Making a Scene presents an interview with John Ticktin of Johnny and the Headhunters
There’s more to Johnny Ticktin than meets the eye. Well-versed in the blues, having once served as lead guitar player for the legendary Louisiana Red, the open-minded Ticktin is a sponge, soaking up the subtle six-string nuances and intricacies of a multitude of genres—from surf to classic R&B, swing and even Mambo—on his eighth album with The Headhunters, That’s All I Need. It would feel right at home in any rough-and-tumble roadhouse.
The album opens with swamp blues proto type ‘That’s All I Need,’ from Magic Sam’s seminal 1967 album West Side Soul. Johnny pushes the tremolo guitar sound that made Sam famous even further evoking CCR and Tony Joe White. Venerated D.C. area keyboardist, Tam Sullivan, adds luscious piano and organ to the Bobby” Blue” Bland soul blues classic ‘Lead Me On,’ creating a vehicle for Johnny to ramp up the drama with his enduring vocal and sweet lead guitar. Johnny and the boys then get funky on the ode to shapely curves and Johnny’s other obsession and day job at JT Auto Service, ‘Body And Fender Man,’ originally written by Doc Pomus and Duke Robillard for Baton Rouge soul singer Johnny Adams. They smooth out the groove, but stay true to the guitar riff created by Chet Atkins, on 1957 Rockabilly B side hit ‘Chicken House. Lowell Fulson’s 1957 hit for Chess Records, ‘Rock Em Dead,’ is given the Headhunter treatment, pushing the boogie woogie up a notch to a full-tilt dance floor filling roadhouse shuffle, and the frenzy continues for the blazing rip thru Elmore James slide guitar bombast ‘Shake Your Money Maker.’
Johnny pays tribute to one of the unsung heroes of reverb-soaked Garage Rock with a fun-loving take of Link Wray surf guitar instrumental ‘Ace Of Spades’ tossing in a little Peter Gunn for good measure. Power house vocalist Liz Springer from acclaimed D.C. band Built 4 Comfort, is the special guest for the sassy duet ‘Watch And Chain,’ trading barbs with Johnny like June Carter on the late 60’s Bo Diddley beat romp from the Donovan catalog. A second Magic Sam cover, the classic Chicago Blues shuffle from 1958 ‘All My Whole Life,’ showcases Johnny’s guitar skills and the crack Headhunter rhythm section. Everyone shines on ‘Collins Mambo,’ closing the album with another high energy instrumental that has Johnny blending elements from several of Texas bluesman Albert Collins’ legendary ice-pick riffs into a dance hall fiesta.
30 years and thousands of gigs , Johnny and the Headhunters new CD “That’s all I Need is bound to make a lot of people happy.
With songs ranging from funky New Orleans flavor to raging Guitar Instrumentals, this album is a one stop shop in blues and rock n roll Johnny puts a modern swing on blues favorites and along with The fabulous production by Steve Carr at Hit and run studios, it is sure to tickle your ears.