Kirk “Jelly Roll” Johnson’s distinctive, soulful style of harmonica has earned him critical acclaim, numerous awards, and a place among Nashville’s top session musicians.
A native of Lake Charles, Louisiana, Jelly Roll’s career has spanned 45 years. He began playing harmonica at age 19 in Cleveland, Tennessee. After touring with several rock, blues and country groups, he settled in Knoxville to work with the Tommy Cole Band. From 1979 to 1989, Jelly Roll played concerts and club dates all across America with Warner Brothers recording artist Con Hunley. The group opened for acts such as Alabama, The Oak Ridge Boys, Loretta Lynn and Emmylou Harris.
Since moving to Nashville in 1984, he has recorded with Trisha Yearwood, Kenny Rogers, Etta James, Guy Clark, Lee Ann Womack, Travis Tritt, Shania Twain, The Judds, Alan Jackson and many others. His unique sound has been heard on over 50 gold and platinum albums, including three Grammy winning albums by Randy Travis.
Jelly Roll has made numerous television appearances with various artists, including Faith Hill on “Late Show with David Letterman,” Alan Jackson and Jamie O’Neal on “Tonight Show with Jay Leno,” Trisha Yearwood and the Judds on the “Country Music Association Awards Show,” and Con Hunley on “Austin City Limits” and “Soundstage.”
In 1998, Jelly Roll won the Nashville Music Award for Best Wind Instrumentalist. After receiving nominations for 1998 and 2000, he won the best Specialty Instrument Award for 2003 and 2008 from the Academy of Country Music.
Jelly regularly performs at Nashville’s world-famous Bluebird Cafe with hit songwriters Fred Knobloch, Thom Schuyler, and Tony Arata.
Jelly Roll Johnson is an exclusive endorser of Hohner Harmonicas. In 2017, Hohner awarded Jelly the Lifetime Achievement Award.