Iowa Alumni Magazine | April 2015 | People

High Five

By Amy Mattson
Chris Johnson Illustration: Buck Jones
UI professor and keyboardist performs in a Grateful Dead tribute band

At age 65, Chris Johnson still knows how to rock. While he's all business during the day as a UI ophthalmology and visual sciences professor, Johnson tickles the ivories throughout the year as part of Winterland—a six-member band dedicated to Grateful Dead music. The gig is perfect for the keyboardist, who himself opened for the Grateful Dead as a college student in the '60s. Then part of a peculiarly named rock group, Hercules and the Chicken Fat People, Johnson warmed up the crowd with his signature move—a blind keyboard solo played lying on the ground, hands overhead and feet in the air—which he continues to perform today. Here, Johnson shares five ways to command the stage:

  1. Encourage the audience to sing and dance
  2. Wear a stand out clothing ensemble
  3. Listen to fellow band members
  4. Play from the heart
  5. Show enthusiasm (see signature move)