Jellybean has Prince issues. He's bold now, isn't he? ...
no, Jellybean is country and raw. And he isn't saying anything he wasn't saying before Prince died.
I don't know why people think some of these people waited until Prince died to speak lol
Most were honest in their way long before he died.
BBP: Well I’m curious as to—I was going over some things, man—and I found some videos of you with Ronnie Baker Brooks on the Legendary Rhythm and Blues Cruise. Are you going to do that this year?
Johnson: No, I haven’t been able to do it the last couple of years, man, and I miss it too, you know. Ronnie is in the process of doing his album with Keb’ Mo’ and stuff, and I’ve been dealing with my transgressions around here. The Original 7ven has not really been doing anything but I’m still in another version of the Time; I’m still in another version of the Family, fDeluxe, and at the same time bankruptcy and foreclosure and other personal problems. So it’s been kind of tough for me around here, man, so I’ve got to get back on my mojo around here. But it’s kind of hard.
BBP: Uh. Yeah! Man! I’m surprised to hear about the bankruptcy because you’re such a talented cat and you have so much going on. How’d that happen?
Johnson: Well you know, here’s the thing: that’s the myth everyone thinks. I’m so well-to-do because I grew up around them and have been in bands with rich guys,” but it didn’t translate it out to me because there’s been a lot of selfish bullshit that went on in my career over the years. So that’s where we’re at today. I hate my rich friends: I’m not going to lie, they get on my damn nerves. But at the same time, I’m attached to them for the rest of my life. It’s like HIV: they’re going to always be attached to me, so I just accept it and move on. It’s kind of a bitter pill sometimes that I’m struggling like this and I probably shouldn’t be. But I am, so I have to get through it the best I can.
BBP: Wow! Well who particularly are you mad at? I guess I have to ask that question.
Johnson: Well, a prime example, Prince has messed up three bands I’ve been in. He wouldn’t let us be The Time. You know I’ve been in Morris Day and the Time and I’m in the Original 7ven. We put off our major release last year because he was threatening to sue us. He didn’t want us to be the Time because he’s been a selfish jerk, because he didn’t want a partner. We offered him money, we offered him everything to be part of the project and he didn’t want to be. The same thing with fDeluxe. He did the same thing with us. We got ready to put a record out, we asked him, “Man, you have any songs for us?” No, he didn’t want to have nothing to do with us. He wanted to leave it totally—he created us, and he wanted it to just stay like it is. Well, uh, I’m 56 years old; the rest of us have careers. The rest of us are talented. So we want to make albums, whether he was part of it or not! And he always thought that these bands couldn’t make albums without him.
BBP: Wow. It’s interesting that you bring him up, because I heard today he has a new single out. Something called “Screwdriver?”
Johnson: Yeah, “Screwdriver.” He has a big-assed orchestra now; he’s got bands with guys, he’s got all-girl bands. He was just here; he just played a few days here. But that’s how he is. Prince has not treated our version of the band with any respect since ’06, since he did the Super Bowl. He’s had a hair up his ass about these other bands who have been around him for over 30 years, I might add. And I just don’t understand why. On the other hand, my other people—I was in the Original 7ven with Terry and Jimmy and Jessie Johnson—and they always do this. Anytime a crisis comes, they run off, because they’re rich. They run off, and you don’t hear from them no more. And Jessie Johnson bailed on another project too. So you know I’m just tired of babysitting and bowing down to cats that I grew up with. Because I got talent too. So..
BBP: Yeah, Yeah, I’ve heard it. Yeah, because you guys have been friends since way back. You went to high school together, right?
Johnson: Oh yeah, we grew up together. I grew up with Prince. I’ve been knowing Prince since I was 12 years old. I’m 56 years old now; he’s 54. I’ve been around him since I was 12 damn years old.
BBP: Yeah, and Morris too? Because I remember hearing that you guys used to set up drums in his mother’s house.
Johnson: To play together, yeah. That’s the reason me and Morris are still friends to this day. This is why we’re still friends and we still get to play in a band together because Morris gets this. And even though Morris has his greedy moments and shit too, I understand that. But you know, at the same time, he takes care of me, he makes sure I have some money in my pocket. My other friends that are rich, they didn’t ever do that shit. Except for the years that I worked for Flyte Tyme. And the minute I stopped working for Flyte Time, then that was done. So you know, whatever. But me, I’m just an old rock ‘n’ roller, man…actually I like the blues so much because you can play the blues until you’re 80 damn years old. And so that’s why I’ve always been attached to it. I know this funk/R&B thing that I’m famous for—sooner or later—it’s going to let me down. So I gotta have something to fall back on, because music is all I know. It ain’t like I can go get a job at Wal-Mart, or you know any shit like that, McDonald’s, or any of that bullshit. Who wants a damn-near 60-year-old man doing that? It’s gotta be music for me. That’s what I deal with.
BBP: You played drums first, right?
