George Johnson

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b. 25 April 1913, Grand Rapids, Michigan, USA. Early in his career Johnson played clarinet with Zack Whyte’s territory band and with Benny Carter. In the mid-30s, he travelled to Europe in a band accompanying…
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b. 25 April 1913, Grand Rapids, Michigan, USA. Early in his career Johnson played clarinet with Zack Whyte’s territory band and with Benny Carter. In the mid-30s, he travelled to Europe in a band accompanying trumpeter-entertainer Freddy Taylor and while in France played with Willie Lewis and also recorded with Garnet Clark. Remaining in France, Johnson led his own band at nightclubs in Paris then, at the outbreak of war in Europe, he returned to the USA and joined Frankie Newton and later worked in Raymond Scott’s popular broadcasting band. Also now playing alto saxophone, he was a member of the John Kirby Sextet before returning to Europe where he formed his own band for engagements in Spain, France and other countries before settling in the Netherlands. His recordings were few, a handful of sides for Spanish Columbia Records in 1947 and some for French HMV Records, none of which appear to have been reissued on either vinyl or CD. Although he appears to have been an accomplished player, Johnson’s decision to play outside the main jazz centres during key periods in his career has resulted in unwarranted obscurity. (He should not be confused with tenor saxophonist George Johnson of the Wolverines.)