Randy Johnston

My interesting and fun musical journey......

Ever since I was a little kid back in Detroit, Michigan I have loved music. I used to love to listen to the record player and to watch the records spinning around as I listened to the music coming out of the speakers. My first musical performance that I can remember was when my dad took me down to a local car dealership where a radio station was having a remote broadcast and I got to sing a Perry Cuomo song live over the air waves!  Later on I heard the Beatles and I was hooked. I had to get a guitar but the only problem was that the guitar was so big and my hands were so small that I could only learn 3 notes!

A bit later my dad got transferred for his job and we moved back to the old ancestral home in Richmond, Virginia. Even though I was a Southerner at heart, the kids there used to beat on me for being a "Yankee" so I fought back by practicing the guitar every spare waking moment. I played in Rock and Soul bands all through high school in Richmond and a whole new world and new friends became available to me.

After Graduation from high school I attended the University of Miami (Florida) which was an archetype of the university jazz departments of today. I learned so much there that I figured that I was ready to try the music scene in "The Big Apple".

Upon arrival in New York I discovered that "who you know" is as important as  "what you know" and I didn't know a soul except for my buddy Nat Reeves who was struggling as hard as I was. No matter, I started playing on the street corners and sure enough I also started getting gigs. I kept practicing and got to play with many jazz greats such as Jack McDuff, Warne Marsh, and Lionel Hampton.

A huge break came when I met the great Etta Jones in a club in Harlem and she introduced me to her partner Houston Person which led to me playing on many recordings with various artists and ultimately landing my own record contract with Muse Records. At this writing I have made 11 albums as a band leader for the Muse, Highnote, J Curve, Mel Bay, and Random Act record labels.

I was already playing (and booking) my own gigs all through the United States and Europe when I got a call to join the great Lou Donaldson's band. To date I have played all over the world with Lou (often times with Lonnie Smith on organ) for 15 years in addition to keeping my own career as a leader going as well.

I have been blessed to have toured all over the States, Japan, and Europe many times and have been able to meet and talk with people that I had never imagined that I would have been able to back when I was growing up.

I always wanted to be able to share my experiences with others, especially young people, and I have been able to do so through teaching at schools such as The University of Hartford (Connecticut), SUNY Purchase, and New York University, where I am currently a professor.

In the future I look forward to more of the same and better. I am more in love with music than ever and I feel like I am getting more able to share the joys and the freedom of it with the audience than ever before.