Jimmy Johnson's first experience in a recording studio was in his uncle Dexter's studio across the street from his home in Sheffield.
In the early 1960s he went to work for Rick Hall as the first employee of Fame Studio, doing everything from engineering to sweeping up after the sessions.
By the mid60s he had begun playing rhythm guitar, and eventually became a regular member of the studio rhythm section. In 1969, he and partner Roger Hawkins decided to form their own studio, a move that created Muscle Shoals Sound Studios.
Among the acts he as produced are Lynyrd Skynyrd, The Amazing Rhythm Aces, Levon Helm, Billy Vera, Billy "Crash" Craddock, and Connie Frances.
His distinctive guitar fills can be heard on the recordings of Aretha Franklin, Wilson Pickett, Millie Jackson, Paul Simon, Bob Seger, Dr. Hook, Leon Russell, The Staple Singers, Johnnie Taylor, Z.Z. Hill, Bobby "Blue" Bland, Bob Seger, Lulu, R.B. Greaves, Luther Ingram, Rod Stewart, Willie Nelson and many others.
He is also renown as a recording engineer, having worked the controls on such classics as the Rolling Stones' "Brown Sugar" and "Wild Horses", Percy Sledge's "When A Man Loves A Woman", and others.
As a businessman, Johnson has served not only as president of Muscle Shoals Sound Studios and Publishing companies, but also as president of the Muscle Shoals Music Association, vice president of A&R for Capitol/MSS Records, Chairman of the Alabama Music Hall of Fame Board, member of the Board of Governors for the 3M Scotty Awards, member of the Colbert County Chamber of Commerce, and president of MSS Records/Malaco.