I had good fortune to grow up in what has been called the "folk music
revival" era of the late '50s through the '60s. Starting with the big
Kingston Trio hit of 1958, "Tom Dooley", I was hooked. "Tom
Dooley", a simple song played with just two basic chords was based on an
1866 murder in Wilkes County, North Carolina. I loved that folk music told
stories, and often historic stories. I loved the harmonies of groups like
Peter, Paul, and Mary, the comedy of groups like the Chad Mitchell Trio and
the Smothers Brothers. I loved the older performers like Led Belly, Pete
Seeger, and the Carter Family. Others who influenced me were Harry Belafonte,
Judy Collins, Joan Baez, and Bob Dylan.
As best I recall, it was 1958 that I was introduced to the guitar by a friend who
lived on my way home from school. We'd stop by his place and hang out
sometimes. He showed me a few chords on his guitar, and it was enough for me to
ask my parents for one for Christmas. They heard and, sure enough, Santa
brought me my first guitar. For the first few years, I pretty much
played by myself.
In early 1962, our church youth group planned a talent show. I found another
member of our group, Bob Cross, also played guitar and sang, and
we decided to put together a couple songs as an act in the show. (The photo to
the left is a "publicity shot" we did. Kinda silly, isn't it?) We
chose to call ourselves the Bayou Brothers (from the Hank Williams song,
"Jambalaya on the Bayou"). Our timing was perfect as we actually
lined up a couple gigs before the talent show. It all went so well, that we
decided to keep the little group going, and soon added another, Dave Petersen,
to make it a trio.
We had a great time for a couple years, doing a regular gig at a local
Milwaukee coffee house for a couple months, and a couple appearances on local
TV. Many of our performances were as members of a "hootenanny
circuit" made up of maybe a dozen small groups like ours and solo folk
performers. It was a good time for young performers.
The Bayou Brothers continued performing until we graduated from high school
in 1963 and went our separate ways. I tried to set up a couple new groups
while in college at UWM, but none took traction.
After college, my performing went on the back burner as "life"
took over. I did a few songs now and then for my Air Force unit's functions,
but not much else in public. That was until I
joined the Praise Band at Pineda Presbyterian Church after the turn of the
2007 some of us from the Praise Band went out on the local coffee house
circuit, playing as the Shouting Stones. The photo here is from an evening at
the East Coast Coffee & Tea, with Ken Holt, Kristina Bracket, and me in
the front, and Sammy Pontillo in the back on the drums. We played together for
a little over a year until the local coffee house scene started to dry up,
some going to new owners and others just shutting down.
In 2010 I joined with a talented flute player, Laura Clark, as a guitar
backup under the group name Easy Feelin'. We played for about a year and a
half, with our performance at the '11 Native Rhythms Festival the high
In 2012 I decided to start performing as a solo act, going back to my roots
in folk/blues music, and Johnny Kee was born. What was new was
the addition of the Native American Flute to my instruments. I've also been
very fortunate to have my good friend, Ken Holt, appear with me on guitar in
many of my performances.