Happy Birthday Freddy Johnson!

Vocalist, Rosie Poindexter, and Pianist, Freddy Johnson
Freddy Johnson, Piano
b. New York, NY, USA.
d. 1961.
Freddy Johnson (March 12, 1904 – March 24, 1961) was an American jazz pianist and singer who gained popularity in the 1930s playing mostly swing style. He began playing professionally as Florence Mills accompanist, and formed his own band in 1924. In 1925 he worked with Elmer Snowden, and in 1926 he worked with Billy Fowler. He briefly worked with Henri Saparo and Noble Sissle, and then he joined Sam Woodings band and traveled to Europe in June 1928. Wooding and Johnson parted ways in 1929, and Johnson returned to Paris to do solo work. While he was in Paris, he with Arthur Briggs and put together a band.
Between late 1933 and 1934 Johnson worked with Freddy Taylor's band, and then in February 1934 Johnson left Paris to work in Belgium and The Netherlands. In the mid 30's he made some recordings with the Quintette du Hot Club de France.
Benny Carter and Freddy Johnson
While living in Amsterdam, he co-lead a band with Lex Van Spall, and they played regularly at the Negro Palace in a trio with Coleman Hawkins. He later worked at the Negro Palace, and then with Max Woiski in a club called La Cubana, in Amsterdam. He worked at this club until the 11th of December in 1941, when he was arrested by the Nazis. He was interned in Bavaria from January 1942 until February 1944, when he was repatriated to the US.
After returning to the US, he worked with George James, then in 1944 joined Gavin Bushell's band in New York. In the later 40s and early 50s he worked mostly as a piano and voice coach, and also did some solo residencies at Well's New York. He returned to Europe in 1959 with the "Free and Easy" show, and then played for another three weeks in the Netherlands. Soon after he became very ill with cancer, and after staying at a hospital in Copenhagen in autumn 1960, he returned to New York and stayed in St. Barnabas Hospital until his death.

"Big John" Davis, vocals
b. St. Simons Island. GA, USA.
Member: 'Sea Island Singers'.

Jesse "Lone Cat" Fuller
12-string guitar/harmonica/kazoo/(high-hat) cymbal/fotdella
(some instruments played simultaneously)
b. Jonesboro, GA, USA
d. June 29, 1976, Oakland, California, USA.

Jesse was an American "one-man-band" musician, -a unique artist who was able to maintain a sense of dignity and humor in his music while enduring a life of poverty and hardship. He is recalled as San Francisco's most famous 'One Man Band'. Interestingly, he didn't become a "working" musician until the early 1950s.

Jesse never knew his father, and while still a very young child, his mother sent him to live with foster parents who greatly mistreated him. While growing up, he variously found work in a barrel factory, on a railroad and then with a streetcar company, grazing cows (ten cents per day), shoe shine boy, working in rock quarry, a broom factory, and even peddling hand-carved wooden snakes.

In the 1920s, he relocated to Hollywood where he worked briefly as a movie extra in "The Thief of Bagdad" and "East of Suez". It not well recalled today, but Jesse Fuller was the lyricist, and singer, for the song "Let Me Hold You in My Arms" heard in the 1970 film "The Great White Hope" He also contributed the song "San Francisco Bay Blues" for the "Eric Clapton: Unplugged" 1992 TV show. He subsequently settled in Oakland, CA working for the Southern Pacific railroad. During World War II, he worked as a shipyard welder, which turned out to be the prelude to his music career. When WWII ended, and shipyard work became scarce, his thoughts turned to earning a living as a "working" musician. Up to this moment, he had never worked professionally as a musician. However, he had always carried his guitar with him, and often played blues, old work songs, hymns and spirituals for folks after which he would "pass the hat" around for tips.
Now he began playing the San Francisco clubs and bars, across the bay in Oakland and Berkeley, and eventually in Los Angeles. His fame increased locally when he appeared on Television. 1958 saw his debut recording released. (Jesse Fuller: Jazz, Folk Songs, Spirituals & Blues, Good Time Jazz S10031). Besides his folksy music, he is also recalled as the inventor of the type of double bass instrument. While lying in bed one night, he conjured up the design of a large upright box with a rounded top, vaguely resembling a short neck double bass.

Six bass strings attached to the neck were stretched over the body in normal bass fashion. "Lone Cat" then dreamed up the design for a homemade set of foot pedals which, when depressed, would cause a padded hammer to strike a string These six bass notes permitted Fuller to accompany himself on the 12-string guitar in several keys.  Today, no one knows the origin of the name "fotdella". We do know that Fuller's wife used to call it a "foot-diller" (as in the expression, "killer-diller", -meaning good). Somehow or other, it became just "fotdella".

Hall Johnson, vocals
b. Athens, GA, USA.
Member: 'Hall Johnson Choir'


Hall Johnson (March 12, 1888 – April 30, 1970) was one of a number of American composers and arrangers—including Harry T. Burleigh, R. Nathaniel Dett, and Eva Jessye — who elevated the African-American spiritual to an art form, comparable in its musical sophistication to the compositions of European Classical composers.

