William Manuel Johnson
Bill Johnson in 1909
|Birth name||William Manuel Johnson|
|Born||August 10, 1872|
|Died||December 3, 1972 (100)|
|Associated acts||The Original Creole Orchestra, King Oliver's Creole Jazz Band, Bill Johnson's Louisiana Jug Band|
Johnson claimed to have started "slapping" the strings of his bass (a more vigorous technique than the classical pizzicato) after he accidentally broke his bow on the road with his band in northern Louisiana in the early 1910s. Other New Orleans string bass players picked up this style, and spread it across the country with the spread of New Orleans Jazz.
Johnson was founder and manager of the first jazz band to leave New Orleans and tour widely in the 1910s, The Original Creole Orchestra.
In Chicago in the early 1920s he assembled King Oliver's Creole Jazz Band, considered perhaps the best of the early ensemble style jazz bands. He taught younger Chicago musicians (including Milt Hinton) his "slap" style of string bass playing. He made many fine recordings in Chicago in the late 1920s.
Johnson continued to play with various jazz bands and orchestras into the early 1950s, sometimes working under other names. He was also involved in the import/export business along the USA-Mexico border.
Bill Johnson died in New Braunfels, Texas, at the age of 100.
Further reading 
- Pioneers of Jazz: The Story of the Creole Band by Lawrence Gushee, Oxford University Press, 2005
- William Manuel Johnson's family
- William Manuel Johnson's WWI Draft Registration Card and essay
- Bill Johnson at RedHotJazz.com
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