Gaye Johnson grew up in eastern Polk County, in the township of Green Creek. Attending Mill Creek Church of the Brethren, where her mother was the choir director, Gaye got an early education in singing. She also taught herself to play guitar early on, and started playing at church socials and other local events. As a young woman she spent time acting in California, where she met Phil.
Phil is a native of California, and he grew up loving cowboy songs. This, combined with Gaye’s background steeped in traditional gospel and oldtime music, led the two to start playing as a duo, and to move back to the Appalachians and open a music store. (They also got married.) As performers, both sing, Gail plays the guitar, and Phil plays guitar, mandolin, resonator guitar, and harmonica. Though their music is not strictly traditional, it draws from the full spectrum of country music, from oldtime Appalachian to Hank Williams songs. Phil is a member of the North Carolina Arts Council’s Touring Artist Roster.
The Johnsons have also been very involved in the broadcasting of traditional and acoustic music. They hosted the radio show Cornbread and Sweetmilk Time in the early 1980s, which was broadcast on commercial country stations. They have made multiple appearances on TNN’s Fire on the Mountain, as well as on A Prairie Home Companion. In the mid-1980s they hosted another radio show, The Liberty Flyer, which broadcast bluegrass and country music to American servicemen around the world. Today, they have carried their broadcasting to new media, producing the KingPup Radio Show, which is available in streaming audio on their website.
Phil and Gaye Johnson are available to perform in concerts and at festivals.