Welcome to the website of musician & singer-songwriter, JOHNNY CHIMES.
He has been referred to by the music news media as the “Emperor of Boogie-Woogie”, and the “Duke of the Honky-Tonk Piano” and a “musician’s musician”. Johnny Chimes is a jambalaya of rolling Southern piano, finger-style guitar pickin’, and sweet soul-singing. He has performed thousands of gigs in his long and storied career. He is also a songwriter of considerable merit w/ several albums of his own words and music.
As a youngster, he was initially drawn to the music coming from the radio, the jukebox in his granddad’s restaurant and the family piano. From a handful of basic lessons, he taught himself how to make chords and melodies to go-along-with the lyrics that he was writing. When he heard the sound of blues and boogie-woogie piano for the first time, he knew what he wanted to do. He and his under-age buddies (the “Nonchalants”) started out playing at local teen dances and roadside taverns. Once out of high school, he joined a blues/rock band (“Harlequin”), which toured regionally for several years.
His real story begins in Nashville, Tennessee, where songwriters go to hone their craft. While gigging in the tiny clubs dotting West End Avenue, a word-of-mouth following got him invited to “pickin’ parties”, trading songs on any given night w/ Guy Clark, Dave Loggins, “England” Dan Seals or Marshall Chapman. In this up-close and informal, yet heady atmosphere, he learned how to finger-pick a guitar and deliver a lyric. While making the rounds of song publishers up-and-down Music Row, Chimes’ own music eventually caught the ear of publisher Jonathan Stone, then at ATV/Sony, who signed his first song contracts, and remains a friend and trusted advisor.
He left Tennessee with the tools that he had acquired during his “Southern apprenticeship “ and relocated to Madison, WI. He began touring as a solo act at college coffeehouses & concerts across the Midwest, largely handling his own bookings and management. Later, he led an acoustic-electric trio playing music that anticipated “Americana”. He’s the “founding father” of the Natch’l Blues Band—an eclectic jam band who were one of the most popular acts on the Madison music club scene for nearly a decade. He continues to perform club dates and at regional blues festivals w/ members of his “tribe”. A locally-owned, New Orleans-themed eatery offered him a “house” gig playing his blues, jazz & boogie-woogie piano. This long-standing residency has earned him a wider recognition across many age groups in both the Capital City and beyond.
At heart, Chimes is a songwriter—seamlessly weaving his original compositions into a set along with his own unmistakable versions of blues & country music standards. The melodies he writes reach across musical genres. The lyrics speak to the sadness and beauty and sometimes, even humor, of where he’s been. He's got the retro cool vibe which not only makes the whiskey taste better, but also makes your troubles seem like one good blues song away from vanishing into the night.