Johnson, Bill (actually, William Manuel)

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Johnson, Bill (actually, William Manuel)

Johnson, Bill (actually, William Manuel), jazz bassist, guitarist, and banjo player; b. Talladega, Ala., Aug. 10, 1872; d. Comales, Tex., Dec. 3, 1972. William Manuel played guitar from the age of 15 and took up string bass in 1900. He played locally at Torr Anderson’s Café and with the Peerless Orch., and Frankie Dusen’s Eagle Band, among others; he doubled on tuba for parade work. Moving to Calif, in 1909, Johnson sent for Freddie Keppard in late 1911 (and several other New Orleans musicians) to bring the Original Creole Orch. to the West Coast. After working in Calif., the band toured from coast to coast on the Orpheum Circuit-theater residencies in cities including Chicago and in N.Y. The original band broke up in N.Y., and Johnson returned to Chicago to organize his own band (1918). Later that year he led the Seven Kings of Ragtime in N.Y. and again toured the Orpheum circuit. He left to join King Oliver and remained with him until 1923. While leading his own band in Chicago for many years, he alsoworked for several bandleaders, including Johnny Dodds, Freddie Keppard, Jimmy Wade, and Clifford “Klarinet” King. Johnson spent a some time in the Smizer Trio in the 1930s. He continued to play in Chicago until the 1950s, but gave up playing in the early 1960s and moved to Mexico. His sister, Anita Johnson-Gonzales-Ford, was a close friend of Jelly Roll Morton (his muse for “Sweet Anita Mine”) and featured in Morton’s will.


Louis Armstrong: Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man (1923). Count Basie: Basie’s Basement (1929); Beaver Junction (1944); Brand New Wagon: Count Basie 1947 (1947). The Bobs: My, I’m Large (1987). The Bop Brothers: Doing the Classics (1988). Albert Collins: Truckin’ with Albert Collins (1969). Contraband: Contraband (1974). Lou Donaldson: Pretty Things (1970). Marvin Gaye: Master 1961-1984 (1995). Lightnin’ Hopkins: Texas Blues (1990). George Howard: Love Will Follow (1991). Abbey Lincoln: Talking to the Sun (1983). Maze featuring Frankie Beverly: We Are One/Can’t Stop the Love (1999); Inspiration/Joy and Pain (1999). The Temptations: Emperors of Soul (1994). Lester Young: The Lester Young Story [Proper] (2000).

—John Chilton, Who’s Who of Jazz /Lewis Porter

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Johnson, Bill (actually, William Manuel)

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