Francis Hall Johnson was born in Athens, Georgia, the son of William Decker Johnson, an A.M.E. minister who also served a term as President of the church-affiliated Allen University in Columbia, South Carolina. Johnson received an extensive education which included a time at the Juilliard School.

As a boy, he taught himself to play the violin after hearing a violin recital given by Joseph Henry Douglass, grandson of Frederick Douglass. He went on to play the violin and viola professionally, including in the orchestra for the 1921 musical, Shuffle Along.

In time, however, he became more interested in choral music, forming the Hall Johnson Negro Choir, the first of many choral ensembles, in 1925. Hall Johnson and his choir became renowned through their participation in the 1930 Broadway production of Marc Connelly's The Green Pastures as well as in national and international tours of the play, radio versions, the 1936 film adaptation, and Hallmark Hall of Fame television broadcasts.

Johnson would also go on to arrange music for and conduct his choir in more than thirty feature-length Hollywood films, as well as a number of short films and cartoons. He wrote Run, Little Chillun, which premiered on Broadway in 1933 and was produced in San Francisco in 1939 under the auspices of the Federal Theater Project. Also in 1939, the Hall Johnson Choir was featured in the soundtrack of the Frank Capra film, Lost Horizon. In addition to his theatrical work, Johnson wrote the Easter cantata Son of Man, which premiered at New York's City Center in 1946. In 1951, the Hall Johnson Choir was selected by the United States Department of State to represent the United States at the International Festival of Fine Arts held in Berlin, Germany.
Johnson wrote of the spiritual:
True enough, this music was transmitted to us through humble channels, but its source is that of all great art everywhere—the unquenchable, divinely human longing for a perfect realization of life. It traverses every shade of emotion without spilling over in any direction. Its most tragic utterances are without pessimism, and its lightest, brightest moments have nothing to do with frivolity. In its darkest expressions there is always a hope, and in its gayest measures a constant reminder. Born out of the heart-cries of a captive people who still did not forget how to laugh, this music covers an amazing range of mood. Nevertheless, it is always serious music and should be performed seriously, in the spirit of its original conception.
Johnson was fluent in both German and French. Among the singers he coached were Marian Anderson, Robert McFerrin and Shirley Verrett. His arrangements of the spirituals have been recorded by some of the world's finest artists.

Johnson died during a fire at his New York apartment on April 30, 1970. In 1975 he was posthumously honored for his work in films by being elected to the Black Filmmakers Hall of Fame.

Zora Layman
(C&W) violinist/vocalist
b. Hutchinson, KS, USA.
Joseph Meyer, composer
b. Modesto, CA, USA.
d. June 22, 1987, New York, NY, USA.
Joseph Meyer (March 12, 1894 – June 22, 1987) was an American songwriter who wrote some of the most notable songs of the first half of the twentieth century.
Meyer collaborated with many famous songwriters of the day including Buddy DeSylva, Al Lewis and Al Sherman. Three of his most famous songs were the 1922 hit, "California, Here I Come", "My Honey's Lovin' Arms" (1922) and "If You Knew Susie" (1925), a song he co-wrote with Buddy DeSylva. Meyer songs have been featured in over 120 motion picture soundtracks.

Flora Molton
(gospel) slide guitar
b. Louisa City, VA, USA.
Flora Molton - Wikipedia

Romeo Nelson, piano
b. Springfield, TN, USA.

"Now Sister Fullbosom and Brother Lowdown" sings boogie-woogie pianist Romeo Nelson at the beginning of his song "Getting Dirty Just Shaking That Thing," setting the stage for a barrelhouse blues so raunchy that it might still raise eyebrows in the age of rap music. The song is one of a handful this artist recorded, a small supply of titles to be sure, but material so well liked, and so obviously accessible to copyright claim jumpers, that it has appeared on more than a dozen different piano anthologies.
Born Iromeio Nelson, the pianist stayed put in Chicago from the age of six, except for an interlude of about five years in East St. Louis beginning in 1915. Ironically, it was during this period that he learned the piano skills that he would use the rest of his life on the Chicago music scene. He got busy playing rent parties and clubs until the early '40s, but otherwise supported himself by gambling. 
In 1929, he recorded four titles for Vocalion, among them "Head Rag Hop," one of his most often anthologized numbers and even the subject of a three-minute color short created in 1970 by director Peter Turner. Blues piano fanatics tend to pick Nelson's recordings as some of the finest boogie-woogie showpieces on record.
The music is multi-dimensional, involving great amounts of keyboard technique, an interesting harmonic imagination, and an obvious sense of humor. He often takes the works of his competitors on the piano, such as Pinetop Perkins, and plays them at greatly enhanced speed, an effect as overwhelming as it is comical. An interview conducted the '60s by the Jazz Institute of Chicago indicated that Nelson had retired from music, yet they might not have been talking to the right guy, since an alternate theory of the man's biography has him checking out for boogie-woogie heaven as early as 1940.
~ Eugene Chadbourn

Allan Roberts, Composer
b. Brooklyn, NY, USA.
d. Jan 14, 1966, Hollywood, FL, USA.

