Johnny Sansone was born in Orange, New Jersey. His father was a schoolteacher, and played saxophone. "I was about eight years old when I started taking saxophone lessons and understanding music," he says. "I also know that an alto saxophone was almost a...
Johnny Sansone was born in Orange, New Jersey. His father was a schoolteacher, and played saxophone. "I was about eight years old when I started taking saxophone lessons and understanding music," he says. "I also know that an alto saxophone was almost as big as I was, and I had to carry it to school every day, and I thought, hmmm, I don't know about this." What persuaded the younger Sansone to follow his father's example is a version of a scene straight out of Audrey Hepburn's classic film Sabrina. "He ran a swim club, and they used to have these parties, and they'd bring in bands. The guy up the street was a sax player, and they had a band called the Wakinians. I never got to go with him to any clubs or anything, but these pool parties, they'd have all the tiki lights and scotch bottles on all the tables, and all these people going nuts over a Louis Jordan or Louis Prima tune. I'd climb up a tree and watch this and be amazed that at how my father would just walk out there, and he could dance and he could play, and it was pretty cool."
Sansone stuck with the saxophone, but was also drawn to the harmonica and guitar. "I had Jimmy Reed eight-track tapes," he remembers, "and I wanted to play guitar like I heard on these old records." It was Sansone's introduction to the blues, along with records like "One O' Clock Jump" he found in his father's 78 r.p.m. collection. In one of the early examples of his mechanical inclinations, the young Sansone also discovered a way he could "sit in" on a Muddy Waters song. His father ran a jukebox-rental program on the side, and a jukebox that was beaten up and broken beyond repair found a home in the Sansone basement. "At that time I didn't have an amp, but I was listening to Little Walter and all these guys with really cool tone, and I didn't know anything about amps. So I took this jukebox and cut the wires off from where the needle comes from, and I got this little microphone from a tape deck, and I wired 'em in. I used to put the records on, and I'd punch A-2, put a quarter in the jukebox, and I used to have the coolest tone I think I ever had in my life," he laughs.
Although Sansone released several records on King Snake Records it wasnt until he released "Crescent City Moon" on Rounder/Bullseye Blues when he began winning numerous Awards in the Crescent City, including Offbeat magazine's annual "Best of the Beat Awards" where he won four Awards after for Crescent City Moon in 1997. Sansone won Song of the Year, Best Harmonica Player, Best Blues Band, and Best Blues Album of the Year and the record recieved raves reviews through-out the country.