William Manuel Johnson

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Bill Johnson
Johnson in 1909
Johnson in 1909
Background information
Birth nameWilliam Manuel Johnson
BornAugust 10, 1872
DiedDecember 3, 1972 (1972-12-04) (aged 100)
New Braunfels, Texas, U.S.
GenresJazz, dixieland
Occupation(s)Musician
InstrumentsDouble bass
Years active1880s–1950s
Associated actsThe Original Creole Orchestra, King Oliver's Creole Jazz Band, Bill Johnson's Louisiana Jug Band

William Manuel "Bill" Johnson (August 10, 1872 – December 3, 1972), was an American jazz musician who played banjo and double bass;[1] he is considered the father of the "slap" style of double bass playing.[2]

In New Orleans, he played at Lulu White's legendary house of prostitution, with the Eagle Band, and with the Excelsior Brass Band.[3] 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.[4][5]

Johnson was founder and manager of the first jazz band to leave New Orleans and tour widely in the 1910s, The Original Creole Orchestra.[5] They participated in vaudeville skits centered around the "Uncle" character and the "boys," performing in the Midwest, Northwest, and Canada.[6] He brought the Creole Band to Chicago in 1915.[3]

In Chicago during 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 recordings in Chicago in the late 1920s.[4] He notably says "Oh play that thing" into the horn during the recording of "Dippermouth Blues" in 1923 with King Oliver's Creole Jazz Band.[7]

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 Mexico–United States border.[5]

Johnson's younger brother Ollie "Dink" Johnson was also a noted musician. Their sister known as Anita Gonzalez was a wife of Jelly Roll Morton.[8]

Johnson died in New Braunfels, Texas in 1972, at the age of 100.[5]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Brothers, Thomas (2014). Louis Armstrong: Master of Modernism. New York, NY: W.W. Norton & Company. p. 18. ISBN 978-0-393-06582-4.
  2. ^ Singleton, Joan (2011). Keep It Real: The Life Story of James "Jimmy" Palao "The King of Jazz". iUniverse. pp. 1–. ISBN 978-1-4620-0721-9.
  3. ^ a b Brothers, Thomas (2014). Louis Armstrong: Master of Modernism. New York, NY: W.W. Norton & Company. p. 20. ISBN 978-0-393-06582-4.
  4. ^ a b Gushee, Lawrence (April 29, 2010). Pioneers of Jazz: The Story of the Creole Band. Oxford University Press. pp. 65–. ISBN 978-0-19-988979-2.
  5. ^ a b c d "William Manuel Johnson". Memim Encyclopedia.
  6. ^ Brothers, Thomas (2014). Louis Armstrong: Master of Modernism. New York, NY: W.W. Norton & Company. p. 26. ISBN 978-0-393-06582-4.
  7. ^ Brothers, Thomas (2014). Louis Armstrong: Master of Modernism. New York, NY: W.W. Norton & Company. p. 150. ISBN 978-0-393-06582-4.
  8. ^ Levin, Floyd (2000). Classic Jazz: A Personal View of the Music and the Musicians. University of California Press. p. 114. ISBN 0520213602. Retrieved 11 October 2020.

External links[edit]