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Bill Johnson

William Manuel "Bill" Johnson (died December 3, 1972) was an American jazz musician who played banjo and double bass; he is considered the father of the "slap" style of double bass playing.

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

Johnson was founder and manager of the first jazz band to leave New Orleans and tour widely in the 1910s, The Original Creole Orchestra. They participated in vaudeville skits centered around the "Uncle" character and the "boys," performing in the Midwest, Northwest, and Canada. He brought the Creole Band to Chicago in 1915. Johnson and his band played an instrumental role in establishing Royal Gardens (later known as Lincoln Gardens), as one of the great jazz clubs in Chicago; a location they were residence at beginning in 1918.

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. 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.

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.

Johnson's younger half-brother Ollie "Dink" Johnson was also a noted musician. Jelly Roll Morton's common law wife from 1917 to 1922, Anita Gonzales (Bessie Johnson), was Bill Johnson's half-sister.

Bill Johnson died in New Braunfels, Texas in 1972.

Birth and Death Data: Born August 10, 1872 (Talladega), Died December 3, 1972 (New Braunfels)

Date Range of DAHR Recordings: 1923 - 1941

Roles Represented in DAHR: string bass, banjo, trumpet, leader

= Recordings are available for online listening.
= Recordings were issued from this master. No recordings issued from other masters.

Recordings (Results 1-25 of 51 records)

Company Matrix No. Size First Recording Date Title Primary Performer Description Role Audio
Victor BVE-46055 10-in. 7/5/1928 Blue clarinet stomp Johnny Dodds' Trio Jazz/dance ensemble instrumentalist, string bass  
Victor BVE-46056 10-in. 7/5/1928 Blue piano stomp Johnny Dodds' Trio Jazz/dance ensemble instrumentalist, string bass  
Victor BVE-46063 10-in. 7/6/1928 Bucktown stomp Johnny Dodds' Washboard Band Instrumental ensemble instrumentalist, string bass  
Victor BVE-46064 10-in. 7/6/1928 Weary city Johnny Dodds' Washboard Band Instrumental ensemble instrumentalist, string bass  
Victor BVE-46065 10-in. 7/6/1928 Bull fiddle blues Johnny Dodds' Washboard Band Instrumental ensemble instrumentalist, string bass  
Victor BVE-46066 10-in. 7/6/1928 Blue washboard stomp Johnny Dodds' Washboard Band Instrumental ensemble instrumentalist, string bass  
Victor BVE-48797 10-in. 1/16/1929 Pencil papa Johnny Dodds’ Orchestra Jazz/dance band instrumentalist, string bass  
Victor BVE-48798 10-in. 1/16/1929 Heah' me talkin' Johnny Dodds’ Orchestra Jazz/dance band instrumentalist, string bass  
Victor BVE-48799 10-in. 1/16/1929 Goober dance Johnny Dodds’ Orchestra Jazz/dance band instrumentalist, string bass  
Victor BVE-48800 10-in. 1/16/1929 Too tight Johnny Dodds’ Orchestra Jazz/dance band instrumentalist, string bass  
Victor BVE-48841 10-in. 1/30/1929 Sweet Lorraine Johnny Dodds’ Orchestra Jazz/dance band instrumentalist, string bass  
Victor BVE-48842 10-in. 1/30/1929 My little Isabel Johnny Dodds’ Orchestra Jazz/dance band instrumentalist, string bass  
Victor BVE-48869 10-in. 2/7/1929 Indigo stomp Johnny Dodds' Trio Jazz/dance ensemble instrumentalist, string bass  
Victor BVE-49863 10-in. 2/7/1929 Clarinetski Johnny Dodds' Trio Jazz/dance instrumental trio instrumentalist, string bass  
OKeh W400977 10-in. 7/2/1928 Get 'em again blues Chicago Footwarmers ; Johnny Dodds Jazz/dance sextet instrumentalist, string bass  
OKeh W400978 10-in. 7/2/1928 Brush stomp Chicago Footwarmers Jazz/dance sextet instrumentalist, string bass  
OKeh W400979 10-in. 7/2/1928 My girl Chicago Footwarmers ; Johnny Dodds Jazz/dance sextet instrumentalist, string bass  
OKeh W400986 10-in. 7/3/1928 Sweep 'em clean Chicago Footwarmers Jazz/dance sextet instrumentalist, string bass  
OKeh W400987 10-in. 7/3/1928 Lady love Chicago Footwarmers Jazz/dance sextet instrumentalist, string bass  
OKeh W400988 10-in. 7/3/1928 Brown Bottom Bess Chicago Footwarmers Jazz/dance sextet instrumentalist, string bass  
Brunswick C3154 10-in. 3/20/1929 Get the “L” on down the road Bill Johnson’s Louisiana Jug Band Instrumental ensemble, with male vocal solo leader  
Brunswick C3155 10-in. 3/20/1929 Don’t drink it in here Bill Johnson’s Louisiana Jug Band Instrumental ensemble, with male vocal solo leader  
Gennett 11383 10-in. 4/6/1923 Just gone King Oliver's Creole Jazz Band Jazz/dance band instrumentalist, banjo  
Gennett 11384 10-in. 4/6/1923 Canal Street blues King Oliver's Creole Jazz Band Jazz/dance band instrumentalist, banjo  
Gennett 11385 10-in. 4/6/1923 Mandy Lee blues King Oliver's Creole Jazz Band Jazz/dance band instrumentalist, banjo  
(Results 1-25 of 51 records)

Citation

Discography of American Historical Recordings, s.v. "Johnson, Bill," accessed May 24, 2024, https://adp.library.ucsb.edu/names/110790.

Johnson, Bill. (2024). In Discography of American Historical Recordings. Retrieved May 24, 2024, from https://adp.library.ucsb.edu/names/110790.

"Johnson, Bill." Discography of American Historical Recordings. UC Santa Barbara Library, 2024. Web. 24 May 2024.

DAHR Persistent Identifier

URI: https://adp.library.ucsb.edu/names/110790

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