b. William Henry Johnson, 10 December 1920, Yell, Shetland Islands, Scotland, d. 22 May 2007, Lerwick, Shetland Islands, Scotland. As a child Johnson was self-taught on ukulele and guitar and in his teens he played guitar in local bands. For many years he accompanied fiddler Tom Anderson in the Islesburgh Dance Band. Primarily a folk musician, Johnson was fascinated with jazz, especially the playing of Django Reinhardt. In the RAF during World War II he played in bands that included former professional jazzmen and after the war followed these men to London. Soon, however, he returned to the Shetlands and played with musicians such as fiddlers Anderson, Willie Hunter and Aly Bain and pianist Violet Tulloch. In the 70s, Johnson and Anderson played at the Edinburgh Festival and visited North America and Europe. Another musician with whom Johnson worked and recorded is Cathal McConnell.
In 2005 the Shetland Arts Trust presented its first Guitar Festival, which they named after Johnson and that same year he was inducted into the Scottish Traditional Music Hall of Fame. This high regard in which Johnson was held extended to musicians such as Martin Taylor, who in the mid-00s was closely linked with Shetland’s ‘Peerie’ Willie Johnson Guitar Festival.