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As a boy, James P. Johnson studied Classical music and Ragtime. He started playing professionally in a sporting house, and then progressed to rent parties, bars and vaudeville. He eventually became known as the best piano player on the East Coast and was widely utilized as an accompanist on over 400 recordings and from 1916 on, produced hundreds of piano rolls under his own name.

He backed up many of the Classic Blues singers of the 1920s, such as Ida CoxEthel Waters and Bessie Smith. Johnson’s 1921 recording of “Carolina Shout” is considered to be the first recorded Jazz piano solo by some critics, although it sounds a lot like Ragtime to this listener’s ears. He wrote several musical revues, including “Running W and “Plantation Days and his 1928 collaboration with his former piano student Fats Waller, Keep Shufflin‘. His song “Charleston” from Running Wild  was one of the best known and most widely recorded songs of 1920s. Other hits included “Old Fashioned Love” and “If I Could Be With You (One Hour Tonight)“.

Johnson composed several symphonic works, which include “Yamecraw: A Negro Rhapsody” (1928), “Tone Poem” (1930), “Symphony Harlem ” (1932), a symphonic version of W.C. Handy’s “St. Louis Blues” (1937), and the one-act opera “De Organizer” (1940), with lyrics by Langston Hughes. None of his symphonic works were very popular and have seldom been performed. Johnson is generally considered the “Father of the Stride” piano, and was a major influence on some of Jazz’s great pianists such as Duke Ellington, Fats Waller and Thelonious Monk.

Thanks to Owen Miller for his help with this page.

The discography of James P. Johnson and his bands should not be treated as exhaustive. He recorded extensively in the 1940s, reviving some of his band names from the 1920s and also recording solo for several labels. There are both Asch and Decca recordings missing from this discography that may be added over time.

Also see: James P. Johnson and the Birth of Modern Jazz PianoJames P. Johnson: Forgotten Musical Genius

sss band or session leader

James P. Johnson’s Harmony EightJimmy Johnson and his Band
Jimmy Johnson and his OrchestraJimmy Johnson’s Jazz Boys
Johnson’s JazzersJames P. Johnson’s Blue Note Jazz Men

