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)[1]
New Braunfels, Texas
GenresJazz, dixieland
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, considered the father of the "slap" style of double bass playing.[2]

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.[3][1]

Johnson was founder and manager of the first jazz band to leave New Orleans and tour widely in the 1910s, The Original Creole Orchestra.[1]

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 recordings in Chicago in the late 1920s.[3]

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.[1]

Johnson's brother Ollie "Dink" Johnson was also a noted musician and his sister Anita Gonzales was common-law wife or perhaps married to Ferdinand "Jelly Roll" Morton during his stays in California.

Bill Johnson died in New Braunfels, Texas, at the age of 100.


  1. ^ a b c d "William Manuel Johnson". Memim Encyclopedia.
  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 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.

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