Johnson: Yeah. I got famous playing the drums first and the guitar was more incognito, because I started doing solos on Jimmy and Terry’s projects, like Alexander O’Neal. I did (O’Neal’s) “Innocent,” I did (The Time’s) “Fishnet,” I did Nona Hendryx “Why Should I Cry?” I did stuff for Janet (Jackson), I did stuff on New Edition, I did Mint Condition; you know, so that’s when my guitar playing came out. But still it was in the background as I was producing, but I was playing on the records. But the drumming—even to this day—here in town a lot of bands want me to play the drums. I just don’t do it. I sit in on guitar. Because my drumming I save for The Time. That’s the style of drumming that I want to play.
BBP: I heard you described guitar as an “emotional instrument.” I was curious about that term. What did you mean by that?
Johnson: Well, this is what I mean: the guitar I look at as spiritual and emotional because I feel it in my soul when I play. …Sometimes, as you know, being in a band with Jesse Johnson, being around great guitar players, and I’m playing the drums, it hits me emotionally. I’m not going to lie about that, but still that’s coming back to me being a guitarist. So, that’s what I meant by that.
BBP: And I notice you kind of like the blues guys. You like Albert King and B.B. and Hendrix was—
Johnson: Oh yeah. Yeah. Albert Collins. B.B. King. All the guys, man. And you know Hendrix, and you know I like some of the hot-shot white guys too. I always liked Frank Marino (Mahogany Rush), Robin Trower, Jeff Beck…I like all of the hot-shot guitar players…and I’ve been lucky enough to either see them or see them live or actually play with some of them. So..I like all the young guys, you know, like Eric Gales. I think Eric Gales is our 21st Century Hendrix. I think he is absolutely scary.
BBP: Yeah, I’ve seen him. Experience Hendrix tour. Did you ever pick up anything from Prince? He’s been known for his guitar playing.
Johnson: You know, I did. I can’t lie and say I didn’t pick up stuff from him. I learned how to be funky because of Prince. You know a lot of my funk came from being around him, because he’s such a funky cat. But at the same time it’s hard, because he’s not an easy guy to be close to. So it’s like he’s begrudgingly letting you learn shit from him, but he really don’t want you to learn it. But you can’t help but learn something from him if you’re around him enough, and that’s the thing. So I retained what I got from him. I just keep it in my back pocket, and like I said I’m always going to be, I’m always called a Prince disciple. Well, I accept that label even though sometimes I resent it. I accept it because I grew up (and) he made me famous. He made the people realize who Jellybean Johnson was. So I will give him that. But at the same time, I want respect from him. Because I helped make him a ton of money too, just like the rest of us.
BBP: Right. Now I heard you guys started in some school called “The Way Opportunities in Music School” in Minneapolis?
Johnson: It wasn’t a music school. It was like a community center where we hung out and stuff. And we didn’t hang out as much. Prince did, but Flyte Tyme was a whole separate thing from the guys at The Way. Prince was up there with Sonny Thompson; they had The Family, their band was called The Family back then and stuff..
BBP: He was a bass player, Sonny Thompson…
Johnson: Yeah. Sonny T. Sonny T: bass player. He’s legendary around here. He’s a badass, and Prince learned a lot from him. And The Way used to give these outdoor festivals every year, and all of our rival bands…we would fight against each other in front of thousands of people. And that’s how we got famous around here in the city, because we used to go at it at a young age. We had a community center here called Phyllis Wheatley. There’s a park: in the middle of July we’d go out there—thousands of people—and all day we’d have battles of the bands. Prince learned a lot of shit from all of us being around. We all learned from each other in this Minneapolis thing when we were younger, around the 70’s, in the middle 70’s coming up.
BBP: You know what strikes me as remarkable about that? It was basically live bands doing shows there—were doing the party scene in Minneapolis—at a time when the rest of the country was going more towards deejays…
Johnson: Yeah. They didn’t even know about us! They didn’t really know about us. That’s the reason Minneapolis music—Prince—made such a big splash in ’78 when he came out. Because they’re like: “Not Minnesota! Cold-assed Minnesota? They’ve got people that funky up there in Minneapolis?” You have to realize too, man, I moved here from Chicago. My mom moved me here from Chicago in 1968 to keep me out of the gangs because the gangs were recruiting me. I was 12 or 13 years old. When I moved here, man, the black radio stations stayed on ‘til about five o’clock in the afternoon. That’s it! That’s all! So I grew up listening to all the white rock bands, man. Black Sabbath. Rare Earth. Three Dog Night. All that shit. All the white rock shit, I grew up listening to that, in addition to having the funk shit because I’m from Chicago! I had already been around Chicago soul—Tyrone Davis; Chicago Blues—Buddy Guy; I had already been around that shit. My mom had records of that, and God bless her, I knew about James Brown, Funkadelic, all that shit, I knew about it. At the same time, I absorbed all of the white rock, and that’s why Prince is different today because of that. Because he was around here—we didn’t have no black radio—we still don’t have a major black radio station here in Minnesota, which is tragic. We don’t.
BBP: Wow. So that’s why the Minneapolis sound you guys played had elements of rock in it.