TitleRecording DateRecording LocationCompany
A Flat Dream
(James P. Johnson)
6-4-1939New York, New YorkColumbia
37333
Ain’t Cha Got Music?
(Andy Razaf / James P. Johnson)
6-1947New York, New YorkManhatten
504
Pumpkin
117
Ain’t Cha Got Music?
(Andy Razaf / James P. Johnson)
6-5-1947New York, New YorkCircle
3005
Aunt Hager’s Blues
(W.C. Handy)
5-1945New York, New YorkFolkways
FJ 2850
Aunt Hager’s Blues
(W.C. Handy)
5-1945New York, New YorkXtra
1024
A Porter’s Love Song To A Chamber Maid
(James P. Johnson / Andy Razaf)
1944New York, New YorkDecca
All That I Had Is Gone
(James P. Johnson)
2-25-1927New York, New YorkColumbia
14204-D
Arkansas Blues12-15-1943New York, New YorkBlue Note
27-B
Back Water Blues (In Memory of Bessie Smith)
(Bessie Smith)
11-17-1943New York, New YorkBlue Note
25-A
Back Water Blues
(Bessie Smith)
5-24-1947New York, New YorkPumpkin
117
Bleeding Hearted Blues
(Lovie Austin)
7-25-1923Camden, New JerseyVictor
19123-A
Blue Moods (1)1944New York, New YorkFolkways
FG 3540
Blue Moods (2)1944New York, New YorkFolkways
FG 3540
Xtra
1024
Blue Moods, Sex1944New York, New YorkFolkways
FG 3540
Xtra
1024
Blues For Fats
(James P. Johnson)
12-18-1943New York, New YorkSignature
28105
Blues For Jimmy4-1945New York, New YorkSelmer
7218
Cupol
9001
Folkways
FJ 2850
Blueberry Rhyme
(James P. Johnson)
6-4-1939New York, New YorkCBS
Blueberry Rhyme
(James P. Johnson)
12-18-1943New York, New YorkSignature
28105
Boogie Woogie Stride
(James P. Johnson)
7-2-1942New York, New YorkAsch
1001 A
Caprice Rag
(James P. Johnson)
12-15-1943New York, New YorkBlue Note
26
Caprice Rag
(James P. Johnson)
3-1-1947New York, New YorkRarities
33
Carolina Balmoral
(James P. Johnson)
11-17-1943New York, New YorkBlue Note
25-B
Carolina Shout
(James P. Johnson)
10-18-1921New York, New YorkOkeh
4495-B
Carolina Shout
(James P. Johnson)
12-23-1938New York, New YorkVanguard
Carolina Shout
(James P. Johnson)
1944New York, New YorkDecca
Chocolate Bar5-24-1947New York, New YorkPumpkin
117
Crying for the Carolines1-21-1930New York, New YorkBrunswick
4712
Daintiness Rag
(James P. Johnson)
1943New York, New YorkFolkways
FJ 2850
Daintiness Rag
(James P. Johnson)
6-5-1947New York, New YorkCircle
3005
Fascination
(James P. Johnson)
6-4-1939New York, New YorkCBS
Feeling Blue
(James P. Johnson)
1-29-1929New York, New YorkOkeh
8770
Gut Stomp11-17-1943New York, New YorkBlue Note
24-B
Keep Movin’4-1945New York, New YorkXtra
1024
Keep Movin’4-1945New York, New YorkFolkways
FJ 2850
Keep Off The Grass
(James P. Johnson)
10-18-1921New York, New YorkOkeh
If Dreams Come True6-4-1939New York, New YorkCBS
If I Could Be With You (One Hour Tonight)
(Henry Creamer / James P. Johnson)
1944New York, New YorkDecca
I’m Crazy About My Baby6-5-1947New York, New YorkRiverside
RLP 1056
Impressions
(James P. Johnson)
7-2-1942New York, New YorkAsch
1001 B
Improvisation On Pinetops Boogie12-15-1943New York, New YorkBlue Note
26
Jersey Sweet (1)4-1945New York, New YorkFolkways
FJ 2850
Jersey Sweet (2)4-1945New York, New YorkFolkways
FJ 2850
J.P. Boogie
(James P. Johnson)
11-17-1943New York, New YorkBlue Note
24-A
Jingles1-21-1930New York, New YorkBrunswick 4762
Jungle Drums4-1945New York, New YorkFolkways
FJ 2850
Keep Off The Grass
(James P. Johnson)
1944New York, New YorkDecca
4495-A
Liza
(Perry Bradford / James P. Johnson)
5-1945New York, New YorkFolkways
FJ 2850
Liza
(Perry Bradford / James P. Johnson)
5-1945New York, New YorkXtra
1024
Liza
(Perry Bradford / James P. Johnson)
4-1937New York, New YorkRistic
LP
Liza
(Perry Bradford / James P. Johnson)
5-24-1947New York, New YorkPumpkin
117
Lonesome Reverie
(James P. Johnson)
6-4-1939New York, New YorkCBS
Mama And Papa Blues6-5-1947New York, New YorkRiverside
RLP 1056
Maple Leaf Rag
(Scott Joplin)
2-15-1947New York, New YorkWax
LP 201
Mule Walk
(James P. Johnson)
12-23-1938New York, New YorkVanguard
Mule Walk
(James P. Johnson)
6-4-1939New York, New YorkCBS
Mule Walk
(James P. Johnson)
12-15-1943New York, New YorkBlue Note
27-A
Old Fashioned Love
(James P. Johnson)
1944New York, New YorkDecca
Old Fashioned Love
(James P. Johnson)
6-5-1947New York, New YorkRiverside
RLP 1056
Over The Bars
(James P. Johnson)
1944New York, New YorkDecca
Riffs
(James P. Johnson)
1-29-1929New York, New YorkOkeh
Riffs
(James P. Johnson)
1944New York, New YorkDecca
Scouting Around
(James P. Johnson)
8-8-1923New York, New YorkOkeh
4937-A
Snowy Morning Blues
(James P. Johnson / Perry Bradford)
2-25-1927New York, New YorkColumbia
14204-D
Snowy Morning Blues
(James P. Johnson / Perry Bradford)
7-2-1942New York, New YorkAsch
Snowy Morning Blues
(James P. Johnson / Perry Bradford)
1943New York, New YorkFolkways
FP 71
Snowy Morning Blues (alt)
(James P. Johnson / Perry Bradford)
1943New York, New YorkFolkways
FJ 2850
Snowy Morning Blues
(James P. Johnson / Perry Bradford)
1944New York, New YorkDecca
Snowy Morning Blues
(James P. Johnson / Perry Bradford)
6-1947New York, New YorkManhatten
503
Steeplechase Rag
(James P. Johnson)
9-1949Los Angeles, CaliforniaPumpkin
117
Sugar
(Maceo Pinkard / Edna Alexander)
9-1949Los Angeles, CaliforniaPumpkin
117
Sugar Hill Theme (You Can’t Lose A Broken Heart)9-1949Los Angeles, CaliforniaPumpkin
117
St. Louis Blues
(W.C. Handy)
5-1945New York, New YorkFolkways
FJ 2850
Sweet Lorraine (2)
(Mitchell Parish / Cliff Burwell)
5-1945New York, New YorkFolkways
FJ 2850
Sweet Lorraine
(Mitchell Parish / Cliff Burwell)
5-1945New York, New YorkSelmer
7218
Xtra
1024
The Dream (2)5-1945New York, New YorkXtra
1024
The Dream (4)5-1945New York, New YorkFolkways
FJ 2850
The Harlem Strut
(James P. Johnson)
8-1921New York, New YorkBlack Swan
2026-A
Toddlin’
(James P. Johnson)
8-8-1923New York, New YorkOkeh
4937-B
Twilight Rag4-1945New York, New YorkXtra
1024
Twilight Rag4-1945New York, New YorkFolkways
FJ 2850
Weeping Blues
(James P. Johnson)
6-28-1923New York, New YorkColumbia
A3950
What is this Thing Called Love
(James P. Johnson)
1-21-1930New York, New YorkBrunswick 4712
Worried And Lonesome Blues
(James P. Johnson)
6-28-1923New York, New YorkColumbia
A3950
Yamekraw – A Negro Rhapsody (In Four Movements)

