"F*@!'s it Matter?"
I was asked to write this biography of Pat Johnson, and somehow this line just keeps coming to mind. Pat and I have been close friends since something like first grade. We’ve gone through public school and high school and even university together. We’ve seen shit times, good times, great times, and meh times through four eyes that look at the world in remarkably similar ways. Meaning that we see things for what they really are, or at least we like to convince ourselves that we do, and that we both consider music as vital to staying alive as water, food, and oxygen.
Which brings me back to that line at the top. Pat used to deploy that one—always with a laugh mind you, but it was the sort of laugh that made you feel like he was sharpening a knife at the same time as he chuckled—when people would ask him the most inane of questions first thing in the morning at the factory job he jettisoned for music back in 2000: “How’s it going?” I wish I had the guts to be able to do that on some mornings, let me tell you.
That comment has stayed with me for over 20 years now, longer than almost anything else that I associate with Pat, because it sums up his no-nonsense attitude to life. And it confirms that, yes, it does matter. Taking the standard “Good, thanks, how about you?” response and turning it into something that was a little surly and a lot snarky always affirmed to me how much Pat did care, how much things did matter to him—so much so that he wanted to underline just how little almost anyone who asks how you’re doing actually gives a damn about the answer.
That comes out in Pat’s life and in his music. Sure, I can write here about Pat’s love of guitar going right back to when he was a Prescott kid in the 70s refusing his parents’ offer of piano lessons over a six string. I can tell you how much he loved The Who back in high school and did an amazing version of “Long Live Rock” in an air band show, complete with Pete Townshend windmills that almost knocked out the lead singer. I can even recount how he bought a guitar with his first paycheque from his first real job, immediately signed up for lessons, and how he became so committed to learning the thing that he used to get up every day at 4 AM so that he could put in a couple of hours of practice before heading off to work.
But that doesn’t tell the real story about Pat, about his passion for music, about singing what he has to say. That line off the top of this biography says everything about his attitude, showing his commitment to cutting through the crap and getting to the heart of the matter no matter what anybody thinks. Well, maybe anybody with the exception of Pat’s wife Krista Cameron, master potter who can throw clay like Pat can play slide.
This is the sort of dedication that you can’t fake. From that paycheque guitar bought in 1992, Pat has become one of the most well-known guitarists in Eastern Ontario. He has built up a big following through playing up to 80 gigs a year since the late 90s. During that time, Pat has also become one of the most highly sought-after guitar instructors in the area, and even put pen to paper in 2005 and authored an acclaimed book on fingerstyle playing. Then there’s the Patunes Studio that he runs out of his home in rural Charleston, where he records everyone from local blues chanteuses to rowdy pirate gangs. And then there are the albums, most notably the solo records Songs From The Town Boredom Built (2003), Pitchin’ Day (2006), and Stumps (2018).
Don’t take my word for it. Check Pat out live. Call him up for some guitar lessons. Employ his talents as a producer. And be sure to listen to Stumps, his hard-hitting new album that sums up what it’s like to be a musician in the later years of a decade that has no name in a culture that doesn’t assign any value to music and the arts. The songs on Stumps speak the universal language that somehow society has forgotten, that musical communication that used to bind humanity together and move us to dance, think, love, and cry.
But just don’t ask him how he’s doing when you see him. Or, better yet, do ask him. Make sure that you care about the answer, though. Make sure you’re listening. And make sure that you let him know that, yes, you know that it really does matter, too.
“Good old down home funky blues! ...As a guitarist Pat Johnson stands as his own man and is a master...”