Johnson: It had a lot of elements of rock because we grew up around that kind of shit. We grew up around the white rock guitars and, you know, Rolling Stones and Kiss and all that. I remember going to see Kiss in 1976. I was the only black kid there watching them there, man. I remember bottles and shit crashing around me. Everything. Because I was standing there, watching them. This is 1976, and I’m watching Kiss and Rush at the fucking Met Center, you know. And like I say I’m probably the only black kid there.
BBP: Wow, that’s incredible. That’s right, because I notice in your drums, the guys you like on drums. I heard that you like the drummer from that Bay Area band, not Tower of Power, but the other one: Lydia Pense is the singer?
Johnson: Oh yeah, Sandy McKee. Sandy McKee was motherfuckin’ scary! Him and David Garibaldi were absolutely scary when I was coming up. And me and Morris learned a lot of shit from most of them.
BBP: David Garibaldi of Tower of Power, you mean.
Johnson: David Garibaldi of Tower Power. And I went from that and I started getting into the fusion drummers, like Lenny White and Billy Cobham, Tony Williams and stuff like that. But I started with David Garibaldi and Sandy McKee. They had that “pop;” I just like it. If you listen to any of the Minneapolis drumming, that’s what we got. We got that “pop” on our shit, man, because of that. To this day.
BBP: Wow. What was that band called?
Johnson: Which one?
BBP: Sandy McKee’s band.
Johnson: Oh. Cold Blood!
Johnson: Lydia Pense was the lead singer and they had horns, and some of those horn players used to play in Tower of Power. That’s East Bay, that’s Oakland, man. That’s Oakland funk, man. That’s what it is: Oakland/San Francisco, that’s where we got that shit from, man!
BBP: “Squib Cakes…”
Johnson: “Squib Cakes” and all that shit, man! Yeah, Morris could play “Squib Cakes” beat-for-beat, man. That intro that David Garibaldi played, Morris is the closest cat on this earth to sounding like David Garibaldi. I tell people that, they freak the fuck out. I’m telling you, if you heard Morris Day, cool-ass Morris Day play the drums, he sounds like David Garibaldi when he plays drums.
BBP: I heard that he started out as a drummer but he never does it with The Time, or I’ve never seen him.
Johnson: No he never plays with The Time. We were going to do it. We played back in ’08: we did a three week stand at the Flamingo in Vegas, and we were going to do that. Morris was going to play the drums, I was going to play the guitar, and Jesse Johnson had a hissy fit, and we couldn’t do it.
BBP: Oh, wow. Wow! What’s your relationship with him (Jesse Johnson) like? I heard he had an interesting background. He used to play in biker bars and stuff like that
Johnson: He’s from East St. Louis and Springfield, Illinois and all that shit. But Jesse is crazy, man. I love him to death, but Jesse is nuts, so, we have a skewed relationship. We have the same last name, people think we’re brothers. We’re brothers in one way, but we don’t get along. We’re like estranged brothers—trust me—because he’s hard to deal with. He’s very hard to deal with, and he’s a selfish person. That’s his biggest problem. His biggest problem is he wants to be Prince and he’s not Prince. He can’t be Prince. So that’s the whole thing.
BBP: So what’s this I hear about him getting handcuffed to a—what was it—a coat rack?
Johnson: That’s back in our early days of The Time and shit. We got into a food fight with Prince’s band…that was our first year out. That was us, them and Zapp. And the last couple of nights of the tour we got into it with him and his band, Prince and his band, and they started doing shit to us while we were on stage. And one night they just took Jesse off stage—and Jerome—and took Jesse back in their dressing room while we were in concert. Prince had his bodyguard take Jesse off the stage, take him back in the dressing room, handcuff him to the thing. He (Prince) played guitar, Prince jumped in The Time and played guitar while this is going down. Back then his band put food and shit all over Jesse and Jerome.
Johnson: This is the kind of childish shit that Prince did. So, after we got done, we went back and rescued Jesse, and we went and got us some shit, put us some dirty clothes on and found every egg, and everything we could and waited for them after the concert. And we beat their asses! Of course it cost Morris a bunch of money because Prince charged Morris a bunch of money for wrecking the arena. But we beat their ass! You know, because it’s ridiculous! You have to realize, we’re some kids from the street. The original Time was just some ghetto kids from the street, and there’s some shit you just ain’t going to put up with. And that includes Jimmy and Terry—all of us. Even Monte, the little white boy; some shit, we just will not put up with. Because we’re like a gang. And Prince’s band, they couldn’t compare to us with that. And he knew it. And deep down, Prince wants to be one of us. He had created this Frankenstein and he couldn’t control it no more. So he actually wanted to be one of us and he couldn’t, ‘cause he was Prince.
BBP: He wasn’t part of your group, he wasn’t part of your circle while you were growing up? Was he different?
Johnson: No. He made music and he told us what to play and we came in and played, a lot of times better than what he had. And in concert it went over better than what it did on record, and after a while he resented that shit. He resented it! And so then, when it came time for us to do a record on our own, he didn’t want us to do it. ‘Cause he didn’t want it to be better than something he had come up with.
Wow. Why does he think Prince owed him anything? He's even hatin on Jesse Johnson.
And the stuff he said about Morris...Ok, but again why does he think everyone has to take care of him?