Nov. 7, 1998


Orville Johnson and Mark Graham began performing together in 1991 at the Northwest Folklife Festival, each of them having had a long, varied and successful career prior to that. Because of the unusual combination of talents they bring together, and the eclectic collection of folk and folk-related songs they present, they smilingly refer to themselves as "Kings of Mongrel Folk". Both have been on Garrison Keillor's Prairie Home Companion, and between them they've appeared in many of the best-known North American and European festivals.

The program that they presented was a truly mongrel mix thoroughly enjoyable in its humor, diversity and quality. Mark Graham's blues echoed through the night, and Orville Johnson's harmonica left lonesome plaints in our memories.

In his early years, Orville Johnson sang in church and with rock bands in St. Louis, Mo. He took up the guitar, and in the '70s worked a Mississippi riverboat with the Steamboat Ramblers. In 1978 he moved to Seattle, where he was a founding member of the folk/rock group Dynamic Logs. He has played on over 100 albums, was featured in the film Georgia and is an instructor in guitar at several folk workshops. His recordings include: World According to Orville, (1990); Blue Blazes (1991); Cassiopeia, (1992); Kings of Mongrel Folk, (1997); and Blueprint for the Blues, (due out in 1998).

Starting in school as a clarinetist, Mark Graham soon discovered his primary instrument, the harmonica. As a street musician in Seattle in the early '70s, he also taught himself mandolin, banjo, guitar and concertina, and studied fiddle with Benny Thomasson. He toured Ireland in 1975, then formed the Hurricane Ridgerunners. In 1983 he moved to Boston, MA where he worked with the Chicken Chokers and recorded his first album Natural Selections in 1987. His songs are masterpieces of barbed wit, and his harmonica vituosic. Other albums include The Hurricane Ridgerunners (1981); Chokers and Flies (1986); Open House (1992); Remember Me (1992); and Kings of Mongrel folk (1997).