November 20, 2018

A Points South essay from the North Carolina Music Issue.

I first heard Wesley Johnson’s name in 2008 while speaking with Carlotta Fleming (née Samuels) about her vocal group, Odyssey 5. After recording their lone LP, First Time Around, for Brunswick Records in 1974, she’d spent a few years in Italy singing in a group called Wess Machine, the namesake disco ensemble of a man named Wesley Johnson—a Winston-Salem native who’d been moving and shaking to some degree in Italy. I didn’t get tied up in the few details Fleming had to offer, so I was floored a decade later to encounter a box of Wesley Johnson LPs—all Italian pressings—in a Jamaican record shop. These beautiful, gatefold affairs revealed that Johnson was not some draft dodger or bail hopper, but a prolific expat whose overseas success story remained mostly unknown back home. In Winston-Salem, his sister Linda told me the best person to speak to about Wesley would be his best friend, Carl Ray Johnson, whom I knew as the drummer and primary songwriter for the Eliminators, another important local soul combo from the seventies. Luckily, I was already in touch with Carl.

November 19, 2019

A feature essay from the South Carolina Music Issue. 

Outside of his studies, Ron joined, and eventually presided over, the A&T karate club, and still made time to stay sharp on his saxophone. “People talk about born geniuses, but I always thought of Ron as a self-made genius,” recalled Ron’s college roommate, Keenan Sarratt. “He got his through hard work. That’s one thing I learned from him—nothing’s impossible. If it couldn’t be done, you’d have to convince him it couldn’t be done.”