After I discovered Larry Johnson’s Fast and Funky LP, I happened to be back at the Cambridge Public Library and came across a record that must have been there during my high school residency, but which I’d never noticed. It was on the Prestige label, and the artists were billed as Larry and Hank, and the Larry was Larry Johnson – so I instantly checked it out, brought it home, and listened.
It wasn’t Fast and Funky, but I was prepared for that, because the notes to that album said Johnson had been playing for years without really finding his style, then broke his hand in an accident and had to relearn everything, at which point he decided to follow Gary Davis’s advice and learn the “hard chords.” Presumably the Larry and Hank record was from before the accident, and the playing was a lot simpler, and honestly I don’t remember a great deal about it, though I taped it on cassette and listened to it quite a few times.
The main thing I got from it was this song, which I’ve never come across anywhere else. The LP notes, by Sam Charters, describe it as a variation on a work song, and the lyrics fit that description, but the melody is more in a ragtime vein, and I’m guessing this was a Johnson original. I haven’t heard it in at least thirty years, and may have forgotten a verse or so, but I always loved the way it flowed, and I’m pretty sure they played it in E, because otherwise I can’t imagine why I would have at that point — which would make this a pretty significant record in my education, since playing ragtime progressions in E and A fundamentally changed my thinking about the guitar.