Savanteous is an African-American abolitionist and humanitarian who served as a Union spy during the American Civil War. Born into slavery, he --- Wait. That can’t be right. Let me double-check this. Whoops. You know what? That wasn’t Savanteous. That was Harriet Tubman.
Savanteous is, in fact, the joke folk singer-songwriter alter-ego of writer Geoff Johnston. Born in Shreveport, Louisiana, bred in Queens, New York, and now based in Dallas, Texas, Johnston started writing and performing filthy funny songs under the stage name “’Clip” in 1996.
The majority of ‘Clip’s material had to do with dated pop culture references, girls not liking him, pot smoking, and girls not liking him because he smoked too much pot, delivered in a solo singer-songwriter style void of pretension, pitch, or professionalism.
‘Clip soon joined forces with the like-minded ne'er-do-wells at Chicken Ranch Records, who graciously released ‘Clip’s first E.P. and debut L.P. Songs from the Mint Mansion with a devastatingly negative return on investment.
In 2004, for absolutely no reason at all, Johnston changed his stage name to “Savanteous Q. Malmsteen,” a practically unpronounceable name that might have been considered marketing suicide if the music itself was good enough to be marketed. The following year he turned in his follow-up full length, which was borderline un-listenable and never released.
That same year, Johnston met his wife-to-be while opening for a friend’s band. He soon stopped smoking pot, scaled back on performing, and eventually put away his perpetually out-of-tune guitar. He redirected his creative energies to the constantly dwindling medium of print journalism, covering local events, penning music reviews, and writing humor pieces for the local alt-weekly newspaper.
While freelancing for the Dallas Observer, Johnston started a blog where he wrote anonymously under the internet penname “Alibaster K. Abthernabther.” The character generated a generous modicum of regional attention and scorn, and resulted in a recurring weekly column for Quick DFW, the Dallas Morning News’ now-defunct attempt at being youthfully relevant. His life taking on new direction and purpose, Johnston eventually gave Savanteous the middle finger and never looked back. Ever.
A few years later, Johnston looked back. He dropped the ridiculously superfluous and possibly libelous “Q. Malmsteen” from the Savanteous stage name and went about writing and recording a new batch of songs that reflected his older, if not much wiser, worldview.
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