If a person is judged by the company they keep, then John Markham, frequently credited as Johnny Markham, can certainly said to have hung with the best, including the great female vocalists Peggy Lee and Ella Fitzgerald and swing horn maestros Charlie Barnet and Benny Goodman. But Markham might still be strongly disliked in Australia for the very same reason, as he was one of the musicians Frank Sinatra took with him to the South Pacific continent on a tour where the brash, outspoken vocal idol made a whole series of rude, insulting comments about Australians. Perhaps the down-under crowd has forgotten this unfortunate escapade decades later, or maybe the permanent record of some of the music made on the tour, the album Frank Sinatra Live with the Red Norvo Trio, has convinced wounded Australians to concentrate on the sweet music, not the sour mouth. Fans of Sinatra as a serious jazz vocalist often choose this recording as one of their man's finest live documentations, and the strong, swinging and supple drumming of Markham has plenty to do with it. Born John Gordon Markham, the drummer has based himself out of the Bay area most of his career, but is most known for his big name touring activities. He cut his teeth with Barnet's group in the early 50's, worked in the band of Billy May in 1953, including some sessions with Nat King Cole. By the late 50's he was supplementing his touring activities with a staff job on KGO-TV. This did not prevent him from being an important part of the San Francisco mainstream scene. In 1955 he was part of San Francisco legend Vince Guaraldi's return to studio work as a member of a new group the pianist formed with bassist Eugene Wright and alto saxophonist Jerry Dodgion. Eddie Duran tapped Markham for the rhythm section on his brilliant 1956 Fantasy album, recorded in a makeshift warehouse studio and one of several projects in which his rhythm section mate was another Bay Area icon, the bassist Dean Reilly. In 1958 Markham hit the jackpot for female vocalists with Lee and Fitzgerald, then toured Europe the following year swinging seriously with clarinetist Goodman as well as nimbly following the progressive harmonic adventures of vibraphonist Red Norvo. The year closed out with the Sinatra Australian event. In 1961, Markham toured and recorded with the great blind jazz vocalist Al Hibbler. Markham also made some excellent recordings with undersung guitarist Jimmy Wyble, again with Dodgion as well as a superb rhythm section match, bassist Red Wooten. The rock and roll and disco eras seem to have been fairly dry for Markham in terms of releases, but he was back on the mainstream scene in the early 90's, backing up pianist Larry Vuckovich on the aptly titled Good Old Days Are Now. He is no relation to the professional wrestler known as Crazy Johnny Markham.
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