Blake Johnson of Roxboro, NC, former bassist/vocalist with Russell Moore & IIIrd Tyme Out and former guitarist/vocalist with Alan Bibey & Grasstowne, has died after suffering a massive heart attack following complications from chronic pancreatitis and liver disease. He was 33 years of age.
A stellar career in bluegrass had been projected for this talented young man who played most of the instruments in the ensemble, but especially for his exceptional singing voice. Blake had worked in regional bands throughout his life, including stints with Jay Kaczor and The Bluegrass Connection and as a founding member of The Hagar’s Mountain Boys.
Before coming to wide attention as a member of Grasstowne, Johnson also worked with Travers Chandler and Avery County. But when he took over the guitar spot with Bibey as Dustin Pyrtle moved on to Dolye Lawson & Quicksilver, people really began to notice what this man could do on stage. That attention led to Blake accepting the bass position with IIIrd Tyme Out in December 2013, and singing harmony vocals behind Russell Moore.
Blake is featured on the band’s most recent recording, 2015’s It’s About Tyme, their first project of new material in several years. Here is where musicianship can really shine in a supportive role behind a star performer, and Johnson’s background singing served all of the material well. The highlight was surely his sterling bass vocal on the band’s version of Sam Cooke’s You Send Me, one that has largely fallen from their stage show since Blake had to leave the group in the late summer of 2015 when travel became impossible.
Various treatments had given hope to the Johnson family that his condition might be stabilized and a liver transplant scheduled as a lifesaving measure. But it seems that the disease caught up to him first.
Blake will be remembered as a fine family man, leaving a wife, Amber, and two children, Noah and Lydia. He was well-respected and loved within the bluegrass community, where never a sour word was spoken of him or his professional abilities.
We will update when details about funeral arrangements are shared.
R.I.P., Blake Johnson. Another good man, gone too soon.