By Bruce Checefsky

Johnnie L. Mayhew has been deejaying music for more than twenty-three years. Known as Cowboy, The Backyard Music Man, he is a role model for his community. Mayhew’s influence on the youth is positive and constructive. His commitment to entertainment, community and food is real. “I spin R&B, Hip Hop, Blues, and Jazz, but I like to listen to country music,” said Mayhew. “The kids hang out while I grill and spin music. I show them how to draw hopscotch, and play marbles with them. Stuff I learned when I was young.” He welcomes whoever wants to talk to him, asks them questions to get to know them, and makes people feel valued. It gives folks a good feeling about themselves.

While growing up, Mayhew loved listening to Cleveland radio station WJMO, which was founded by former Cleveland mayor Ray T. Miler. WJMO played popular music by The Temptations, Ike & Tina Turner, Wilson Pickett, and others. But American country music artist Blake Shelton is one of his favorite musicians.

Also known as the Godfather of Hough, Mayhew got his start spinning music while grilling outdoors at his residence on Hough Avenue. The more music he played, the larger the crowds. He got the name Cowboy back in the 1990s when he began dressing as he does now, in jeans, western shirt, vest, cowboy boots and hat, with a bold western belt buckle. Eventually, his talents took him on the road. Now, he plays at venues across Cleveland where he spins R&B and HipHop, with some of his favorite cowboy songs mixed in.

Mayhew served two tours in Germany during his sixteen years in the army. He gained an occupational specialty working with radio and broadcasting. He learned about electronics and music amplification in the army and uses that experience today. Mayhew is also a retired state-certified nursing assistant, completing a comprehensive nursing program in just two years, and worked at Huron Road Hospital in the Special Intensive Care Facility for over ten years. He has since retired and started grilling. The rest is history.

“I watched a generation of young people come up during the last twenty-three years. I like to talk to them. They come to me with their problems, and I listen. I do my best to guide them in the right direction,” he said. “God gave me a heart and mind to freely give back to the community.”

Cowboy The Backyard Music Man can be hired by calling 216-315-9298 or visiting or