Listen to Angela Verbrugge: Love for Connoisseurs

Part 1

Part 2

Part 3

Part 4

(James P. Johnson)

1944New York, New YorkFolkways
FJ 2842
You Can’t Do What My Last Man Did
(James P. Johnson)
7-25-1923Camden, New JerseyVictor
19123-B
You’ve Got To Be Modernistic
(James P. Johnson)
1-21-1930New York, New YorkBrunswick
4762

 

piano rolls

TitleRecording DateRecording LocationCompany
After Tonight
(William A. Farrell)
5-1917New York, New YorkUniversal
2191
After Tonight
(William A. Farrell)
6-1917Orange, New JerseyPerfection
87020
Arkansas Blues
(Spencer Williams)
10-1921New York, New YorkQRS
1670
Baltimore Buzz
(Noble Sissle / Eubie Blake)
12-1921New York, New YorkQRS
1738
Birmingham Blues
(McCord / Matthews)
8-1922New York, New YorkQRS
1994
Black Bottom Dance
(Buddy DeSylva / Lew Brown / Ray Henderson)
2-1927New York, New YorkQRS
3792
Black Man (Be On Yo’ Way)
(Spencer Williams)
11-1923New York, New YorkQRS
2351
Buzz Mirandy
(Dave Franklin / Henry Creamer)
8-1922New York, New YorkQRS
1952
Caprice Rag
(James P. Johnson)
5-1917New York, New YorkMetro Art
203176
Caprice Rag
(James P. Johnson)
7-1917Orange, New JerseyUniversal
203177
Carolina Shout
(James P. Johnson)
2-1918New York, New YorkArtempo
12975
Carolina Shout
(James P. Johnson)
2-1921Newark, New JerseyQRS
100999, Q129
Charleston (South Carolina)
(Cecil Mack / James P. Johnson)
6-1925New York, New YorkQRS
3143, Q-133
Crying For My Used To Be
(played by James P. Johnson and Fats Waller)
2-1927New York, New YorkQRS
3800
Cry Baby Blues
(Meyer / Lewis / Young)
10-1921New York, New YorkQRS
1673
Daintiness Rag
(James P. Johnson)
7-1917New York, New YorkUniversal
203107
Don’t Mess With Me5-1923New York, New YorkQRS
2202, Q-136
Don’t Tell Your Monkey Man
(L. Johnson / Ted Koehler)
5-1921Newark, New JerseyQRS
1338
Dr. Jazzes Raz-Ma-Taz
(O’Flynn / Rose)
6-1921New York, New YorkQRS
1473
Eccentricity
(James P. Johnson)
2-1918New York, New YorkArtempo
12997
Eccentricity
(James P. Johnson)
5-1921Newark, New JerseyQRS
1011000
Fascination
(James P. Johnson)
9-1917New York, New YorkUniversal
203227
Fascination Rag
(James P. Johnson)
?New York, New YorkMetro-Art
2032226
Farewell Blues
(Paul Mares / Leon Roppolo / Elmer Schoebel)
5-1923New York, New YorkQRS
2244, Q-134
Gypsy Blues
(Noble Sissle / Eubie Blake)
10-1921New York, New YorkQRS
1674
Harlem Choc’late Babies On Parade
(James P. Johnson / Henry Creamer)
7-1926New York, New YorkQRS
3526
Harlem Strut
(James P. Johnson)
6-1922New York, New YorkQRS
101014, Q-130
He’s My Man
(Anton Lada)
10-1926New York, New YorkQRS
3676
I Ain’t Givin’ Nothin’ Away
(Zoel / Tally)
12-1921New York, New YorkQRS
1724
If I Could Be With You
Duet with Fats Waller

