Photograph of Kim Johnson Kim Johnson at the FOOTMAD festival, Gandeville, West Virginia, September 1997.   Photo by Geoff Eacker

KIM JOHNSON is from Clendenin in Kanawha County, West Virginia. She was exposed to banjo music at the West Virginia Folk Festival held in Glenville, WV, where she also attended college. Kim bought her first banjo in the early 1970s and initially she “just kind of thumped around on it and didn’t really have it under control” until she met West Virginia fiddler Wilson Douglas, whose father and grandmother had both been fine frailing banjoists. Douglas says Kim “liked to drive me crazy” until he agreed to teach her to play. At first she admits that she was an “awful” banjo player, but her persistence eventually paid off and she learned to play in a sparse style suitable for string band accompaniment. Kim’s banjo playing compliments Wilson Douglas’s fiddling so well that the two made three recordings together: Boatin’ Up Sandy (1989), Common Ground (1993) and Back Porch Symphony (1995). Kim’s song list includes many old-time fiddle tunes common in Clay County, WV, such as “Liza Jane,” “Pretty Little Cat,” and “Elzic’s Farewell.”

Kim is also a close friend and student of Sylvia O’Brien, who taught her “Wildwood Flower” and “Minner on the Hook.” Kim can be found at festivals all over West Virginia, where she often leads workshops on clawhammer banjo.

banjo clipart

INTERVIEW:   Audio, Part 1 - Transcription  /  Audio, Part 2 - Transcription
PERFORMANCE:   “Elzic’s Farewell”

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