Entering at 60, Cej hit the ground running with his debut solo recording, Sleepwalker in Paradise, featuring 13 tracks, 12 of which were written during a 10 month period, bridging 2010 and 2011, during which Cej was living and working in Hawaii and Germany. The 13th and final track was written in 1968, on the evening of Robert Kennedy’s assassination. Deeply rooted in the Folk tradition, the songs explore a variety of human relationships and experiences, blending folk sensibilities with more “modern” strains of blues, jazz, country, classical and popular song. Recorded in 2012, while working around the artist’s busy schedule as a traveling Social Worker, Sleepwalker in Paradise was released June 20th, 2013.
Cej (aka Carl Johnson) is a singer, songwriter and guitarist who has been composing songs and instrumental pieces for 50+ years. Most recently, he was the lead guitarist with the Joel Rafael Band (1994-2004), along with band mates Joel Rafael, Jamaica Rafael and Jeff Berkley. Prior to that he was lead guitarist and song writer with: Small Talk, 1980-82 ( MCA Records, 1981); Rock Rose, 1978-80 (Columbia Records, 1979); The Frisco Kids, 1971-78 (unsigned but lots of fun…may share demos someday); and Sweet Pain, 1969-71 (United Artists Records, 1971).
During the “quiet years” (1983-93 and 2004-Present), Cej trained and worked as a Clinical Social Worker, traveling extensively, continuing to play and compose music when work and family life allowed, even sneaking in a few solo performances at house concerts in the Los Angeles area.
Born in Chicago (while Truman was in his second term and the Korean War was raging), his family moved to Southern California before his first birthday. They settled in the San Gabriel Valley, which was still an active agricultural area at the time (primarily Citrus, Dairy and Avocados). Highway 10 (later US Interstate 10) was still under construction and did not yet fill the 30 mile span to Los Angeles.
Taking up the classical violin at age 6, Cej abandoned this instrument a few years later, switching to guitar after falling in love with Folk Music (and Joan Baez) in 1960. The next several years were spent immersed in the thrill of learning new songs and musical styles, meeting other local musicians and beginning to write. During this time, the electric guitar made its way (via the blues) into Cej’s tool box. After a year and half as a music major at the local community college, Cej dropped out to join a band, lured by a pending record deal. That band would become Sweet Pain, setting the course of his next several years as a professional musician (construction worker, laborer, ranch hand, grape picker, house painter…).
Over the course of his musical career, Cej has shared the stage with Linda Ronstadt, Doug Kershaw, Gabor Szabo, Seals and Crofts, Dave Mason, Chuck Berry, Rodney Crowell, Ramblin’ Jack Elliot, Odetta, Richie Havens, Eric Anderson, Judy Collins, John Hammond Jr., Tom Paxton, Arlo Guthrie, John Prine, Joni Mitchell, Steve Earle, Crosby Stills and Nash, Peter Paul and Mary, Pete Seeger, Joan Baez, Berkley Hart, John Trudell, Ben Harper, Bruce Cockburn, Jackson Browne and Jimmy LaFave, Joel Rafael and others.
For the record: “Cej” (say “siege”) is a childhood nickname, originally used by his older brother and best friend, recently revived as the artists “handle”/talisman for reasons both practical and personal.