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Buddy Johnson, c. 1943
Woodrow Wilson Johnson
(1915-01-10)January 10, 1915 Darlington, South Carolina, U.S.
February 9, 1977(1977-02-09) (aged 62) New York City, U.S.
Born in Darlington, South Carolina, United States, Johnson took piano lessons as a child, and classical music remained one of his passions. In 1938, he moved to New York City, and the following year toured Europe with the Cotton Club Revue, being expelled from Nazi Germany. Later in 1939, he first recorded for Decca Records with his band, soon afterwards being joined by his sister Ella as vocalist.
By 1941, he had assembled a nine-piece orchestra, and soon began a series of R&B and pop chart hits. These included "Let's Beat Out Some Love" (No. 2 R&B, 1943, with Johnson on vocals), "Baby Don't You Cry" (No. 3 R&B, 1943, with Warren Evans on vocals), his biggest hit "When My Man Comes Home" (No. 1 R&B, No. 18 pop, 1944, with Ella Johnson on vocals), and "They All Say I'm The Biggest Fool" (No. 5 R&B, 1946, with Arthur Prysock on vocals). Ella Johnson recorded her version of "Since I Fell for You" in 1945, but it did not become a major hit until recorded by Lenny Welch in the early 1960s.
In 1946, Johnson composed a Blues Concerto, which he performed at Carnegie Hall in 1948. His orchestra remained a major touring attraction through the late 1940s and early 1950s, and continued to record in the jump blues style with some success on record on the Mercury label like "Hittin' on Me" and "I'm Just Your Fool". His song "Bring It Home to Me" appears on the 1996 Rocket Sixty-Nine release Jump Shot.
"Personally, I like classics," Buddy Johnson told Down Beat, "but our bread and butter is in the south. The music I play has a southern tinge to it. They understand it down there."
Induction, South Carolina Music Hall of Fame, 2001
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Rock and Roll with Buddy Johnson (Wing, 1956; Mercury, 1957)