Johnson was one-fourth of the revered Muscle Shoals Rhythm Section, aka “the Swampers.” He worked alongside fellow session musicians Roger Hawkins, David Hood, and Barry Beckett, acting as a kind of in-house band for Alabama’s legendary FAME Studios. Together the Swampers played on records by Paul Simon, Leon Russell, Bobby Womack, the Staple Singers, Rod Stewart, Wilson Pickett, Percy Sledge, and perhaps most famously, Aretha Franklin’s “Respect.”
In 1969, Johnson and the Swampers opened Muscle Shoals Sound Studio in Sheffield, Alabama. They would go on to record albums by Levon Helm, Russell Smith, Delbert McClinton, and countless others.
Johnson’s death was announced on his son Jay’s Facebook page. “He is gone,” Jay wrote. “Playing music with the angels now.”
Originally Appeared on Pitchfork