JOHNSON, ALFRED [SNUFF]
Texas Music Museum.
JOHNSON, ALFRED [SNUFF] (1913–2000). One of the last performers of the original Texas country blues style, guitarist Alfred Johnson plied his distinctive approach to the blues over the course of seven decades. Born on August 10, 1913, in Cedar Creek, Texas, Johnson worked alongside his parents, Frank and Pearl Lee Johnson, as a sharecropper. He grew up in a large family, and his first exposure to music came from his father, a fiddler, and an uncle, Will Johnson, a guitarist. He began performing around the age of twelve about the same time his fondness for smokeless tobacco earned him his nickname. He drew his repertoire from blues, country, religious music, and cowboy songs, often creating his own variations on traditional tunes. As a teenager he worked as a cowboy and enjoyed attending area country balls to hear players that included Mance Lipscomb. Johnson was greatly influenced by the Texas songster and resembled him musically, not only in his breadth of material but also in his rhythmic guitar style, characterized by a pronounced bass line picked with the thumb.
He served in the United States Army during World War II, and after his discharge in 1945 he settled in Austin where he worked in construction, at service stations, and finally as a piano mover. Although he played informally during the 1950s and 1960s, he did not record until the 1980s. These tracks were released in 1994 as Will the Circle Be Unbroken, and he began to perform in earnest at such venues as Antone’s and the Continental Club in Austin. His 1999 recording, Black Cowboy Blues and Church Songs, captured a selection of material from this period. Alfred Johnson died on January 17, 2000, in Austin after a long illness. During his life he had married three times and had thirteen children.
Listen to this artist
Austin American-Statesman, January 23, 2000. Alan Govenar, “Snuff Johnson: Black Cowboy Blues,” Living Blues, No.116 (July–August 1994). Colin Larkin, ed., Encyclopedia of Popular Music, Volume 4 (New York: Grove’s Dictionaries Inc., 1998). David Nelson, “Alfred ‘Snuff’ Johnson” Living Blues, 150 (March–April 2000). SW Blues Magazine CD Review 06/1999–Alfred “Snuff” Johnson (http://www.southwestblues.com/reviews/1999/cd-06-99alfredjohnson.htm), accessed July 1, 2008.
Image Use Disclaimer
All copyrighted materials included within the Handbook of Texas Online are in accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107 related to Copyright and “Fair Use” for Non-Profit educational institutions, which permits the Texas State Historical Association (TSHA), to utilize copyrighted materials to further scholarship, education, and inform the public. The TSHA makes every effort to conform to the principles of fair use and to comply with copyright law.
For more information go to: http://www.law.cornell.edu/uscode/17/107.shtml
If you wish to use copyrighted material from this site for purposes of your own that go beyond fair use, you must obtain permission from the copyright owner.
The following, adapted from the Chicago Manual of Style, 15th edition, is the preferred citation for this article.Handbook of Texas Online, Clayton T. Shorkey, "Johnson, Alfred [Snuff] ," accessed May 24, 2016, http://www.tshaonline.org/handbook/online/articles/fjocb.
Uploaded on May 29, 2013. Modified on October 25, 2015. Published by the Texas State Historical Association.
Get Texas history every day,
with day by day
Each day's email tells a little bit more of the story of Texas and links to our collection of more than 27,000 articles