Johnny Rawls has been playing the blues for more than 50 years, and he’s been performing once a year or so in Moab for over 20. He returns this week, playing five nights at different local venues.
Friday and Saturday, March 13 and 14, he’ll be performing at Woody’s Tavern starting at 9 p.m. On Sunday, March 15, Rawls will play at Eddie McStiffs Restaurant at 6 p.m.; Monday, March 16 he’ll be at the Blu Pig at 7 p.m.; On Tuesday, March 17 (Saint Patrick's Day), he will be at the Atomic Lounge at 6 p.m.
Rawls has performed at all of these venues before.
“There’s not very much I haven’t done,” Rawls said in a phone conversation with the Moab Sun News. He was speaking from Denmark, where he was getting ready for a performance as part of a European tour that took him to Sweden, Norway, Belgium, France, and Germany. Rawls was born in 1951 and has been playing music since he was a child. He has no intention of slowing down any time soon.
“I want to stay busy,” he said, explaining that in addition to performing, he writes and arranges his own songs, does his own producing, and books his own shows. “I put my career in no man’s hands. Some guys want to play golf or play chess, take the kids to school.”
Not Rawls. He said he won’t get tired of his demanding schedule.
“Why would I get tired of doing that? I don’t know nothing else better to do,” he said of his career. “I still work hard. I love what I do. I make friends wherever I go, for many, many years. Wherever I go, it’s like coming home.”
Rawls will be reuniting with some of those friends in Moab. Glenn Sherrill is a local guitar player who has known Rawls for around eight years. They met through Ed Stone, who plays drums for the local band Stonefed. One year when Rawls was touring with a band and stopped in Moab, his drummer dropped out. Rawls asked around about local musicians and was put in touch with Stone, who played with him for his Moab performances. Sherrill and Rawls were introduced through Stone, and the two have stayed friends.
“I don’t know how he still does all this touring,” Sherrill, who is 70, said of Rawls. “He’s always on the road.”
Sherrill will be performing with Rawls at all five of the upcoming local shows. They will be accompanied by a full band at the Woody’s performances; at the other venues, it will likely be just Rawls and Sherrill and their guitars.
Rawls’ music is described as “soul blues,” a blend of electric blues and soul or gospel-style singing. He has been recognized with a variety of awards throughout his career. Two of his albums have won Soul Blues Album of the Year, including his 2018 release, “I’m Still Around.” He’s known for packing the dance floor at his performances and for his charismatic showmanship.
Rawls said he looks forward to spending some time in Moab and entertaining the locals. “Tell em we’re gonna have a funky, good time,” he said.