Spectropop remembers

ERNIE JOHNSON (1943 - 2005)

Ernie "Sweetwater" Johnson, who with Eddie Campbell performed as the soul duo Eddie & Ernie, has been killed in a hit-and-run incident in his hometown of Phoenix, Arizona. In addition to writing most of their own material, the duo also provided songs for acts such as Jackie Wilson, Jean Stanback, Dee Clark, Jacqueline Jones and James Carr.

Eddie & Ernie debuted in 1963 on the Nightingale label with "It's A Weak Man That Cries", which was picked up by Checker Records. They then had a run of seminal singles on the Eastern label, a subsidiary of Juggy Murray's Sue Records. "Time Waits For No One", their only R&B hit, gave the duo the chance to play Harlem's Apollo Theater, where they knocked the audience cold. This fruitful period also produced "I'm A Young Man", "I'm Goin' For Myself", "Outcast" (covered by the Animals), "I'm Gonna Always Love You" and the Northern Soul classic "I Can't Do It (I Just Can't Leave You)". They then had the great double-sider "I Believe She Will" / "We Try Harder" released on Shazam and picked up nationally by Chess. A one-off recording session with Columbia included the ballad "Falling Tears (Indian Drums)", which came out on a single, and a terrific uptempo mover, "The Groove She Put Me In", which remained unreleased until the duo's CD, "Lost Friends".

At this point the two singers cut solo singles for Phoenix's Artco label. Ernie's "I Can't Stand The Pain" is now valued at £1500 and Eddie's "Contagious Love" isn't far short of that. Back as a duo and with Hadley Murrell, their original producer, who can almost be described as their guardian, they released two singles on LA's Revue label, including the great "Thanks For Yesterday". Their final single, also with Murrell, showed they could still produce wonderful performances. "Hiding In Shadows" on the Buddah label was featured on the CD "Dave Godin's Deep Soul Treasures, Vol 2", and tracks by the Eddie & Ernie were included on each volume of the series. Godin's championing of the pair over the years meant he had access to excellent material they had recorded as The Phoenix Express in 1971 and tracks cut as a duo in 1972. Their "Lost Friends" CD of 2002 featured most of these, including the excellent ballads "A Man To Love A Woman" and "You Make My Life A Sunny Day".

Eddie died in 1994 and at the time of "Lost Friends" Ernie was living rough in Phoenix. Discovered by local DJ/musicologist John Dixon, he was made aware of the appreciation of his work in the UK. Subsequent income from the CD eased his plight to an extent, but he remained a troubled person. Always dreaming of finding another Eddie and getting his inspired act together again, his hopes were ended on a dark Phoenix street.

(Ady Croasdell: http://www.acerecords.co.uk/content.php?page_id=1086)

Ernie Johnson, singer and songwriter: born October 22nd, 1943 - died August 20th, 2005.