LOS ANGELES — Jeff Mullen, aka porn director Will Ryder, on Friday paid tribute to his friend and longtime music client, Louis Johnson, who died Thursday at the age of 60.
Mullen also has an extensive background in the music business and had managed the famous bassist since 2000.
From hit records with Michael Jackson to Paul McCartney, Johnson was the originator of the slap bass technique that so many tried to imitate but nobody could quite duplicate, Mullen said. He formed one half of the 70s and 80s funk R&B act The Brothers Johnson famous for hit songs "Strawberry Letter 23," "Stomp" and "I'll Be Good to You," and for the past 15 years had been managed by Mullen performing shows around the world.
Mullen said Friday he was shaken by the news.
"Louis Johnson was definitely one of a kind and influenced thousands of musicians worldwide most notably bass players with his aggressive, funky style that can be heard on some of the biggest hit records of all time. I'm gonna miss him and so will the world of music," Mullen said.
Johnson first came to prominence when Quincy Jones brought him and his brother guitarist George Johnson into the studio to work on recordings, paving the way for A&M records to sign The Brothers Johnson to an artist deal.
Both George and Louis were also in-demand session players with Louis Johnson being a staple on the mega hit Michael Jackson albums "Off the Wall" and "Thriller."
"I can just listen to those records, especially 'Off the Wall' and hear Louis bringing those tracks to life," Mullen said. "His influence in the music world is striking. Ask any musician, especially a bass player, will have a story about listening to Louis."
Social media first reported the death with news traveling quickly globally.
"I first started to work as the manager of The Brothers Johnson with Louis and his talented brother George about the same time I started working for New Sensations back in 2001 as their head of PR and marketing," Mullen continued. "I remember company owner Scott Taylor allowing me to leave the office whenever I needed to travel with the band and do my managerial duties when we played cities across America. I would often depart on a Thursday and be back to work Monday morning having worked concerts in two or three cities over the weekend."
Former New Sensations and Hustler licensing broker, Chris Camacho, remembers Mullen working with the band. "One day Jeff brings me to the rehearsal studio in North Hollywood and I'm like 10 feet away from two of the greatest musicians ever and the band is just tearing up the joint," Camacho said. "It was a sonic explosion. I'm also a life-long bass player so it was unbelievable to witness them in person and then on Monday Jeff would be back in the office like it was no big deal. Louis was the man so it's sad to hear of his passing."
Hustler creative director Drew Rosenfeld also witnessed the band up close on the road.
"I remember some years back Jeff and I traveled to St. Louis to shoot a documentary on porn stars feature dancing and then the next morning we rent a car and drive to Louisville, Kentucky, because the Brothers Johnson had a big concert on the waterfront in front of 15,000 people and Jeff had to work it," Rosenfeld said. "It was cool to see the prep taking place as Louis and George Johnson are doing interviews backstage and there's Mullen climbing all over the stage hooking up amps and guitars and getting the sound just right. They were quite contentious brothers and it's just sad to hear that Louis is gone."
Mullen would not say if the Brothers Johnson had ever contributed to any of his award-winning porn music scores but did hint at the subject. "I've had some pretty famous people in the recording studio playing on some of my movies so I ask if you were friends with two of the greatest musicians of all time what would you do?"
The Brothers Johnson eased up on their performing schedule in recent years but Mullen has some fun stories of life on the road.
"It was a glorious run and in all my previous years in the music business I've never worked with or heard a funkier band," he said. "We were the first ones to ever do a live concert broadcast on XM Satellite Radio. There were so many great moments because The Brothers Johnson were explosive, volatile and damn good and now George and the band will carry on the tradition without his younger brother."
Services for Louis Johnson are pending.