Richard Johnston

Richard Johnston

Musical style: Hill country blues
Handmade instruments played: Cigar box guitar, Lowebow

As a ten year old boy Richard Johnston was given his first six string guitar. The gift, being strung with only four strings, presented Richard with his first taste of playing droning notes, something that later in life re-emerged in his style of hill country blues.

Richard was introduced to the open G tuning and playing style of Robert Johnson while in university in southern California. He was smitten and incorporated what he heard into his own guitar playing. Richard continued his education in Japan for a spell, playing his Robert Johnson influenced blues guitar at a local watering hole.

His passion for playing slide guitar stuck with him and he stayed in Japan, eventually finding a regular paying gig. That gig got him noticed by a writer from Memphis, TN who encouraged Richard to come back to the States to play his first blues festival in Memphis.

There Richard found and fell in love with Beale Street. With that Richard moved to the Music City where he found a living busking. Busking in Memphis put Richard in close proximity to the north Mississippi hill country blues with its driving drones that would ultimately shape his playing style.

Memphis also put him close to John Lowe. John was making unique handmade instruments and selling them in his Memphis store. After playing a couple of his instruments, Richard asked John make a custom cigar box guitar. This eventually turned into a creative collaboration that produced the storied Lowebow.

By this time, Richard had become accustomed to playing percussion with his feet while busking. He took the double stick-necked cigar box guitar that Lowe had made and won first place in the 2001 International Blues Challenge along with the Albert King Guitar Award.

Richard has gone on to play his foot-stomping brand of hill country blues in 13 different countries at some of the biggest music festivals in the world. Along with establishing himself as a soulful singing one man band Richard has also been the impetus for an instrument that helped to change the way music on the cigar box guitar is played.

You can find Richard at