He was born in Washington D. C. He left high school in 1941 to begin playing professionaly. After working with Sabby Lewis in Boston for six months (1942-3) he was a member of a navy band that included Clark Terry (1944-5). He then worked as a freelance in Chicago, and from 1951 to 1953 played for Earl Hines; during this period he also performed at Minton's Playhouse with Tony Scott's quartet. In 1954 he joined a trio led by the pianist Dorthy Donegan and toured Europe with Illinois Jaquet. From the mid-1950s Johnson worked principally as a session musician in television and recording studios in New York, while continuing to perform occasionally with groups led by groups led by Clark Terry and Bob Brookmeyer, Al Cohn and Zoot Sims, and Others. He participated in hundreds of sessions, working with such musicians as Joe Newman (1954, 1956-7), Frank Wess (1954, 1962), Johnny Hodges (1954, 1962-4), Coleman Hawkins (1955- 56, 1958-60, 1963, 1965), Dinah Washington (1956), Jimmy Raney (1956, 1964), Wess Montgomery (1963), Sonny Stitt (1963, 1965), and Ben Webester (1964). Died of a kidney ailment after a long illness.