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7 February 1927 |
|Other names||Laurence Reginald Ward Johnson|
|Occupation||composer and bandleader|
Johnson was born in Hampstead, and studied at the Royal College of Music in London, and spent four years in the Coldstream Guards before moving to the entertainment industry in the 1950s. One of his first major projects was as composer and music director in a musical adaptation of Henry Fielding's Rape Upon Rape entitled Lock Up Your Daughters (1959), which opened in Bernard Miles' Mermaid Theatre. The score, with lyrics by Lionel Bart, won an Ivor Novello Award. Johnson's stage work included music for the Peter Cook revue, Pieces of Eight (1959), and The Four Musketeers (1967), starring Harry Secombe.
In 1961, Johnson entered the UK Singles Chart with "Sucu Sucu", the theme music from the UK television series Top Secret. It was in this area of television scoring that he was to be most prolific. From the 1960s to the 1980s, he composed over fifty themes and scores, including the theme used on This Is Your Life (entitled "Gala Performance") (1952), The Avengers (from 1965), Animal Magic (entitled "Las Vegas") (1962), Jason King (1971), The New Avengers (1976–77) and The Professionals (1977–83). He was one of the founders, with Albert Fennell and Brian Clemens, of Mark One Productions, the television production company responsible for The New Avengers and The Professionals.
Johnson's film scores included The Moonraker (1958), No Trees in the Street (1959), Operation Bullshine (1959), Tiger Bay (1959), I Aim at the Stars (1960), Spare The Rod (1961), What a Whopper (1961), Bitter Harvest (1963), Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb (1964), First Men in the Moon (1964), East of Sudan (1964), The Beauty Jungle (1964), You Must Be Joking! (1965), Hot Millions (1968), And Soon the Darkness (1970), The Firechasers (1971), Captain Kronos – Vampire Hunter (1972), The Belstone Fox (1973), The Maids (1974), Hedda (1975), It Shouldn't Happen to a Vet (1976) and Diagnosis: Murder (the 1975 Christopher Lee film). Among his other works was the music for the television film, Mister Jerico (1970), which involved many of the original Avengers team, including Patrick Macnee.
Johnson made several recordings on the Unicorn-Kanchana label. These included his own Symphony: Synthesis for a large ensemble comprising a jazz orchestra and symphony orchestra. The recording featured several famous jazz names including Tubby Hayes, Don Lusher, Joe Harriott, Kenny Wheeler and Stan Tracey, as well as the London Philharmonic Orchestra. He also recorded music from The Avengers, The New Avengers and The Professionals and a re-recording of Bernard Herrmann's suite for North by Northwest.
Since 1997, Johnson has toured with the band he formed, 'The London Big Band'. Their "Theme From 'The Professionals'" peaked in the UK Singles Chart at #36 in May 1997. He has also provided DVD commentaries on several of the series in which he has been involved.
Notable stock tracks
- "Blood in the Gutter" (from "Two Cities" Suite) KPM, 21 Denmark Street, London
- "Fisticuffs" (fight music from "The Avengers") KPM
- "Gala Premiere" (theme from "This Is Your Life") KPM
- "Happy Go Lively" KPM
- "Lonely Stranger" (from "The Avengers", Episode: "Joker") KPM
- "Shopping Spree" KPM
- Roberts, David (2006). British Hit Singles & Albums (19th ed.). London: Guinness World Records Limited. p. 287. ISBN 1-904994-10-5.
- The London Gazette: . 14 June 2014.