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Sad news: Ernie Johnson RIP An obituary


Sad news: Ernie Johnson RIP An obituary magazine cover

Ernie "Sweetwater" Johnson, who with Eddie Campbell performed as the 60s soul act Eddie and Ernie, died on Saturday 20th August in a hit and run incident at 16th Street and Broadway Road in his home town of Phoenix, Arizona. Teaming up with fellow Phoenix resident Edgar Campbell they became Eddie & Ernie in the early 60s and first cut 'It's A Weak Man That Cries' in 1963 for the Nightingale label, which was then picked up by Checker records. They then had a run of seminal singles on the Eastern label a subsidiary of Juggy Murray's Sue records. 'Time Waits For No One' was their only R&B hit but gave the duo the chance to play the Apollo Theatre where they knocked the audience cold. This fruitful period also produced 'I'm A Young Man', 'I'm Goin' For Myself', 'Outcast' (covered by the Animals), 'I'm Gonna Always Love You' and the Northern Soul classic 'I Can't Do It (I Just Can't Leave You)'.

They then had the great double sider 'I Believe She Will' / 'We Try Harder' released on Shazam and picked up nationally by Chess. A one off recording session with Columbia included the ballad 'Falling Tears (Indian Drums)' which came out on a single, and a terrific uptempo mover 'The Groove She Put Me In' that was unreleased until Kent licensed it for the duo's only solo CD; CDKEND 214 "Lost Friends". At this point the two singers cut solo singles for Phoenix's Artco label. Ernie's 'I Can't Stand The Pain' is now valued at ¡ò1500 and Eddie's 'Contagious Love' isn't far short of that. Back as a duo and with Hadley Murrell, their original producer, who could almost have been described as their guardian, they released two singles on LA's Revue label, including the great 'Thanks For Yesterday'. Their final single, still with Hadley, showed they could still produce wonderful performances. 'Hiding In Shadows' on the Buddah label was good enough to be featured on "Dave Godin's Deep Soul Treasures" series of CDs for Kent. In fact they were the only act to feature on each of the prestigous four volumes. Dave's championing of the group over the years meant he had access to some excellent material they had recorded as The Phoenix Express in 1971 and six tracks, back as the duo, cut in 1972. Most of these were featured on the 'Lost Friends' CD including the excellent ballads 'A Man To Love A Woman' and 'You Make My Life A Sunny Day'. The duo wrote most of their own material and also provided songs for acts such as Jackie Wilson, Jean Stanback, Dee Clark, Jacqueline Jones and James Carr. By the time the idea of the CD came into being, Eddie was dead (we have subsequently found out that he died in 1994 not in the 70s as stated in the sleeve notes) and Ernie was living rough in Phoenix. "Discovered" by local DJ and musicologist John Dixon, he was made aware of the appreciation of his work, in the UK in particular, and was so happy to read Dave Godin's "Treasures" sleevenotes. The subsequent financial dealings from the CD eased his plight to an extent, but he remained troubled. Always dreaming of finding another Eddie and getting his inspired act together again, his hopes were ended on a dark Phoenix street.

Ady Croasdell

Ace Records

August 2005


An article (2004) on Ernie "Sweetwater" Johnson was on AZ Buzz but seems no longer there

“I’ll need to get a ride with you,” said Ernie out of the middle of nowhere. We were waiting for his turn to sing Karaoke at the AmVet Post #15 at 7th St. and Broadway in South Phoenix Wednesday night. “I live at 13th and Pima on the west side,” he followed. “I wish I would have known you were going to need a ride, Ernie,” I said. “I have to leave early, before you sing the last time, sorry.”

Transcripts of recent interviews with Ernie "Sweetwater" Johnson can be found in the soul people section via the link below





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