George Johnson

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Jazz buffs who know their history agree that Bix Beiderbecke was influenced by the historic Original Dixieland Jazz Band, reputedly the first ensemble to put out sides which would actually be categorized…
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Jazz buffs who know their history agree that Bix Beiderbecke was influenced by the historic Original Dixieland Jazz Band, reputedly the first ensemble to put out sides which would actually be categorized with that genre title. But that doesn't mean the George Johnson who played trumpet in the Original Dixieland Jazz Band's later years was the same George Johnson who was one of Beiderbecke's original bandmates in the Wolverines. That Johnson played tenor saxophone, for one thing, although the difference in instruments would not be enough to deter discographers intent on confusing one George Johnson with another. They might point out that interesting instrumental doubles, including the combination of brass and reeds, is almost a symptom of players with this name. George "Happy" Johnson, for example, performed and recorded on both tenor saxophone and trombone.

The trumpeter joined the Original Dixieland Jazz Band in the mid-'30s, a date that might seem pretty early for jazz history but was still late enough for the ensemble to be considered extremely old-fashioned. The group, in fact, was already out of style more than ten years before that. Having enjoyed success with recordings such as the roaring "Tiger Rag," the festive "At the Jazz Band Ball" and the sticky "Clarinet Marmalade," the group triumphantly brought its style of jazz to Europe at the outset of the '20s, only to find that back home groups such as that of Paul Whiteman had jumped ahead in terms of popularity. Johnson's recordings with the group seem to be the only ones the trumpeter made.