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Pete Johnson


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There is more than one artist called Pete Johnson.

(1) Peter (Pete) Johnson (March 25, 1904 - March 23, 1967) was an American jazz and especially boogie-woogie pianist.

Pete Johnson was born in Kansas City, Missouri. He died in Meyer Hospital, Buffalo, NY.

He began his musical career in 1922 as a drummer in Kansas City, Missouri. From 1926 to 1938 he worked as a pianist, often accompanying Big Joe Turner. In 1938 he and Turner appeared in the From Spirituals to Swing concert at Carnegie Hall. This concert started a boogie-woogie craze, and Turner and two other performers at the concert, Meade Lux Lewis and Albert Ammons, worked together afterwards at Café Society for a long time; they also toured and recorded together.

The song, “Roll ‘em, Pete”, featuring Turner on vocals and Johnson on piano, was one of the first rock and roll records. Another self-referential title was their “Johnson and Turner Blues”. In 1949, he also wrote and recorded “Rocket 88 boogie”, a two-sided instrumental not to be confused with the Ike Turner 1951 hit “Rocket 88”.

In the late ’40s, Johnson recorded an early concept album Pete’s House Warmin’ , in which he starts out playing alone, supposedly in new empty house, and is joined there by J. C. Higgenbotham, J.C. Heard, and other Kansas City players. Each has a solo single backed by Pete and then the whole group plays a jam session together. On this album Johnson shows his considerable command of stride piano and his ability to work with a group.


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