The award winning Detroit-based guitarist and singer Johnnie Bassett, well known for a lifetime of playing the blues, splashed with soul and R&B, has passed away after a fight with cancer. He was 76.
Bassett was one of Detroit’s most revered and celebrated elder statesmen of the blues. Having played with Lowell Fulson, Big Joe Turner, Ruth Brown, and fellow Detroit legend John Lee Hooker, he was affectionately known as the “Gentleman of the Blues”.
During his Florida childhood, Bassett was touched by the blues, encountering Arthur “Big Boy Crudup” and Big Bill Broonzy before settling in Detroit. It was there he found work as a session musician at Fortune Records.
Durning the early 1960s, Bassett resided in Seattle, playing with Tina Turner and Johnnie “Guitar” Watson,
In 1998, Johnnie formed the Blues Insurgents, which found a national and international audience, touring Europe and the United States before releasing Cadillac Blues. That album was nominated for five W.C. Handy Awards. The Blues Insurgents played a number of prestigious events, including the Chicago Blues Festival and the San Francisco Blues & Jazz Festival.
Detroit Blues Society awarded Bassett with a Lifetime Achievement Award, only the third time the prestigious award has been given, and his 2009 album on Mack Avenue, The Gentleman is Back, won a Detroit Music Award. Most recently, he was signed to Sly Dog Records to release what will become his final album, I Can Make That Happen.
Bassett was an integral part of the Detroit blues and music scene — a living link to the wider world and history of blues, as well as a world-renoun musician.