Johnson, “Buddy” Woodrow Wilson (1915-1977)

Born in Darlington, SC; pianist, arranger, and bandleader for a large blues band that had tremendous success performing to sold-out crowds in the 1940s-1950s featuring balladeers, Arthur Prysock, Etta Jones (1943-44), Nolan Lewis and Floyd Ryland; began piano lessons at age 4 and remained interested in classical music – in fact, he composed his “Southland Suite” with vocal work by his sister, Ella and his “Piano Concerto” which he performed at Carnegie Hall in 1948; went to New York and played piano for The Cotton Club Revue; toured with a revue in Europe until the war broke out; recorded for Decca Records – his first recording was “Jammin’ in Georgia” and his composition, “Stop Pretending” (So Hep You See) in 1939 became a number one hit; he had a 9-piece orchestra by 1941 with rhythm and blues hits (“Let’s Beat Out Some Love,” “Baby Don’t You Cry,” “When My Man Comes Home,” “Fine Brown Frame,” and “That’s the Stuff You Gotta Watch”); the band was so successful that it called its music “Walk ‘Em Rhythm” which meant to the fans to get ready to dance; their performances took them to the Savoy Ballroom (New York and Los Angeles) and throughout the country, though mainly in the South; he moved to Mercury Records in 1953 and recorded hits with Ella as vocalist; mostly known as a rhythm and blues musician, his success was in the South; sister, Ella contributed much to the success of the band and the selling of his records; the film, “The Jackie Robinson Story” used Buddy’s 1947 hit, “Did You See Jackie Robinson Hit That Ball” in the motion picture; throughout the band’s success, South Carolinian, Purvis Henson (tenor saxophonist) was a constant presence in the band’s reed section.

Image Gallery

Selected Albums


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