Among the films for which he wrote are: 1946 'Thrill of Brazil' with songs: "Rendezvous in Rio" and "Dancing Down To Rio"; 1947 film 'Cigarette Girl'; 1949 film 'Challenge of the Range', 1951 film 'Purple Heart Diary' (song "No Time For Tears").

Paul Weston
d. Sept. 20, 1996, USA.
né: Paul Wetstein

Paul Weston (born Paul Wetstein, March 12, 1912 – September 20, 1996) was an American pianist, arranger, composer, and conductor who worked in music and television from the 1930s to the 1970s, pioneering mood music and becoming known as "the Father of Mood Music".
George White, producer
b. New York, NY, USA.
d. Oct. 11, 1968, Hollywood, CA, USA.
né: George Weitz.
Some say he was born in Toronto, Canada, possible in 1890.
This series of revues, produced by White from 1919 through 1926, and then in 1928, 1929, 1931, 1935, and 1939, were given to elaborate show numbers much like the Ziegfeld Follies, but were less ornate and cumbersome.

Their comedy tended to be far more topical and, because White had been a dancer, the productions were fast‐paced and featured better dancing and music than similar revues.

Most of the scores were written either by George Gershwin or by De Sylva, Brown, and Henderson. Memorable songs from these shows included “I'll Build a Stairway to Paradise,” “Somebody Loves Me,” “Black Bottom,” “Birth of the Blues,” “Lucky Day,” and “Life Is Just a Bowl of Cherries.”

Notable Events Occurring 
On This Date Include:

Dr. Lee DeForest demonstrated
his method of placing sound on
motion picture film.
Artie Shaw and his band recorded
"Deep Purple" with Helen Forrest
on vocal refrain.
Recorded many times since, it has
become one of the most popular

Songs Recorded/Released
On This Date Include:


New Orleans Rhythm Kings - That's A Plenty 

New Orleans Rhythm Kings - Sweet Lovin' Man

Ray Miller's Orchestra - Argentine ( "Introducing:Way Down South From Caroline")
  • Bambalina ( Introducing: Wild-Flower)

Isham Jones and his Orchestra

Tommy Christian and his Orchestra - Swamp Blues


Paul Whiteman and his Orchestra

Jean Cocteau et l'orchestre Dan Parrish - La Toison D'or Théme: Holidays
Eddie South and his Alabamians - Doin' The Raccoon

Mezz Mezzrow and his Swing Band - A Melody From The Sky (Featured In The Paramount film "The Trail of the Lonesome Pine") Vocal refrain by Lucille Stewart

Mezz Mezzrow and his Swing Band - A - I'se A Muggin' Part 1

Frankie "Half Pint" Jaxon accompanied by the Harlem Hamfats - Wet It - (Let The Good Work Go On)

Red Nichols and his Orchestra

Doin the Raccoon
~J. Fred Coots

College men, knowledge men,
Do a dance called raccoon;
It's the craze, nowadays,
And it will get you soon.
Buy a coat and try it,
I'll bet you'll be a riot,
It's a wow, learn to do it right now!

High brow, low brow, intermediate,
Make believe they're all collegiate, soon,
To do the raccoon!

Raccoon coats don't care who's wearing 'em,
Hallroom boys will all be sharing 'em soon,
To do the raccoon!

Every day its popularity grows,
It's the most important item in clothes.

Ten bucks down, and though it scratches you,
Wear it 'til the sheriff catches you, soon,
To do the raccoon!

Oh, they wear 'em down at Princeton,
And they share 'em up at Yale,
They eat in them at Harvard,
But they sleep in them in jail!

They store 'em at Ohio,
They're hawked at Notre Dame,
They carry 'em at California,
But they wear out just the same!

At Penn, they're made of rabbit,
At Vassar, sex appeal,
At Nebraska, made of airedale,
In Chicago lined with steel!

From every college campus comes the cheer: oy-yoy!
The season for the raccoon coat is here, my boy!

Rough guys, tough guys, men of dignity,
Join the raccoon coat fraternity, soon,
To do the raccoon.

Rich men, poor men, all have pride in them,
No one knows who walks inside of them, soon,
To do the raccoon.

Every day you'll have your downs and your ups, high-ho,
Every day those raccoon coats will have pups, I know!

Get a girl and start to hurry her
Right downtown to some big furrier, soon,
You'll do the raccoon!

Rac, rac, rac, rac,

brought to you by... 
Special Thanks To:
The Red Hot Jazz Archives,
The Big Band Database, Scott Yanow, 

and all those who have provided content,
images and sound files for this site.

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