Born and raised in West Virginia, Johnny Staats caught the bluegrass bug right from the start. With his mother playing piano, his father playing on the guitar, and his sister on the banjo, it seemed only natural that Johnny would get his first mandolin at the young age of seven.
"Just as I started to take mandolin lessons, my teacher passed away," Staats stated, "so I took matters in my own hands, and learned to play by ear from listening to records and 8 tracks of Bill Monroe, Country Gentleman, and many more. There were many nights I listened to those guys all night long."
Johnny joined his first band (Bluegrass Heritage) at age 9, and became a regular at competitions from age 13 on. Driven to succeed; Johnny devoted countless hours a day to practice. In fact he never entertained the thought of playing sports in school, because he was fearful he might injure his "hands".
In West Virginia, Staats established dominance at his home turf - Charleston's prestigious Vandalia Gathering-Mandolin championships in 1996, 1997, and 1999. 1997 was particularly notable in that he pulled off the rare feat of also winning the guitar title and placed third in the fiddle competition. As noteworthy as these awards were though, they did not go far towards keeping the family fed, so from 1998 to present, Johnny Staats has kept the home fires burning as a full time driver for UPS . A devoted husband and father of two, Johnny's musical accomplishments are all the more impressive for having been achieved around family and job responsiblities, not to mention his passion for raccoon hunting with his trusty coonhound.
Bursting with creative energy, Staats finally made his way to Nashville to lay down tracks on his first CD, "Wires and Wood" with Giant Records as his recording label. "Wires and Wood" demonstrates Johnny's dazzlling mandolin and expressive voice with a stellar cast of bluegrass legends including: John Cowan, Sam Bush, Jerry Douglas, Jim Hurst, and Tim O'Brien. Other co-stars on the CD were Sara Evans and Kathy Mattea.
Six of the tracks from "Wires and Wood" are Johnny Staats originals, and each displays a strong lyrical sense shot though with streaks of playful inventiveness. For example, on the opening of "Mandolin Meltdown", Johnny spars with extraordinary mandolin master Sam Bush, and manages to conjure up shades of Django Reinhardt and Stephane Grappelli's seminal Quintet of the Hot Club of France . Johnny Staats may be a relative newcomer to the scene, but folks all over are sitting up and taking notice.
To date, Staats continues to head out every day in his big brown UPS truck, and no matter how busy he gets with his music, folks around Sandyville, West Virginia area can still count on Johnny to deliver right on time.