Yonah and the Wail


Johnny Childs, blues musician, has come a long way from his
old life as an ultra-Orthodox hoodlum. He started off in Brooklyn as Yonah
Krohn, the unruly third child in a family of 10, who would sometimes briefly
steal the fancy cars outside synagogues and take them for joy rides. He left
home when he was 12 because his parents didn’t want him corrupting his younger
siblings, and at 14, while in a group home, his life gained focus after he
discovered the dulcet strains of blues music.

“Blues gave me an outlet for my creativity, and the ability
to start expressing myself through an art form, which is something I never
experienced growing up,” said Childs, 31, now one of Los Angeles’ most
promising blues acts. “It’s an honest, unpretentious, minimalist way of
expressing your emotions, that also relies heavily on improvisation, that
enables you to express what is going on in your mind and your heart at any
given moment.”

Childs is self-taught. In the group home, he sat with his
roommate’s guitar, replaying any riffs he had heard until they satisfied him,
and then he would take them one step further by adding something of his own.

“I have always tried to squeeze a new note out of the
instrument every time I pick it up,” he said. “When I hear somebody play a riff
on guitar, or any instrument, that I want to steal — because that is how
anybody builds an arsenal of riffs — I would learn it note for note, but I
never performed it the way I stole it. I would keep the intensity but deliver
something really different.”

Childs keeps his music from sounding like a traditional
Delta blues band by writing songs that cross over into the rock genre, and by
making sure that his music is not derivative sounding. He plays in clubs all
over Los Angeles, and has already recorded one album, titled “The Truth,” and
is waiting for a major blues label to pick him up so he can record his second.

And what does his rabbinic family think of his career
choice? Said Childs, “They are just glad I am not stealing cars anymore.”

Johnny Childs will be performing March 8 at 8:30 p.m. at
Harvelle’s, 1432 Fourth St., Santa Monica; and March 15 at 8 p.m. at BB King’s
Blues Club, 1000 Universal City Walk, Universal City.

For more information call Midnight Music Management, (310)
497-6627.

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