Jimmy Johnson, Legendary Muscle Shoals Guitarist, Dies at 76

As a member of The Muscle Shoals Rhythm Section, Johnson played on countless hits by the likes of Aretha Franklin, Etta James, Wilson Pickett and more.
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Jimmy Johnson (center) with fellow Muscle Shoals Rhythm Section members David Hood (left) and Junior Lowe (right).

Jimmy Johnson (center) with fellow Muscle Shoals Rhythm Section members David Hood (left) and Junior Lowe (right).

Jimmy Johnson, a legendary session guitarist and member of the vaunted Muscle Shoals Rhythm Section, has died at the age of 76. His son, Jay Johnson, confirmed his death in a Facebook post, writing "He is gone. Playing music with the angels now."

With David Hood, Roger Hawkins and Barry Beckett, Johnson played in the house band at Rick Hall’s FAME Studios in Muscle Shoals, Alabama - a quartet that came to be known as the "Swampers."

While with that group, Johnson played on a laundry list of R&B classics, including Aretha Franklin's timeless 1967 hit, "Respect." His credits also included guitar work on hits by the likes of Etta James, Clarence Carter, Wilson Pickett and Paul Simon.

Later on in the 1960s, Johnson also began to work occasionally as a recording engineer, notably going on to serve as an engineer on The Rolling Stones' 1971 masterpiece, Sticky Fingers. 

Though never one to seek the spotlight himself, Johnson's playing has inarguably had a major effect on the fabric of American music. Upon learning of his passing, singer/songwriter Jason Isbell commented "The mighty Jimmy Johnson has passed. A lot of my favorite music wouldn’t exist without him."

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