Born in Houston, Texas and raised in Los Angeles, Johnson came to Seattle in 1928 on a boat to play with Elmer Fain at the Maryland Tavern. Pianist Oscar Holden took the sophisticated stylist Johnson “under his wing” and Johnson decided to stay, playing the China Castle, Herman Myers’ Taxi Dance Hall, the Jungle Temple, Doc Hamilton’s and many other venues. In 1934, Johnson went to Shanhai with the Earl Whaley Orchestra and stayed three years. When he returned to Seattle, he became a major figure in the “boogie woogie” craze of the early ’40s, playing the Palomar Theater. In 1943, he took a long-term gig in Alaska and did not return to Seattle until the ’50s, when he wound down his career.
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