Johnny Law By William Elliot Whitmore

Animals In The Dark

2009 | Folk

Spotify | Amazon

"Old Johnny Law, Johnny Law. -- He's the littlest man I ever saw. -- With his badge and his gun, he'll just hassle everyone. -- He'll get you on the run. -- Johnny Law."


  • Whitmore grew up on a 160-acre horse farm in Lee County, Iowa, not far outside of Keokuk, Iowa.
  • Growing up the family was musical, with his dad playing the guitar, his mother playing the accordion and piano, with both his paternal and maternal grandfathers playing the banjo
  • Starting out, Whitmore was a roadie for an Iowa City punk band called Ten Grand


Luke Tatum

There's something really pure here. This is the unfiltered emotion that comes from the treatment we receive from police officers. While asking questions about what gives police the right to act this way, it's also got this beautiful, simple, humility to it. "And I couldn't help but think of the words of my dear departed Pa; He said "Do the best you can, be a good man, but don't you never trust Johnny Law." It's a testament to what we all know to be true: People can arrange their affairs just fine. Police--or in this case, Johnny Law--is an interloper. Let's all keep this one in mind. "My conscience is clean, 'cause I'm a human being, and you're just Johnny Law."

Sherry Voluntary

This down home bluesy song deals with a situation that so many people find themselves in on a regular basis, the interjection of State agents into the lives of peaceful people. This is the very epitome of government overreach, the collusion of The State lawmakers and their violent arm, the police. The lawmakers make laws that prohibit you from doing something and then give the police the authority to harass you if you have not met the requirements that the lawmaker set forth, usually in the form of a license for a fee. This type of predation has become so commonplace that most people don’t even consider it a transgression of their rights. That’s what happens when you give away a little power to the government. The small increments turn into large chunks, and then people become used to them and can’t imagine doing whatever thing without government. This leads to an apathy with most of the public that could care less when you, or I, or poor old Willie here, get caught up in trouble for violating laws that shouldn’t exist in the first place. Like he expresses in the song, we’d appreciate it if the cops would leave us be, but unfortunately they are the ones with the guns and the authority to use violence against those who refuse to comply.

Nicky P

I sure love me some roots music. This song paints a vivid picture of life the way I remember it growing up in rural New York. He tells a tale about how it feels being on the other end of a peckerwood with a badge & a power trip. I like how he talks about his father telling him to never trust Johnny law. A valuable lesson considering police are trained to get as much incriminating information out of you as possible at every interaction and do their best to escalate the situation. This method of policing exists because police by many standards exist as revenue generators & nothing more. Johnny law truly is the littlest man you ever saw.

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Nicky P

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