Jonny grew up in a musical family. His father Sam had a booming rich baritone and he loved to sing and play blues and jazz standards on the piano, baritone uke, and tenor banjo. Although, he wasn’t an accomplished musician, he was a serious collector of jazz, blues, and folk recordings. Jonny has inherited his dad’s 78 rpm collection. It was this exposure to roots music that inspired Jonny when he came of age in the 1960’s to pick up the acoustic guitar and try to mimic Josh White’s “One Meatball” and “Outskirts of Town”.
Jonny has always performed music in the context of his involvement in the labor and other social movements. When he met Annie in the early 1980’s they were involved in the Milwaukee Folk Music Society, where Jonny learned the alternating bass style of finger picking studying Doc Watson, Mississippi John Hurt, and others.
Every holiday ended up a hootenanny with Jonny’s mother’s brothers Arnold and Sammy leading the way singing songs of Woody Guthrie, Leadbelly, and others. In fact, these two uncles helped to write “Charlie and the MTA” when they were part of the “People’s Singers of Boston” in support of the Progressive Party Candidate, Walter O’Brien.
Jonny further developed his guitar playing under the tutelage of expert guitarists associated with the Pick’n’ & Sing’n’ Gather’n’ folk organization when he and Annie moved to New York’s Capital District in 1990. This enabled him to expand his musical acumen to include old time blues, jazz, swing, folk, and old timey music.