Ever wonder what it would be like to go to high school with a well-known musician? Turn back time 13 years and you could have. In 1999, Johnny Polygon was a freshman at Booker T., unaware of his future in the music industry.
“I wasn’t involved in any organized music groups, but I did discover my love for music and the arts in the hallways,” said Johnny when asked about his time at Booker T. “Everything changed for me after that,” he continued. “There was a bit of creativity by osmosis; the environment did a lot for me. I found my artist self and likeminded friends that encouraged that. If it weren’t for BTWHS, I wouldn’t be the person I am today.”
Today, Johnny is a well-known recording artist who attributes much of his success to his Tulsa upbringing. Over the last several years of his professional career, he has worked with many other artists, including Nas, Kid CuDi, and Amanda Diva. Johnny has also appeared on BET and in Kid CuDi’s “Pursuit of Happiness” music video.
Although Johnny was at Booker T. for only a year, he has not forgotten his alma mater and all the school stands for. “My advice to students would be to keep your grades up and take advantage of as many extracurricular activities as possible” Johnny responded when asked what advice he had for Booker T. students. “There’s so much that can be learned by simply participating.”
Johnny also preached the familiar Booker T. message of acceptance and friendship, encouraging Hornets to stick up for anyone getting bullied. “I was cool with everyone in high school.” said Johnny. “There wasn’t a lot of bullying because Booker T. ain’t about that life. But, almost all the kids that would have been considered ‘dorks’ are doing amazing things now. Some are famous, on my favorite TV shows and movies, or extremely innovative.”
Johnny Polygon’s success story is one of the many that has come out of Booker T. Washington. It is evident from his music and words of advice that he embodies everything Booker T. stands for. This Sunday (the 21st), Johnny will be returning to Tulsa for the first time in almost a year to preform at The Shrine and expects to see a huge turn out of Hornets both for his show and the local opening acts.
After experiencing such huge success that was sparked by the music scene in Tulsa, Johnny is quick to endorse any local music. “Artists in Oklahoma need to lift each other up. We have the power to let the world stage know what talent is raised here,” said Johnny. “When you go to my shows in Oklahoma, there’s almost always one or two local openers from Oklahoma that are really doing things, making good material and working hard. So, when you come early to my shows, you’re really supporting music in our city. Take note and keep an eye out for them around town.”
Johnny’s support for the talent that Oklahoma has to offer in addition to his support for Booker T. shows the artist’s strength in character. His last piece of advice to Hornets makes it clear that he truly believes that great things can come from the school he once called home. “You all have a chance to create some honest connections at Booker T. that you’ll be glad to have in the not-so-distant future. Diversify the people you associate with. You’ll thank me later.” And what better way to thank Johnny than showing up Sunday night to see him live and witness first hand the talent that can come from a school that inspires such greatness?