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Sonny Johnson wins contest; to open for Roy Clark

By Delaney Daly, Pioneer Staff Writer

BEMIDJI – Sonny Johnson has been playing guitar for more than six years, during which time he has since written and performed his own music at local concerts, festivals, and talent shows across Minnesota.

That experience, along with his growth as a musician, helped the Bemidji man capture first place last Saturday at the third annual Reif Center Top 10 Talent Search in Grand Rapids.

The yearly event features 10 gifted local performers, age 16 and older, who live within 100 miles of the Reif.

“We see it as a celebration of the intense creativity in our region” said David Marty, president of the Reif Arts Council.

Sonny JohnsonAlthough a popular location for renowned performers and artists, Marty said local performers also are welcomed.

 “The Reif Center needs to use their venue as an introduction for young talents,” he said.

Playing his original pieces, “’Round the Bend,” and “Men Should Not Wear Tight Clothes,” Johnson wowed the judges with his bluesy folk tunes and candid lyrics.

A first-year college student at Bemidji state University, Johnson said he hopes to pursue music performance as a full-time career.

By capturing first place in the contest, Johnson won $500 and the opportunity to open Sept. 22 for Roy Clark, the Country Music Award and Grammy Award winner. Clark has been a prominent figure in the development of country, pop and bluegrass.

“I’ve never played for a crowd this big so I am already feeling the nerves,” Johnson said. “I’m also really excited, all the same.”

The concert begins at 7:30 p.m. outside of the Myles Reif Center. Tickets are $34 and are available at the Reif Center Box Office, online at or via phone at (218) 327-5780.