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Johnny Heartsman

SACRAMENTO (AP) – Blues musician Johnny Heartsman, died after suffering a stroke on Christmas morning at his south Sacramento home. He was 59.

In Europe, Asia and Africa, his records were prized. His album “Sacramento” won him France’s blues musician of the year award in 1990.

Heartsman was a favorite studio and backup musician, playing with such legends as Jimmy McCracklin, Willa Mae (Big Mama) Thornton and (Little Willie) Littlefield.

But he became widely known as a guitar soloist and leader of his own bands, such as Nightfeast and Johnny Heartsman & His Band. His recordings included “The Touch” and “Johnny Heartsman: Still Shinin’ Live in Germany.”

“Heartsman was a very, very important musician,” said Phil Givant, who headed the Sacramento Blues Festival for more than 15 years.

“He was a consummate musician and he dearly loved his music. He’d rather stay in Sacramento than go on the road and he could have had more notoriety had he traveled.”

His companion of 26 years, Sandra Suitor, said, “Johnny was taken off the ventilator at the hospital Friday. I really believe that he waited to die until the sun went down on a Friday, the time when blues musicians begin to play.”

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