"I started listening to Bill Monroe and playing the mandolin when I was real young, probably around 8 or 9," he recalls. "I think I bought everything Bill Monroe put out. I listened to him and then as I was getting older I wanted to explore different kinds of music. I started hearing Sam Bush and the Newgrass Revival and I liked the way he was playing. It wasn't exactly bluegrass but I wanted to get my own style," and that he did.
Born and raised in West Virginia he caught the bluegrass bug early. With his mother playing piano, his father playing guitar, and his sister on the banjo, it seemed only natural that he would get his first mandolin at the age of seven.
Johnny is primarily known as a mandolin player, but he is also proficient with the guitar and fiddle as well.
To date Staats continues to head out every day in his big brown UPS truck, and no matter how big he gets with his music, the folks around the Sandyville, West Virginia area still count on Johnny to deliver right on time.
"I loved how my friend, Robert Shafer, played the guitar so I immediately got a guitar and said I'm going to learn how to play like that too."
Like many youngsters from West Virginia, Johnny could play any instrument that was put in his hands.
Johnny joined his first band "Bluegrass Heritage" at the age of 9. He entered competitions at the age of 13 or 14. In high school, "All the kids teased me about playing bluegrass since rock and roll was big then," he recalls.
He has won his share of contests, but that's not for Johnny. For one thing, he writes his own tunes, which doesn't necessarily get you far in contests. Staats has a distinctive style, not only in his playing but in his composition. "I use a lot of pull-offs," he says, "because instead of just hitting a bunch of notes, pull-offs add more flavor to it."
"Wires and Wood," his first album signed to a major label, was a smash. It included the talents of Sam Bush, Jim Hurst, Tim O'Brien, John Cowan and Kathy Mattea. Giant recording label had a big hit on their hands when suddenly they went bust.
Since then Johnny has continued to record and play at concerts on his own with his back up men, "The Delivery Boys."
Staats has no intention of giving up his day job as a UPS driver, which gives a special twist to his story, at least in the eyes of much of the press. Folks all over are sitting up and taking notice of Johnny Staats and his creative energy.