Artimus Paul (Paul Anthony according to court documents) Johnson - first came to musical notice as a member of Brisbane blues band The Bay City Union at the age of 17.

The learned larrikin also chanced his arm on banana plantations, bull riding and working as a singing roadie for Moose Malone & The Country Cassanovas.

Johnson moved to Melbourne with Moose Malone in 1977 and joined them on stage when his lugging and loading in was laid to rest.

The band landed a deal with RCA records, recorded the album House Of Blue Lights but kissed their deal goodbye after turning a record company soiree for the late John Denver into a memorable riot.

Johnson fell in love with suburban chanteuse Brenda Joy and they recorded a seven track cassette with a band featuring the late Sunday Herald-Sun columnist and Panton Hill Umbrella Club bassist David Speedy Hampson, Peter Martin on guitar, drummer John Blackburn, pedal steel guitarist Mike Burke, harpist Dave Hogan and sax man Mike Bowden.
Ironically, Hampson - a well read columnist who frequently quoted country song lyrics in his columns - died two months earlier of cancer at the age of 53.


The cassette was a fleshed out showcase for Johnson whose tune Never Tie A Chook's Legs Together was recorded by fellow Queensland larrikin Chad Morgan - the Sheik Of Scrubby Creek.

Another evocative Johnson tune Change Partners was recorded by Marco Halstead and the singer was posthumously eulogised by fellow Melbourne singer and harpist Chris Wilson in his tune Desperadoes Waiting For A Tram.

But this disc is the original, embryonic recordings of the singer whose lachrymose life ended in a bed in St Vincent's Hospital in Fitzroy - the suburb where he waltzed the mean streets with a guitar and a grin while he sang for his liquid lunch and supper.

Johnson greeted God after a bout of pneumonia snuffed the candle of the recidivist rebel whose jousts with his maker promised a much earlier departure.

On a level radio playing field the singer's infamous exploits - including a live sex act on stage with a fan dressed as a schoolgirl at a Sabbath come to church gospel gig and other well publicised exploits which landed him briefly in the slammer - would have catalysed record and concert sales.

But, with no current releases and a voice destroyed by the ravages of life on the wild side, he was just a rolling stone on the cold shoulder of the lost highway.


The singer's brushes with the law - keystone cop capers at the Gypsy Bar in Fitzroy and trendy Route 66 clothing corral in Prahran - found him quoting from Waylon Jennings and Joe Henry songs in his records of interviews and witness box bouts.

Asked by Fitzroy detectives if he had psychiatric problems after a bungled mock robbery with a shiny black $3.40 water pistol, replete with imitation walnut grip, the singer quoted a Jennings song.

"I've always been crazy, it stops me from going insane."

He saved his Joe Henry reprise for an appearance in the witness box at Melbourne County Court when on trial for attempted armed robbery of a pair of Justin cowboy boots from Route 66.

Asked about an alleged comment to the male victim, whom an inebriated Johnson thought was a girl, he replied "it was just a phrase I was going through."


It was no surprise that Johnson was banned from country music HQ Tamworth after appearing with outrageous singing cartoonist Freddie Negro & The Gravy Billies, busy collecting nipple prints on drink coasters for their hall of shame.

The singer was kicked out of the Workers Club after singing a bunch of country porn songs from his own archives and two discs by seven times wed former convict country star and actor David Allan Coe.

It was all for the 30th birthday of a NSW Vice Squad sergeant and late Papal biographer James Oram.

Johnson also earned infamy for landing a punch on the long suffering Keith Glass who was promoting Billy Joe Shaver's debut Australian tour and live cassette.

A P also fell asleep on stage while performing live at the Brunswick venue Madigan's - operated by singing satirist Paul Madigan.

That was the wild side of Johnson whose life has been researched for a movie and was hand picked by singing Texan crime novelist Kinky Friedman to support him on his first Australian tour.

But beneath the bar room bravado beat the heart of a hurting honky tonk hero who could reduce an audience to tears of sorrow or joy with his whiskey soaked vocals and pathos primed parables.

It's a mixture of those tearjerkers and his wry comedy songs that have been belatedly preserved on his Greatest Misses - the debut release on Nu Country Records.

The CD is available for just $15 - including postage - from Nu Country at P.O. Box 625, Northcote - 3070.
You can also buy it for $10 at our Christmas Party at the Bush Inn, West Toorak, on Saturday November 29.

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