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June 6, 1916|
Hartford, Connecticut, U.S.
|Died||April 3, 1984
New Canaan, Connecticut, U.S.
|Occupation(s)||Musician, lecturer, critic|
Mehegan was born in Wethersfield, Connecticut, and began playing the piano at the age of five. He taught himself to play by matching his fingers to the notes played on a neighborhood player piano. His mother gave him violin lessons, but he preferred piano.
In 1941 he arrived in Manhattan where he lived with his first wife, Doris, and their two children, Carey and Gretchen. He had the opportunity to play at the legendary Marie's Crisis bohemian club in Greenwich Village. In 1945, he became teaching assistant to pianist Teddy Wilson in the jazz department at the Metropolitan Music School in New York City. He wrote the incidental music for A Streetcar Named Desire which he performed on Broadway for two years. In the early 1950s he played a honky-tonk saloon piano player on The Gabby Hayes Show television series. Mehegan was questioned by the House Un-American Activities Committee, where he was an uncooperative witness, and this had a negative effect on his career, limiting some career possibilities for about a decade. Also during the 1950s Mehegan was a regular attendee at the Tanglewood Music Festival in Massachusetts. He later held posts at the Juilliard School of Music and Yale University. He was the jazz critic for the New York Herald Tribune from 1957 to 1960.
Mehegan played solo piano for many years at the Composer's Lounge, Ambassador Grill and Lounge and the Drake Room in New York City, as well as the River Cafe in Brooklyn. He also played at numerous clubs in southwest Connecticut, where he lived with his third wife and three children.
He wote numerous books on jazz, including the Jazz Improvisation series, which sets out the basic principles of jazz. These are published in seventeen languages and sold around the world.
The American composer Leonard Bernstein dedicated a piano composition to Mehegan in his 1948 collection, Four Anniversaries; marked agitato: scherzando, the piece, For Johnny Mehegan, commemorates Mehegan's birthday, June 6, but gives the wrong year – 1920.
- 1952 From Barrelhouse to Bop (Perspective) - with Charles Mingus
- 1954 The First Mehegan (Savoy)
- 1955 The John Mehegan Trio/Quartet (Savoy) - with Charles Mingus & Kenny Clarke
- 1955 A Pair of Pianos (Savoy)- with Eddie Costa & Vinnie Burke
- 1956 How I Play Jazz Piano (Savoy)
- 1959 Casual Affair Request - with Kenny Dorham
Techniques, studies & etudes for piano
- Contemporary Styles for the Jazz Pianist, in 3 books (1964–70)
- Famous Jazz Style Piano Folio - with instruction on how to play jazz piano (1958)
- Jazz Improvisation (1959-65)
- Vol. 1: Tonal and rhythmic principles (1959)
- Vol. 2: Jazz rhythm and the improvised line (1962)
- Vol. 3: Swing and early progressive piano styles (1964)
- Vol. 4: Contemporary piano styles (1965)
- The Jazz Pianist, in 3 books: Studies in the art and practice of jazz improvisation (1960–61)
- Styles for the Jazz Pianist, in 3 books (1962–63)
- Studies in Jazz Harmony (1962)
Original compositions for piano
- Jazz Bourree (1960)
- Jazz Preludes (1962)
- Vienna Woodshed, a jazz waltz for piano 4-hands (1965)
- Jazz Caper, jazz originals for piano 4-hands (1965)
- Wilson, John S. (April 5, 1984) "John Mehegan, Jazz Pianist; Wrote 4-Volume Textbook" New York Times p D30
- Porter, Russell (April 10, 1957) "Inquiry Charges Red Link in Music" New York Times, p 18L
- Dunscomb, Richard J. & Hill Jr., Willie L. (2002) Jazz Pedagogy Alfred Music Publishing, p336