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This Week in Texas Music History: Keg Johnson

by Stephen Becker 11 Nov 2011 1:15 PM

This Week in Texas Music History, we’ll remember a musician who built cars and painted houses, when he wasn’t performing with some of the biggest names in jazz.


Art&Seek presents This Week in Texas Music History. Every week, we’ll spotlight a different moment and the musician who made it. This week, Texas music scholar Gary Hartman honors a little known composer who wrote one of the most popular jazz tunes ever recorded.

You can also hear This Week in Texas Music History on Sunday at precisely 6:04 p.m. on KERA radio. But subscribe to the podcast so you won’t miss an episode. And our thanks to KUT public radio in Austin for helping us bring this segment to you. And if you’re a music lover, be sure to check out Track by Track, the bi-weekly podcast from Paul Slavens, host of KXT’s The Paul Slavens Show, heard Sunday night’s at 8.

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Trombonist Keg Johnson was born Nov. 19, 1908, in Dallas. Johnson’s father, a choir director, encouraged his son to play music. As a teenager, Keg Johnson worked alongside his father in an auto factory to supplement his earnings from performing at local clubs. In 1930, Johnson moved to Chicago to play in Louis Armstrong’s orchestra. In 1933, Johnson relocated to New York City, where he worked for years with such jazz greats as Benny Carter, Fletcher Henderson and Cab Calloway.

Despite his great success, Keg Johnson took some time off from music in the early 1950s to paint houses. However, by the late 1950s, he had returned to music full-time and spent the rest of his life recording and performing with Ray Charles and other prominent entertainers.

Next time on This Week in Texas Music History, we’ll pay tribute to an artist who could really sink his teeth into his work.