Kathleen Johnson is an American singer, vocalist and band leader. Her musical resume includes working with artists many bands in the Twin Cities music scene, and mentoring artists. In the early eighties, she formed the band Myst with her sisters Mocha and Karen and aunt Rhonda Johnson which evolved into Best Kept Secret (BKS) in the nineties when Karen Johnson left and Kathleen became the lead vocalist.
She also was a member of TKO, a band formed by her younger brother Kirk Johnson. and before she was in M.P.L.S. (unrelated to Prince’s 1993-4 group Minneapolis) with The Game Boyz.
She worked with Prince in the nineties providing background vocals on many songs for him or associated artists. From 1993 to 2001, she was married to Michael Bradford, who was working in the building management of the Paisley Park Studios.
Kathleen Johnson released her album with BKS “Honest Pure and True” in 1997 and still performs in the Twin Cities.
| Musical Career
Originally from Minneapolis, Minnesota, Kathleen Johnson grew up in a family of musicians. She began singing at the age of six with her siblings.
Together with her sisters Mocha (who was a member of the local group The Family led by Sonny Thompson and had stage experience) and Karen (who left the band early) and their aunt Rhonda Johnson, Kathleen formed the MYST in 1981. They were mentored by Billy Holloman, a renowned musician in the area and started to perform in private parties.
| Early Musical Career
In 1983, two bands called Magic Touch and Network (with Kirk Johnson behind the drums for Network) were formed by her uncle to back-up MYST. Under the name “MYST and Magic Touch” and “MYST and Network”, they performed at local venues as The Taste, The Riverview, The Nacamera and The Spruce, playing covers of R&B and funk songs.
MYST changed its name to Best Kept Secret later in the eighties but Mocha Johnson moved to San Francisco and Kirk Johnson joined Prince’s band.
| Work With Prince
While working with Prince at Paisley Park, Kirk Johnson invited her sister Kathleen to add her vocals on Hold Me, written by Prince and offered to Jevetta Steele. In subsequent years Kathleen Johnson would regularly do background vocals and overdubs on songs written by Prince and released by other artists (Loïs Lane, Tevin Campbell, Monie Love, Carmen Electra, Mayte) or Prince himself (on Come and Emancipation).
Kathleen Johnson was a background vocalist for Carmen Electra’s band when she was the opening act at selected dates for the European leg of the Diamonds And Pearls Tour in 1992.
She was also a part of the short lived project The Crayons lead by Sonny T. with Morris Hayes and her brother Kirk. The following year, she married Michael Bradford who worked as a building manager at Paisley Park (they got divorced in 2001).
She joined the band TKO formed by Kirk Johnson when Prince asked him to put together a houseband for the Glam Slam club. Rhonda Johnson, Mike Scott and Walter Chancellor Jr. were also members of TKO. An album titled “Thought U Knew” and partially recorded at the Paisley Park Studios was released in 1995 independently on Kirk’s label Kitchen Records.
Kathleen also took part on the recording of French artist France Gall’s album France produced by Ricky Peterson at Paisley Park Studios.
| After Working With Prince
BKS was reformed when Mocha Johnson came back from San Francisco and became Prince’s personal assistant. From 1996 to 2002, they would perform at Twin Cities venues such as the Bunker’s and the Dakota Jazz Club & Restaurant. BKS would also be one of the bands that played at Paisley Park during the Celebration in 2000. Their first album called “Honest Pure and True” was released through Kirk’s label Kitchen Records in 1997 with Kathleen Johnson singing lead and writing all of the songs.
| Current Work
Kathleen Johnson still performs in the Twin Cities with her band or for other local artists.
She founded Musicians4Musicians, the aim of which is to mentor young artists and hold workshops to help them developing their talents and get gigs.
She is also a member of Universoul which includes Kirk Johnson and created The Rage Project, a musical based around Etta James’ s music and life.