Bunk Johnson

Bunk Johnson - trumpet (1889 - 1949)

A jazz legend from before the music existed in name; separating the truth from the myth in the life of trumpeter Bunk Johnson has never been simple. While Johnson claimed he was born in Louisiana in 1879, it's become generally accepted that his birth was actually 10 years later. He’s said that he performed with Adam Olivier and Buddy Bolden's orchestras in the 1890s, as well as with circuses, minstrel shows and on ocean liners. Whether or not that was all true, is not proven.

Louis Armstrong did hear him in New Orleans around 1915 and recalled, “Bunk played funeral marches that made me cry!” Johnson continued to tour throughout the South at one point backing early blues queen Ma Rainey until dental problems forced him to retire in 1933. After Armstrong and Clarence Williams celebrated Johnson's music skills, authors Frederick Ramsey and William Russell located him in 1939.

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