Born in Winnsboro, Louisiana, Johnson didn't begin singing professionally until after moving to Dallas. Johnson had a chance to open for Lavelle White in Mexia, Texas, and stole the show. At that point, he quit his day job with the Dallas parks department and formed a band, the Soul Blenders. He recorded his first single, "Lovin You" b/w "Cold Cold Heart," for Movin' Records in 1968. Johnson recorded other singles before his first album for Ronn Records, "Just In Time".