(Henry Creamer / James P. Johnson)
3-1927New York, New YorkQRS
3818, Q-152
If You’ve Never Been Vamped By A Brownskin
(Noble Sissle / Eubie Blake)
9-1921New York, New YorkQRS
1644
Innovation Rag
(James P. Johnson)
10-1917New York, New YorkUniversal
203255
It Takes Love To Cure The Hearts Disease5-1921Newark, New JerseyQRS
1339
I’ve Got My Habits On
(Jimmy Durante)
2-1922New York, New YorkQRS
1804
Joe Turner Blues
(W. C. Handy)
3-1922New York, New YorkQRS
1830
Look What A Fool I’ve Been
(Clarence Williams)
3-1922New York, New YorkQRS
1831
Loveless Love
(A “Blues Ballad”)

(W. C. Handy)
5/1921Newark, New JerseyQRS
1340
Make Me A Pallet
(W. C. Handy)
9-1926New York, New YorkQRS
3626
Mama’s Blues
(James P. Johnson)
7-1917Newark, New JerseyArtempo
12286
Mama’s Blues
(James P. Johnson)
7-1917Belleville, New JerseyRhythm
E17933
Mama’s Blues
(James P. Johnson)
9-1917New York, New YorkUniversal
2335
Mama’s Blues
(James P. Johnson)
9-1917Orange, New JerseyArto 228X
Mama’s Blues
(James P. Johnson)
1917New York, New YorkSinga
5228
Monkey Hunch
(James P. Johnson)
1917New York, New YorkUniversal
2235
Muscle Shoal Blues
(George W. Thomas)
4-1922New York, New YorkQRS
1888
Nervous Blues
(Perry Bradford)
3-1922New York, New YorkQRS
1833, Q-128
Ole Miss Blues
(W.C. Handy)
3-1922New York, New YorkQRS
1834, Q-132
Railroad Man
(Elmer Schoebel)
8-1923New York, New YorkQRS
2302
Roumania
(Spencer Williams / Clarence Williams)
6-1921New York, New YorkQRS
1479
Runnin’ Wild Medley
a. Charleston
b. Old Fashioned Love
c. Open Your Heart
d. Love Bug

(Cecil Mack / James P. Johnson)
3-1924New York, New YorkQRS
101027
Steeplechase Rag
(James P. Johnson)
5-1917New York, New YorkUniversal
203179
Stop It
(James P. Johnson)
8-1917Belleville, New JerseyRhytmn
H100253
Stop It
(James P. Johnson)
8-1917New York, New YorkUniversal
203205
Sugar
(That Sugar Baby O’ Mine)

(Maceo Pinkard / Edna Alexander)
11-1926New York, New YorkQRS
3705
The Down Home Blues
(Tom Delaney)
2-1922New York, New YorkQRS
1797
Twilight Rag
with E.E. Wilson

(James P. Johnson)
11-1917New York, New YorkMetro Art
203274
Vampin’ Liza Jane
(Marion Dickerson)
3-1922New York, New YorkQRS
1836
Wasn’t It Nice8-1927New York, New YorkQRS
3996
When It’s Cherry Time in Tokio
(Reid / de Rose)
6-1917Orange, New JerseyPerfection
87019

James P. Johnson : a case of mistaken identity / Scott E. Brown ; A James P. Johnson discography, 1917-1950 by Robert Hilbert Scarecrow Press and the Institute of Jazz Studies, Rutgers University, 1986

 

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