Johnny Helms (b. John Newton Helms 10 February 1935 Columbia, South Carolina) is an American jazz trumpet player and bandleader. Helms has performed with Chris Potter, Tommy Newsom, Bill Watrous, Red Rodney, Woody Herman, Sam Most, and the Clark Terry Big Band among others. In 1989, he was featured along with Terry and Oscar Peterson as part of Clark Terry and Friends at Town Hall during the JVC Jazz Festival.
Influences and early career
Helms displayed a talent for music at a young age and was invited to perform with the University of South Carolina Band while in the ninth grade at Columbia High School. An early stylistic influence was trumpeter Chet Baker, but as his style matured, Helms became a devotee of the great jazz trumpet player Clifford Brown and easily mastered the hard bop style and phrasing that was part of Brown's legacy.
Helms was an avid supporter of jazz saxophonist Chris Potter who had the opportunity to learn his craft while performing with Helms.
Helms earned his Bachelor of Music degree in 1973 from the University of South Carolina and taught music in the public schools for many years.
Jazz festival organizer
Spoleto Festival USA
Johnny Helms was a featured soloist at the 1977 (summer) Spoleto Festival USA, Charleston, South Carolina with the One O'Clock Lab Band, Phil Woods, Louie Bellson, and Urbie Green. The event marked the first time that the Spoleto festival had been held in the Americas. Since its 1958 founding in Italy by Gian Carlo Menotti, jazz had never been performed at a Spoleto event. Since its US spinoff debut in 1977 — Spoleto USA — jazz has played an integral role in what has become the largest performing arts festival in the Americas, dwarfing its Old World parent. A recording of the performance was broadcast March 25, 1978, and September 28, 1978, on National Public Radio program, Jazz Alive. The NPR Broadcasts were part of a jazz series produced by Nation Public Broadcasting called Jazz Alive.
- Jazz at Spoleto '77 (with Leon Breeden and the University of North Texas One O'Clock Lab Band), Left Bank Jazz Society LS2692 (1978) OCLC 31056413 and 763116603 LCCN 94-759379: Recorded live, Spoleto Festival USA, Charleston, South Carolina, 1977
- Perdido: The Columbia Museum of Art (with Clark Terry trumpet and Bucky Pizzarelli guitar) Columbia, South Carolina, April 28, 1974 (private recording)
- The Columbia Jazz Trio Plus Two (with Chris Potter, alto sax and Terry Rosen, guitar) a 1987 SCETV Production
- The Columbia Jazz Quintet Live at Pug's (with Chris Potter, alto sax and Terry Rosen, guitar) 1988 by Dig This Productions
- Encyclopedia of Popular Music, edited by Colin Larkin, Oxford University Press (2006) OCLC 70062973 and 228780329 ISBN 978-0-19-531373-4 ISBN 0195313739
- Jazz & Blues Musicians of South Carolina: Interviews with Jabbo, Dizzy, Drink and Others, by Benjamin V. Franklin V, PhD (born 1939), USC Press, pps. 104–119 (2008) OCLC 183179498
- Who, Where, When and How Much, The New York Times, June 23, 1989 (accessdate=December 22, 2010)
- Carolina Events – Main Street Jazz Festival, Augusta Chronicle, pg. 2, March 24, 1990
- The Autobiography of Clark Terry, by Clark Terry, Berkeley: University of California Press, pg. 229 (2011) OCLC 704243815 and 760141532 ISBN 978-0-520-26846-3 ISBN 0520268466
- Radio Free Jazz,, Ira Davidson Sabin (editor; born 1928), Vol. 19, June 1978, pps. 24 & 36 ISSN 0145-5125
- Program History: 2008-1977, Spoleto Festival USA
- Top Names in Jazz Will Perform at S.C. Event, The Robesonian, Lumberton, North Carolina, May 18, 1977
- Spoleto Festival USA,] Perry G. Tannenbaum (born 1945), JazzTimes, March 25, 2008
- KOAP-FM, The Oregonian, pg. 8, col 4, March 19, 1978
- Radio Broadcast Listings: 9:00 PM, Jazz Perspectives (KUOW), Seattle Daily Times, col. 5, pg B5, March 25, 1978
- Radio Broadcast Listings: 9:00 PM, Jazz Perspectives (KUOW), Seattle Daily Times, September 23, 1978
- NPR 'Jazz Alive' to Air in Stereo by '79, by Mildred Hall, Billboard Magazine, pgs 27 & 67, February 11, 1968