Harold Johnson

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While not the Harold Johnson whose was the senior member of the famed doo wop ensemble the Crickets, the pianist of the same name was apparently a pretty soulful guy. The albums he cut in the second half…
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While not the Harold Johnson whose was the senior member of the famed doo wop ensemble the Crickets, the pianist of the same name was apparently a pretty soulful guy. The albums he cut in the second half of the '60s for an independent west coast label named Revue have continued to bubble away in the consciousness of listeners immersed in heavy grooves with myriad enticing stylistic labels: acid jazz, rare groove, soul-jazz, jazz lounge, and so on. Johnson's cover of "Sunny" outdoes Bobby Hebb's version, but how could it not, considering the musical talent involved? As a high-school student, the keyboardist was already attracting attention as the leader of a unique combo which combined piano with bass, flute, and a pair of conga drummers.

Speaking of which, it is the drummers coming up during Johnson's active years who inevitably speak of his influence, beginning with the noted jazz and session drummer Leon "Ndugu" Chancler. The Harold Johnson Sextet provided this drummer's very first recording session experience, a process that went so smoothly that it confirmed for Chancler that his decision to become a musician was sound. Conga player Billy Jackson was also part of Johnson's groups, the firmness of his touch and the combo's high visibility combining into a commanding presence in the development of percussion sections in ensembles such as Earth, Wind & Fire. Part of Johnson's background was also gospel -- his father was a minister who early on had made professional use of his son's talents on piano. House on Elm Street is considered to be the best example of the Harold Johnson Sextet in action, although individual tracks show up on lounge and funk compilations. Despite the title, this opus has nothing to do with the horrific character of Freddie Krueger; Johnson's original title tune was written 17 years before the first Nightmare on Elm Street film was released. Johnson did some session work through the '70s and '80s, including arranging and producing for the Temptations.