Darryl Johnson has lived most of his life on stage and performed with R&B legends such as The Drifters. But before this summer’s Carolina Blues Festival, he was a nervous wreck: It was his first performance as a new amputee. By the time he’d returned to his home near Detroit, doubt had given way to self-assurance. We asked Johnson a few questions about his experience. To hear his music, visit reverbnation.com/darryljohnson/songs.
How did it feel getting back on stage?
It was really, really scary. Being an entertainer, you want your public to like you. So you go all out to make sure everything is as normal as possible. What I started to realize is that I don’t have to do anything except be myself. The rest of it will take care of itself.
Did it take a few songs before you started to relax?
The worst thing you can do on stage is think. Once you think, your mind is no longer on the audience or on the song. It’s on whatever it is you’re thinking about. At first I was too much in my head. I was concentrating on standing, and making sure I didn’t trip over whatever was on the floor. Eventually I stopped thinking and did my job.
What’s the biggest thing you learned?
The first few months [of limb loss], I was making sure everybody else was okay with it. Then I actually had to convince myself. There was doubt if I’d ever perform again, or if I’d even want to. All of that changed because of this trip. I realized that all I had to do was the same stuff I had been doing before.
What’s the next thing you might try?
Skydiving is something I’ve always been curious about. I’ve read that it’s the ultimate way to be at one with yourself, because there’s nothing but just you floating there. I’m also thinking about biking and several other things. My sister has taught me a lot. She says: “Don’t look at it as what you can’t have. Look at it as what you can have, and you can have anything you want.”
To read Amplitude’s full interview with Darryl Johnson, see “A New Amputee Gets His Show Back on the Road.”