William Johnson

William Luther "Bill" Johnson (30 September 1912 in Jacksonville, Florida – 5 July 1960 in New York City) was an American alto saxophonist, clarinetist, and arranger.

Johnson studied piano as a child and began playing the alto saxophone at the age of 16. After working with lesser-known bands he studied in conservatories in Wisconsin and Illinois, then attended Marquette University. While in Milwaukee he played with Jabbo Smith and others. He worked with Baron Lee and Tiny Bradshaw, and in 1936 joined Erskine Hawkins, with whom he performed into the early 1940s. His recordings with Hawkins include "Uptown Shuffle"' (1939, Bb 10504) and "Bear Mash Blues" (1942, Bb 30-0813); he also arranged the former title, as well as "Uncle Bud" (1941, Bb 11372), and he composed "Tuxedo Junction" with Hawkins. He appears with the latter’s band in the short film Deviled Hams (1937).

There's a record on Alert from around mid-1946 by "Bill Johnson and Orchestra," which is the beginning of his subsequent group, the Musical Notes. The members, as given on the label, were: Bill Johnson (alto sax), Ray Turner (tenor sax), Gene Brooks (drums), Clifton "Skeeter" Best (guitar), Jimmy Robinson (bass), and Egbert "Sharkie" Victor (piano). The song was "If I Was A Itty Bitty Girl," with vocals by Grace Smith (who had a couple of subsequent releases on National and Avalon).

Presumably those sides were recorded a bit earlier, since, by the Spring of 1946, several of the members had become the Musical Notes: Bill Johnson (tenor lead, alto sax and clarinet), West Indian Egbert Victor (baritone and piano), Clifton "Skeeter" Best (second tenor and guitar; he, too, seems to have been with Erskine Hawkins for a while), Jimmy Robinson (baritone/bass and bassist), and Gus Gordon (lead tenor and cocktail drums).

Bill Johnson and the Musical Notes recorded for Harlem, RCA, King, Regal, Tru-Blue, Ronnex (as the Bill Johnson Quartet), Jubilee (Ronnex masters), and Baton (Bill Johnson Quintet). Over the years, there were many personnel changes, but Bill and Gus Gordon were on all the recordings.

Johnson was diagnosed with lung cancer in 1957, which caused the breakup of the group, although he re-formed it on a couple of occasions.

Birth and Death Data: Born September 30th, 1912 (Jacksonville)

Date Range of DAHR Recordings: 1938 - 1944

Roles Represented in DAHR: saxophone, composer, guitar, songwriter

Recordings (Results 1-25 of 41 records)

