Scratch My Back

Johnny Woods

Harp from the Hills

A harmonica solo performed by Mississippi Fred McDowell’s partner Johnny Woods.

Johnny Woods was born in a small Mississippi town called Looxahoma, just west of Mississippi Highway 35. His harmonica playing first gained notoriety in the 1960s as a duet partner with fellow blues revival discovery guitarist & singer Mississippi Fred McDowell. They recorded together first for George Mitchell in 1967, for Chris Strachwitz’s Arhoolie Records “King of the Country Blues Vol. 2”, Swingmaster “Blues of Johnny Woods” and in 1972 for Tom Pomposello and Fred Seibert on Oblivion Records “Mississippi Harmonica”.

Stylistically, Woods’ music sprang from the same North Mississippi fife and drum blues band tradition as McDowell’s. However, personal problems kept him rooted in the Delta, primarily working as a farm hand and sharecropper. After McDowell’s death in July 1972, Woods faded away until George Mitchell paired him again with another late Mitchell Mississippi Delta discovery, R. L. Burnside, himself a McDowell disciple.

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