Saturday, July 27, 2013

AccuRadio Song Of The Day-James P. Johnson

Artist:James P. Johnson
Song:Carolina Shout
Album:Runnin' Wild (1921-1926)

James P. Johnson was a very influential pianist known for adapting ragtime into what we would soon know as jazz. The recordings on this Rykodisc budget CD are piano rolls from the early 20s. Johnson didn't record a lot of these songs live until much later. He was born Feb. 1, 1894 in New Brunswick, NJ. His family moved to New York City when he was a teen. Johnson was a big fan of legendary ragtime composer Scott Joplin and Johnson based his stride style on that. By 1913 he was playing clubs in New York and by 1917 he was recording piano rolls for player pianos. What was a piano roll? It was a piece of paper that attached to the cylinder inside the piano and it played the song and moved the piano keys. Some piano rolls are valuable historically and are available on CD. Carolina Shout is a 1922 piano roll. Like I said, he didn't record a lot of these songs live until the 40s. Johnson was an influence on guys like Duke Ellington. But his number one student was Fats Waller. Johnson also accompanied legendary singers Ethel Waters and Bessie Smith. Carolina Shout is one of his best known songs along with The Charleston. Johnson was very successful in the 20s. In the 30s, Johnson concentrated on longer orchestral works. He could do this because he made a good living from songwriting royalties. Johnson recorded for Columbia in the late 30s. Producer John Hammond was concerned that Johnson was forgotten and wanted him to record again. Johnson suffered a stroke in 1940 but recovered enough that he could play. He recorded for several labels in the 40s. He suffered another stroke in 1951. James P. Johnson was forced to retire and died on Nov. 17, 1955 at age 61. His influence is still felt today. Here's a video for the piano roll of Carolina Shout by James P. Johnson.

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