Johnny grew up in the Southern States, receiving his first harmonica at the age of 9, and being forced to practice his instrument sitting in the car out in the yard! He remembers as a boy listening to jazz on the radio, and sitting in juke joints where he would hear the music of Muddy Waters, B B King, Little Walter etc. Aged 14, at the death of his mother, Johnny moved up to New Paltz, New York State, completing his school education and singing and playing harmonica in his first blues band, the Train Riders. This was in 1957 and in that band were Adrian Gillerey, Phil Paritori, Herb Lehman, Ernie Bostic.
His next band, The Burning Bush, formed with some of the same players, performed blues and rock and was one of the first psychedelic bands, playing Woodstock around 1960. During this decade he recorded songs for Mercury Record Company, including 'Deep in the Wilderness', and in 1966 the company were considering sending him with his band to England. He played in many clubs in Greenwich Village, including the Café Wha, where he played on the same bill as Jimi Hendrix (he was calling himself Jimmi James and the Blue Flames then).
Johnny returned to New Paltz due family responsibilities and played in this area with various musicians under the name 'The John Mars Band'. In 1967 he travelled to California, arriving in San Francisco with his new girl friend, Elaine and a friend Ricky Rizi with his girl friend and baby. This was the summer of love! He immediately started to look around for musicians to form a band, and put together his first one, 'The Last Mile'. The members were Eric McCarthy, Dan Kennedy, Gary Peak with Michael Henderson joining them later on. By this time the band had become 'The Johnny Mars Band', with Michael and Dan on guitar, Ray Diggs on drums, Johnny on bass and harmonica, and Jay Hardman and Stuart Teischa on sax. They played on the same shows as, for example Alice Cooper and Santana etc. These were free festivals and gigs, because it was about partying and making music, an experimental time. Everyone was out to have a good time, a time when youth was out to change the world!
The Johnny Mars Band toured with 'Magic Sam', a guitarist and singer from San Francisco, and played on bills and in the same places as the Paul Butterfield band members, as well as Earl Hooker, BB King and blues man Jessie Fuller. In May 1972 Johnny came to England with his wife, Elaine, playing at the 100 club in London and making new musical contacts there. He also made his first European album, Blues from Mars. Whilst touring in the UK and Europe, Johnny was involved in a couple of notable projects. He featured in concert with Larry Carlton (world famous jazz guitarist), while doing his own TV stage appearance on Ohne Filter TV programme, Germany in 1984 (available on DVD). In 1991 Johnny also played as featured soloist on an album for the popular group Banarama. Their singles "The Preacher Man, Megalomaniac and Long Train Running" rose on the charts and Johnny subsequently made TV appearances across Europe and performed in their video. Johnny continued to perform in major blues festivals and concerts in the UK and across Europe, as well as in the States, developing his career as a harmonica player and experimenting with electrics and pedals etc. For 15 years Johnny has taught in primary schools in England, enthusing the young generation with the harmonica. This is what inspired the CD "Dare to Dream, Aim to Achieve", produced with schools in Portsmouth in 1999. One of his latest project has been working with young teenage musicians, encouraging their love of blues, and forming 'Johnny Mars and Stars'. He is now developing an 'Anthem' project, mentoring young people in schools in the South West in order to help them write and perform songs for their school.