Local Music

R.I.P. Johnny Salton: Fuzzy Guitar Heaven, BBQ Chicken and Soft Thighs

So far, 2010 has been a bad year for old-school South Florida musicians, from Lisa Hodapp to Dave Shibler to Norm "Sugarbone" Sloan, many of the people who set the groundwork for the musical awesomeness we enjoy nowadays are passing. It's been bad.

Some time ago, I had the pleasure of seeing Mr. Johnny Salton perform live and I once spent an afternoon in his company at Jill Kahn's place in North Miami where I was angling to do a piece on the Psycho Daisies for this here publication. The fact that the article never saw the light of day is one of my only regrets writing for the New Times; my sheriffs at the time "couldn't fit it in print."

But the sheriffs are the sheriffs and I am not even deputized.

But I will say this much: Jill Kahn, an extraordinary photographer (who's documented a lot of South Florida's maverick musicians) and excellent bass player, welcomed me into her home that afternoon solely looking for a little press for the horribly underrated and incredibly talented Psycho Daisies. When I saw Johnny Salton emerge from the kitchen with some BBQ chicken in his hands, offering me some, the delicious sauce smeared on his lips, I vividly remember thinking: "This motherfucker lives for no one else." The joy that washed over me is what I imagine Zen masters seek their entire lives.

He was not the skinny, switch-blade youth in ripped jeans and rock 'n' roll leather jacket I remembered from the Reactions' sleeves. Nor was he the droopy-eyed outlaw guitar-slinger from my Charlie Pickett and the Eggs inserts. This guy was fucking wild and barefoot and barbecued and bug-eyed and so in love with music.

That Johnny Salton's name is not on the lips of anyone who's ever deemed themselves musically savvy is a wrong that might not be corrected in my lifetime. Them savage mothers in Europe know, even if it's just from the Psycho Daisies canon. The grief and turmoil and humanity that that man wrenched out of six strings is undeniable. We are freaking blessed to be South Floridians and to have had him as a neighbor.

Anybody who has ever loved rock and roll for what it stands will find a kindred spirit coming through the speakers. Anybody who has ever loved the blues will understand the darkness from where the strum comes. The Psycho Daisies were one of the first bands that I featured in my Blast From the Past column. It saddens me that I'll be touching upon them and the rest of Mr. Salton's body of work because of his passing.

Regardless of which, Mr. Salton had been sick for a while with cancer. The suffering is gone and in this religion of rock 'n' roll, I can only hope that he is somewhere beautiful, guitar nearby, delicious BBQ chicken and soft thighs at hand. If there ever was a man who deserved the promise of Grecian gardens, it was Mr. Johnny Salton.

My life's been bettered by his music and from knowing him. All hail the King!

For those interested in paying their respects, services will be today at 10 a.m. at Mt. Sinai Cemetery, 1125 NW 137 Street.