny Burgin. Rounded out with a big band palette of New Orleans’ top session players on B3 organ, piano, percussion and horn section. “Into Your Blues is a wonderful window into the elegance and class of an inspired artist like Johnny Sansone.” – Bluebird Reviews