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Mississippi Rag Falls Silent with Death of Publisherby Don Lucoff
Copyright © 2009 Don Lucoff
MINNEAPOLIS/ST. PAUL, Minn. — On January 17, 2009, The Mississippi Rag™, The Voice of Traditional Jazz and Ragtime, a monthly publication, fell silent with the death of its founder/publisher, Leslie Carole Johnson, after a three-year battle with cancer.
Born June 16, 1942 in Bloomington, Minn., Johnson graduated from the University of Minnesota/Minneapolis School of Journalism in 1964. Her love of jazz began at the historic Emporium of Jazz in Mendota, Minn., listening to the fabled Hall Brothers Jazz Band. She realized that the many guest bands and artists who performed there were well-known participants in the history of traditional jazz and ragtime and had fascinating stories that she believed needed to be told. When she pushed her first husband, journalist Dennis Johnson, to write these stories, he said she should do it. Thus the RAG™ was born in 1973.
Word of the advent of the RAG™ was quickly spread by musicians and fans and before long Johnson was publishing and distributing to a small but fanatically loyal international subscriber list a newspaper which became the bible of traditional jazz and ragtime. Rising printing and mailing costs caused Johnson to reinvent the RAG™ as an online publication in January 2007. Amazingly, despite her illness, with the December 2008 issue she completed 35 years of publishing the RAG™ without missing a deadline. Johnson was honored for her achievement in January 2008 by the Jazz Journalists Association and by the Twin Cities (St. Paul-Minneapolis, Minn.) Hot Summer Jazz Festival and she was listed in a number of editions of Who s Who. Johnson was a founding board member, past president and long-time board member of the Twin Cities Jazz Society; served on the Minnesota State Arts Board and was active on behalf of a number of non-profit charitable organizations. She was a member of St. Richard s Catholic Church, Richfield, Minn.
She is survived by her husband, Will Shapira, Minneapolis, Minn., children Tony Johnson, Minneapolis, Minn.; Renee Burnett (Allen), Chicago, Ill.; stepchildren Eve Roycraft (Tom), Little Canada, Minn.; Stephen Shapira (Cris), St. Paul, Minn.; five step-grandchildren; brother Gary Lindstrom (Sandi), Shakopee, Minn.; sisters Debra Peterson (Phil) and Jody Hughes (John) all of Bloomington, Minn.; former husband Dennis Johnson (Alice Ripley), Burnsville, Minn. and cousins, nieces and nephews. She drew praise from musicians, writers, photographers, educators and thousands of loyal subscribers worldwide. Memorials may be sent to N.C. Little Hospice, Edina, Minn.; Hubert H. Humphrey Cancer Center, Twin Cities, Minn. or New Orleans Musicians Clinic. Funeral Mass will be held on Thursday, January 22nd at noon at St. Richard s Catholic Church, Richfield, Minn.
FOR FURTHER INFORMATION OR PHOTO or Journalists wishing to interview musicians, scholars and others about Leslie Johnson and the RAG Will Shapira (612-920-0312; wshapia at aol.com) Jody Hughes (952-457-5612, jody.highs at gmail.com)^ Top