The other night, me and several of my writin’ and bloggin’ brethren (and sistren) were discussing whether @knownasprince on Twitter was really Prince Rogers Nelson. My buddy Pete responded that if the real Prince was really offering up those “Chicken Soup for the Soul”-esque Tweets, then I was really Time drummer Jellybean Johnson. I promptly whined to Pete about being cast off as the second least important member of the original Time lineup. Hell, why couldn’t I have been Jimmy or Terry? Hell, maybe I’m not a Morris type, but what about Jesse?
Wait, have you forgotten about Time guitarist Jesse Johnson? Shame on you if that’s the case. Despite Prince’s overt involvement in the Time’s recorded output, Jesse was the axeman behind the band’s legendary live performances and as his solo albums (like 2009’s solid Verbal Penetration) and his guest appearances on other artist’s records (check out his playing on Chaka Khan’s cover of “Castles Made of Sand”) prove, he is one hell of a guitar player.
Jesse was the next to last original Time member to break south before the band temporarily folded in 1984. He immediately signed to A&M Records, where he did some work with a young Janet Jackson (“Fast Girls” is a pretty solid track). The following year brought the release of Jesse’s first solo album, entitled Jesse Johnson’s Revue. The album was a solid seller and spawned three Hot 100 hits, the uptempo jams “Be Your Man” and “Can You Help Me”, and the very Minneapolis ballad “I Want My Girl”. The video’s definitely a must-see. Look at that hair!
Jesse reached his highest solo heights a year later when he teamed up with funk legend Sly Stone for “Crazay”, but mainstream success proved to be elusive. His Ultimate Collection album is a great compilation of the best of his major label solo work. Jesse continues to record and will be part of the long-awaited Time reunion. I definitely hope it materializes, because I wanna see this cat shred in person!
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