President Johnson’s Blues

President Johnson’s Blues: African-American Blues and Gospel Songs on LBJ, Martin Luther King, Robert Kennedy and Vietnam 1963-1968


6a. President Johnson's BluesPresident Johnson’s Blues illustrates how African Americans experienced the Johnson presidency. This is achieved by an analysis of blues and gospel lyrics of the period containing more or less direct social and political comment. The lyrics of these often very rare records, which have never been systematically transcribed before, are vital and hitherto neglected sources of oral history.

When Vice President Lyndon B. Johnson succeeded the assassinated President Kennedy he was hailed enthusiastically by the blues and gospel singers, most of whom had been born in the southern states and saw an ally in the new Texas president. Johnson’s acute political skills ensured that the 1964 Civil Rights Bill was approved by Congress. However, the President was not allowed to reap the benefits of the Act for long. The violent clash in Selma, Alabama, sped up the passage of the 1965 Voting Rights Act. Next, the plight of the black ghettoes led to nationwide riots and the president and Rev. King drifted apart. Military build-up in Vietnam rose dramatically in the Johnson era. Proportionally there were not more African Americans in Vietnam, but their death rate was thirty percent higher. Johnson was forced to launch operation “Rolling Thunder” to intensify air attacks, but felt trapped by the consequences of his decisions and became severely depressed. People began burning their draft cards, and criticism of the once popular president became quite outspoken in blues and gospel lyrics. When Martin Luther King lashed out against the war in 1967, the president felt betrayed by his former civil rights ally. After the 1968 Tet offensive, Johnson’s approval rating dropped to 36%. The book also analyzes in depth the profound effect the 1968 assassinations of Martin Luther King and Robert Kennedy had on the African-American community. The resultant awakening of black self-consciousness is dealt with in a final chapter.

Product Details:

  • Format:                       Paperback
  • Publication Date:        October 2009
  • Price:                          25 Euros
  • Publisher:                   Agram Blues Books

6b. Agram ABCD 2020Forty-five of the songs discussed in the text are available on two different CDs produced by Agram Blues (ABCD 2020 about LBJ and 2021 about MLK) to accompany this book. Digitally remastered and featuring full liner notes by the author, the CDs are unique historical documents of the Johnson presidency.

Price:   10 Euros


  1. The Trumpets of Joy – The News That Shook The Nation
  2. The Staple Singers – It’s Been A Change
  3. J.B. Lenoir – Shot On Meredith
  4. John Lee Hooker – The Motor City Is Burning
  5. Jim Bunkley – Segregation Blues
  6. King Soloman [sic] – Please Mr. President
  7. Big Amos – Going To Vietnam
  8. Martha Reeves – Forget Me Not
  9. Junior Wells – Vietnam Blues
  10. J.B. Lenoir – Everybody Is Crying About Vietnam
  11. Roscoe Robinson – Don’t Forget The Soldiers (Fighting In Viet Nam)
  12. Robert Pete Williams – Trouble Way Over In Viet Nam
  13. Tiny Watkins – Soldier’s Sad Story
  14. Lightnin’ Hopkins – Viet Nam War (Pt. 1 & Pt. 2)
  15. Madame Nellie Robinson – Viet Nam
  16. Little Milton – We’re Gonna Make It
  17. Roosevelt Sykes – Bad News
  18. Jimmie (Preacher) Ellis – Don’t Tax Me In
  19. Otis Spann – Tribute To Martin Luther King
  20. The Southerners  – He Taught Non-Violence (A Tribute To Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.)
  21. The Fabulous Soul Revivers – Senator Kennedy Believed In Justice
  22. Juke Boy Bonner – Being Black And I’m Proud
  23. Ko Ko Taylor – Separate Or Integrate


  1. Brother Will Hairston – The Alabama Bus, Parts 1 & 2
  2. Bob Starr – The Jail House King
  3. Johnie Lewis – I Got To Climb A High Mountain
  4. The Hewlett Sisters  – What Manner Of Man(Was Dr. Martin Luther King) Parts 1 & 2
  5. Otis Spann – Hotel Lorraine
  6. Rev. Julius Cheeks & The Four Knights – Where Do I Go From Here
  7. “Little” Mack Simmons –  A Tribute To Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. (Stop Looting And Rioting)
  8. Big Maybelle – Heaven Will Welcome You Dr. King
  9. The Loving Sisters – Tribute To Dr. King
  10. Ethel Davenport – Free At Last
  11. Big Joe Williams – The Death Of Dr. Martin Luther King
  12. Tom Shaw – Martin Luther King
  13. Robert Chatman – Ballad Of Martin Luther King, Jr.
  14. The Norfleet Bros. – We All Praise Him
  15. The Southerners – Tragic Story (A Tribute to Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.)
  16. Nina Simone – Why (The King Of Love Is Dead)
  17. Earl Gaines – Our Friend Is Gone
  18. Shirley Wahls – We’ve Got To Keep On Movin’ On
  19. Bill Spivery And The Sons Of Truth – The Non-Violent Man
  20. Rev. Charlie Jackson – Something To Think About
  21. Thomas Walton & The Blind Disciples – Ode To Martin Luther King
  22. Elizabeth D. Williams – Sleep On Doctor King, Sleep On