Company Matrix No. Size First Recording Date Title Primary Performer Description Role Audio
Victor BS-026855 10-in. 9/12/1938 (Shango, shango, shangoree) Rockin' rollers' jubilee Erskine Hawkins Orchestra Jazz/dance band instrumentalist, saxophone  
Victor BS-026856 10-in. 9/12/1938 I'm madly in love with you Erskine Hawkins Orchestra ; Merle Turner Jazz/dance band, with male vocal solo instrumentalist, saxophone  
Victor BS-026857 10-in. 9/12/1938 Let this be a warning to you, baby Erskine Hawkins Orchestra ; Jimmy Mitchell Jazz/dance band, with male vocal solo instrumentalist, saxophone  
Victor BS-026858 10-in. 9/12/1938 Miss Hallelujah Brown Erskine Hawkins Orchestra Jazz/dance band instrumentalist, saxophone  
Victor BS-026859 10-in. 9/12/1938 Weary blues Erskine Hawkins Orchestra Jazz/dance band instrumentalist, saxophone  
Victor BS-026860 10-in. 9/12/1938 King Porter stomp Erskine Hawkins Orchestra Jazz/dance band instrumentalist, saxophone  
Victor BS-027958 10-in. 10/20/1938 Strictly swing Erskine Hawkins Orchestra Jazz/dance band instrumentalist, saxophone  
Victor BS-027959 10-in. 10/20/1938 Do you want to jump, children? Erskine Hawkins Orchestra ; Jimmy Mitchell Jazz/dance band, with male vocal solo instrumentalist, saxophone  
Victor BS-027960 10-in. 10/20/1938 (Oh! Oh!) What do you know about love? Erskine Hawkins Orchestra ; Ida James Jazz/dance band, with female vocal solo instrumentalist, saxophone  
Victor BS-027961 10-in. 10/20/1938 A study in blue Erskine Hawkins Orchestra Jazz/dance band instrumentalist, saxophone  
Victor BS-027962 10-in. 10/20/1938 Easy rider (I wonder where my easy rider's gone) Erskine Hawkins Orchestra Jazz/dance band instrumentalist, saxophone  
Victor BS-027963 10-in. 10/20/1938 Because of you Erskine Hawkins Orchestra ; Jimmy Mitchell Jazz/dance band, with male vocal solo instrumentalist, saxophone  
Victor BS-035719 10-in. 4/8/1939 "I," the living "I" Erskine Hawkins Orchestra ; Ida James Jazz/dance band, with female vocal solo instrumentalist, saxophone  
Victor BS-035720 10-in. 4/8/1939 Let the punishment fit the crime Erskine Hawkins Orchestra ; Jimmy Mitchell Jazz/dance band, with male vocal solo instrumentalist, saxophone  
Victor BS-035721 10-in. 4/8/1939 Swing out (Theme song of Erskine Hawkins) Erskine Hawkins Orchestra Jazz/dance band instrumentalist, saxophone  
Victor BS-035722 10-in. 4/8/1939 Raid the joint Erskine Hawkins Orchestra Jazz/dance band instrumentalist, saxophone  
Victor BS-036944 10-in. 5/14/1939 Polka dotty (Come out tonight) Erskine Hawkins Orchestra ; Jimmy Mitchell Jazz/dance band, with male vocal solo instrumentalist, saxophone  
Victor BS-036945 10-in. 5/14/1939 No soap Julius Dash ; Erskine Hawkins Orchestra Jazz/dance band, with saxophone solo instrumentalist, saxophone  
Victor BS-036946 10-in. 5/14/1939 Swingin' on Lenox Avenue Erskine Hawkins Orchestra Jazz/dance band composer, instrumentalist, saxophone  
Victor BS-038418 10-in. 7/18/1939 Hot platter Erskine Hawkins Orchestra Jazz/dance band instrumentalist, saxophone  
Victor BS-038419 10-in. 7/18/1939 Gin mill special Erskine Hawkins Orchestra Jazz/dance band instrumentalist, saxophone  
Victor BS-038420 10-in. 7/18/1939 Cherry Erskine Hawkins Orchestra ; Jimmy Mitchell Jazz/dance band, with male vocal solo instrumentalist, saxophone  
Victor BS-038421 10-in. 7/18/1939 Tuxedo Junction Erskine Hawkins Orchestra Jazz/dance band composer, instrumentalist, saxophone  
Victor BS-038422 10-in. 7/18/1939 Weddin' blues Erskine Hawkins Orchestra Jazz/dance band composer, instrumentalist, saxophone  
Victor BS-041378 10-in. 10/2/1939 You can't escape from me Erskine Hawkins Orchestra ; Jimmy Mitchell Jazz/dance band, with male vocal solo instrumentalist, saxophone  
(Results 1-25 of 41 records)

Citation

Discography of American Historical Recordings, s.v. "Johnson, William," accessed October 23, 2020, https://adp.library.ucsb.edu/names/113646.

Johnson, William. (2020). In Discography of American Historical Recordings. Retrieved October 23, 2020, from https://adp.library.ucsb.edu/names/113646.

"Johnson, William." Discography of American Historical Recordings. UC Santa Barbara Library, 2020. Web. 23 October 2020.

DAHR Persistent Identifier

URI: https://adp.library.ucsb.edu/names/113646

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