How did you get the name “Johnny Showtime”?
It started around 1997 when I was in Liquid Soul. One day, Dirty MF looked at me and said, “Johnny Showtime…. I like it!” I had no idea what he was talking about. But apparently everyone in the band had been calling me that for months, and Dirty was even announcing me on stage that way. I hadn’t noticed.
Some of the Liquid Soul guys came up with the name while eating at Denny’s. The place-mats were advertising the Harlem Globetrotters, and one of the players was nicknamed Showtime.
Initially I thought the name was cheesy and didn’t really suit me. But people seemed to like calling me Johnny Showtime, and the name stuck. After it was plugged in my infamous Lotto Ad, it became public knowledge and there was no turning back.
Are you the only Johnny Showtime?
I am the one-and-only “real” Johnny Showtime, and there is no substitute. However, a google search reveals that others have tried to cramp my style. Other Johnny Showtimes include a dirt-bike racer, a wrestler and a horse.
How should I address you, Mr. Showtime?
Most musicians simply call me “Showtime.” Some also call me Johnny, although I was never a Johnny before I became a Johnny Showtime. When in doubt, you can’t go wrong with “John.”
Friends and acquaintances I met in the early ’90s still remember me by a previous nickname, JJ. I don’t mind if they keep calling that, I just don’t like when they introduce me to new people (or on stage) that way.
For CD credits: List me as Johnny “Showtime” Janowiak, or Johnny Showtime, or John Janowiak, or whatever you think will get throngs of screaming teenagers flocking to the record stores. If there are any record stores.
What else do people call you?
Johnny Sunshine, Johnny Showbiz, Johnny Hollywood, Johnny Wonderful … stuff like that, when they’re a little confused. Among the more creative variations I’ve heard are Mr. Shojangles and Jonathan Livingston Showtime.
Being Johnny Showtime, I assume you’re a dancer, a jokester, a wearer of funky hats?
To the contrary, I suck at dancing, and I’ve never found a hat that looked so cool on me I would wear it indoors. In bands, I tend to be “the quiet guy” in the midst of hyperkinetic extroverts. I still remember what an audience member said to me at a Liquid Soul show years ago: “Every band needs a stoic.”
Calling me Johnny Showtime requires a healthy dose of irony. There is, however, one type of situation in which I think I live up to my name in a literal sense: when a bandleader points at me to take a trombone solo. As I approach the mic, I can feel the audience collectively wince, expecting failure. They’ve been conditioned to think of the trombone as an awkward, silly instrument, and they assume I will be annoying them with a series of lame, off-key farting noises. But just a few notes into my solo, they hear sounds that they didn’t know could come from a trombone… melodic, funky and a bit boisterous. Their wincing gives way to relief, then elation. It is in these moments when I feel that I am, truly, Mr. Showtime.
Do you still play in Liquid Soul?
In January 2013 I played the Liquid Soul 20th Anniversary Show at the Double Door. It was my first time playing with them in exactly 10 years – almost to the day.
People still associate me with Liquid Soul because I was its trombonist for eight years. It was fun being part of the group during its heyday… getting a Grammy nomination, playing for Dennis Rodman and Bill Clinton, opening for Sting and all of that. But since then I’ve moved on to other things.
Who are your influences?
Trombone-wise, I like players with a big, beefy sound and a hard sense of swing: Fred Wesley, Curtis Fuller, Al Grey, J.J. Johnson, Trummy Young, Wayne Henderson, etc. Props to James Pankow and Tom “Bones” Malone for giving me my first taste of rock trombone.
Other influences and favorites: Stevie Wonder, Parliament/Funkadelic, Jimi Hendrix, John Coltrane, Miles Davis, Louis Armstrong, Duke Ellington, Count Basie, Charlie Parker, Dizzy Gillespie, Cannonball Adderley, Charles Mingus, Freddie Hubbard, Dexter Gordon, Art Blakey and the Jazz Messengers, etc. ……
How do you like being a baldy?
It’s great! Saves me money on shampoo.
How do you know that no one reads your FAQs?
Because you just introduced me onstage as “JJ Janowiak.”
What time is it?
Why, I do believe it is… Showtime!!!