Johnny No is a Mobile blues band that describes their music as a “Port City Ne’er Do Well blues sound.” The Rev. is the tambourine-playing, sermon-making lead singer and their fans are called the congregation.
The band is released their second album, Modern Hymns for The Gentleman Loafer, on Friday, January 24. “Andy Griffith used the term ‘Gentleman Loafer’ in an old movie called ‘A Face in the Crowd’ when he was referring to the miscreants and hobos that he’s in jail with,” says The Rev. “It was a cool term to us and it means a man of leisure or a man about town. We think our music is just as the title says, it is modern hymns for the gentleman loafer.”
The members of Johnny No are The Rev., Al McNab (guitar), Bob Scroggins (drums),Tarleton Mcnab (bass) and Caleb MacCartee (keyboard).
When did you start recording the Modern Hymns for The Gentleman Loafer?
Scroggins: We are pins and needles waiting for it to come out. We started laying the first tracks in February of last year. We continued to play live while recording the album, which made it a long process, but we wanted to take our time. We recorded in the studio in my house and we had the time to listen to the playback and re-think anything that we wanted to do over. This is the first time I have ever had the time to do that.
What is the difference between the debut album, The Riviera Session, Vol. 1, and this album?
Scroggins: We did first album with Grammy-winner Jimbo Mathus at his Delta Record Service in Como, Mississippi. It was a bare bones approach and it was all done on vintage equipment and the sound we wanted on our first album. This new album is a more modern sound and process.
We had individual tracking on this album. We were able to adjust the monitors for each person and we all felt comfortable laying down the tracks. That made us a better band because we had to listen closely to what was happening and we didn’t get so wrapped up in what we were playing individually. That recaptured our live sound and the album is exactly as we sound on stage.
Describe the music of Johnny No
Scroggins: We are a blues band. A juke joint, Friday night, high energy, garage blues band. We are down to earth and what you see is what you get. The description “Ne’er Do Well Blues” began when we pulled up somewhere and one of us looked out, saw a couple of guys, and said, “there is a bunch of ne’er do wells.” We realized that describes us.
We are fire and brimstone. The whole band changes their persona when we start playing and we get after it. We play from the beginning of the night to the end and we are all in. If the crowd is into it, we will play four hours straight with no break. The music takes over us when it takes over the crowd. There is an energy that we don’t want to stop.
How do you write songs together?
Scroggins: We practice every Tuesday. We look forward to getting together and shooting the bull and that is the reason we write well together. We let it all flow out of us. This band has always been about letting our talents meld together and letting it go. Some of the best stuff we’ve ever done was at sound check, but we lost it because we couldn’t remember what it was. We now use smart phones to record some of it and get it down.
Writing starts with jamming on a riff. We start playing and things start happening. We find a bridge that works and The Rev. gets inspired and starts jotting things down. Most songs are two verses and a chorus, but if The Rev. has something to say, he’ll throw in a third verse and we allow that to take over.
Tell about some of the new songs.
Scroggins: “Hand of Glory” is eleven minutes long. It is a big production song that starts out with a church gospel sound. It begins with electric and fades into acoustic with a front porch revival with dobro and the harp. It fades out from electric to acoustic and captures your attention Singers were brought in to form the Box O’ Lies Choir that sings in the background. We had a lot of fun with that song and it is fitting that it is the last song on the album. The Rev. goes through a sermon during the chorus and it stays fresh, never gets boring.
Kenny Wainwright plays sax in “Cradle to Grave.” We wrote the song with him in mind and he nailed it.
What do you do when you aren’t playing with Johnny No?
Scroggins: In real life we all work to pay the man. Three of us work for the city of Mobile. One of us works in the public school system, and one is a maintenance guy for a hotel. The day jobs cut into your sleep. It is exhausting, but its what we’ve always done and we wouldn’t have it any other way.
“We want this CD to give us more opportunities to spread the word,” says Scroggins. “This is our purpose and it is what we are supposed to do. We can help put a smile on someone’s face and help them forget about the mortgage and power bills. We are going to play for five people the same way we would play for 500 and make sure those 5 people are the happiest people in the world. “