Bill Johnson (8/10/1872-12/3/1971) and one of the first band leaders to take the New Orleans style of Jazz outside of the city. In 1909 he was the leader of a band in California. In 1912 he sent for Freddie Keppard and several other New Orleans musicians and toured the country until 1918 on the Orpheum circuit under the name of the Original Creole Orchestra. The band was very popular and no doubt introduced their Northern audiences to Jazz for the first time.
Johnson was actually the one who got the gig at the Royal Garden in Chicago, but hired King Oliver to front the band, hence the Original Creole Orchestra eventually became King Oliver’s Creole Jazz Band, and Johnson continued to play bass in the band until the group broke up in 1923.
He led his own band in Chicago for many years after that and also played in some of Johnny Dodds’ bands. He continued to live and play in Chicago until the 1950’s when he retired from music and moved to Mexico. Bill Johnson’s sister was Anita Johnson Gonzales whom Jelly Roll Morton had a long history with as her lover and business partner. Morton claimed that they were married but no legal documents have ever been found to substantiate this claim.
|Original Creole Orchestra||Bill Johnson’s Louisiana Jug Band|
|Pioneers of Jazz: The Story of the Creole Band by Lawrence Gushee, Oxford University Press, 2005|
Redhotjazz.com was a pioneering website during the "Information wants to be Free" era of the 1990s. In that spirit we are recovering the lost data from the now defunct site and sharing it with you.
Most of the music in the archive is in the form of MP3s hosted on Archive.org or the French servers of Jazz-on-line.com where this music is all in the public domain.
Files unavailable from those sources we host ourselves. They were made from original 78 RPM records in the hands of private collectors in the 1990s who contributed to the original redhotjazz.com. They were hosted as .ra files originally and we have converted them into the more modern MP3 format. They are of inferior quality to what is available commercially and are intended for reference purposes only. In some cases a Real Audio (.ra) file from Archive.org will download. Don't be scared! Those files will play in many music programs, but not Windows Media Player.