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 lead guitarist for 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 (Small Talk album released on MCA Records, 1981);
Rock Rose, 1978-80 (Rock Rose album released on Columbia Records, 1979);
The Frisco Kids, 1971-78 (unsigned but lots of fun…may share demos someday, aka “The Flyers” and “Jungle” briefly); 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; and, continued 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 Cej’s 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 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 it’s way (via the blues) into Cej’s tool box. After a year and half as a music major at the local community college, Cej was offered the opportunity to join a new band, lured by hopes of 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, painter…).
Over the course of his career, in rough chronological order, 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, Arlo Guthrie, John Prine, Joni Mitchell, Steve Earle, Crosby Stills and Nash, Pete Seeger, Joan Baez, John Trudell, Ben Harper, Joel Rafael, Jimmy LaFave and Jackson Browne.
For the record: “Cej” (say “siege”) is a childhood nickname recently revived as the artists “handle” for reasons both practical and personal.