Encyclopedia of Jazz Musicians

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Johnson Jr, Henry (Joseph)

Johnson Jr, Henry (Joseph), guitarist, vocalist; b. Chicago, IL, 28 January 1954. His parents, Henry Joseph Johnson (1923) and Murry (born Murry Lee Brooks, 1925-2001) moved to Memphis, TN in 1963 with his four sisters (Maria, Joyce, Joan, and June, b. 1960) and one brother (John, b. 1956). Another brother (Javis, b. 1968) was added to the family before they moved back up north to Gary, IN in 1969. Henry went to and graduated from Horace Mann High School in 1972. After graduation, he attended Indiana University Northwest, Gary Campus.

While spending some formative time in Memphis, he started playing gospel music at age thirteen. By age fourteen, Johnson was playing in R&B groups. Although Johnson's parents brought him up hearing the music of Duke Ellington, Count Basie, Joe Williams, and other artists of that era, it was not until 1966 that Johnson was formally introduced to jazz by hearing jazz guitarist Wes Montgomery. In 1969, Johnson and his family then moved to Gary, IN which is considered to be in the Chicago area. It is there he developed a reputation on the south side of Chicago as a local jazz guitarist. 

In 1976, he went on the road with jazz organist Jack McDuff and had the good fortune to work with vocalist, Donny Hathaway in 1977. In 1979, Johnson began playing with jazz pianist, Ramsey Lewis. And in 1985, Joe Williams added Johnson to his regular group. His strongest and earliest influences were Kenny Burrell, George Benson, and most significantly, Wes Montgomery. While influenced by these great guitarists, Johnson also cites the music of Herbie Hancock, Oscar Peterson, Freddie Hubbard, Miles Davis, Cannonball Adderly, big bands, and jazz orchestras as integral forces which shaped his style. Johnson has written over 40 compositions which have been recorded. In addition to his solo recording projects, Johnson found time to record with the likes of Ramsey Lewis, Joe Williams, The Whispers, Joe McBride, vocalist Vanessa Ruben, and saxophonist Richie Cole among many others. He has performed with Nancy Wilson, Marlena Shaw, Angela Bofil, Dizzy Gillespie,the Boston Pops, Sonny Stitt, Freddie Hubbard, Grover Washington Jr., Stanley Turrentine, and organists, Jimmy Smith, Don
Patterson, and Richard "Groove" Holmes among many other artists. Johnson's latest working group format consists of guitar, vocals, sax, drums, and organ. He's played many jazz festivals, including the Chicago Jazz Festival as a featured artist in 1989, 1999, and 2000, the Chicago Jazz Festival with Joe Williams, Ramsey Lewis, Stanley Turrentine, various years, all the major jazz festivals with Joe Williams, Ramsey Lewis and Stanley Turrentine. (Montreux, Newport, North Seas, Monterey, Playboy, JVC Jazz Festival, Montreal, Toronto, New Orleans Heritage Festival, and more) (1979-2000) and the Annual Jazz Party, Orange County, California, as a featured artist in 2001 and 2002. He taught at the Dusquesne University Summer Guitar Camp, Pittsburg, PA (1996-2002).

You're the One (1986); Future Excursions (1988); Never Too Much (1990); New Beginnings (1993); Missing You (1994); An Evening at Sea (2000); Organic (2003)
As sideperson:
Ramsey Lewis: Three Piece Suite (1980), Live At the Savoy (1981), Ivory Pyramid (1992), Sky Island (1993), Urban Knights (1995), Dance of the Soul (1997);
Joe Willilams: Live! at Vine Street (1987), In Good Company (1989), Blues and Ballad Master (1994); Joe McBride: Grace (1992); Norman Simmons: The Heat and the Sweet (1997), The Art of Norman Simmons (2001), Synthesis (2002); The Whispers: Bring On The Night (1989); Richie Cole: Profile (1993); Junior Mance: Floating Jazz Festival Trio (1997); Eric Scortia: Vital Organ (1996); George Jinda: Between Dreams (1996); Brian Gephart/Bob Long: Water Logic (1996); Vanessa Rubin: Language of Love (1999); Ramsey Lewis/Nancy Wilson: Simple Pleasures (2003)

Radio and television broadcasts:
VH1 "New Visions" Henry Johnson, host, with Joe Williams and Dizzy Gillespie (1987)
Billly Taylor's Jazz at the Kennedy Center Radio Program, featured artist (2002) NPR
Jazz Central, BET featured artist (1995)
Lift Every Voice, featured guest (1991)
Arsenio Hall show featured soloist with Ramsey Lewis (1990)

Articles about Henry Johnson -
"Henry Johnson: Windy City's Jazz Guitarist"(cover story): Just Jazz Guitar (August 2002), "Jazz Guitar Profiles, Henry Johnson": 20th Century Guitar Magazine (March 2000) "No Limits": JazzTimes (August 1993), Jazz Life Magazine - Japanese (1991)
"Henry Johnson": JazzTimes-Feb. 1988 "Henry Johnson, Straight From the Heart": (cover story) Downbeat (April 1988), Faces To Watch: Cashbox (1987) Numerous newspaper articles and interviews throughout the United States (1986-1995)
Jazz Improv: Vol. 4 (2004)

Contact information:
P.O. Box 10464
Chicago, IL 60610-0464
(312) 642-0321

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