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Candy Johnson

I first heard Floyd "Candy" Johnson's tenor sax guesting with the New McKinney's Cotton Pickers, a remarkable reorganization that utilized the original Don Redman arrangements of the great Detroit big band that rivaled Henderson and Ellington in the late 20's and early 30's, and even included a few of the original members at one of Davenport's Bix Festivals. He exhibited a much more modern idiom at the after-fest party, reminding me of Jimmy Forrest who, I later discovered, was his cousin. He had the trad audience enthralled.

A few weeks later, at one of the Aces Blue Monday sets at Louise's on the South side Candy sat in and, with the help of Little Bobby's alto a blues set became a jazz set. (Not too surprising since the Aces had backed up jazz artists such as Sonny Stitt on occasion.) Candy and the Aces had toured Europe together, recording for the Black & Blues label.

A few days later, Candy was the featured tenor with the Morris Ellis Orchestra in a Big Band battle sponsored by the Jazz Institute of Chicago at the Blackstone Hotel.

"Candy Johnson was born in 1922 in Madison, IL, [played] in the jazz band at Wilburforce U. in Ohio. In the 1940's he was with the bands of Ernie Fields, Andy Kirk, and Tiny Bradhshaw. His nickname derived from his well-known sweet tooth, and his first Peppermint Sticks formed after he moved to Detroit in 1950.

"He led bands and toured with Count Basie and Billie Eckstine in the early 50's." Later he cut several sessions for indie R&B labels that escaped the attention not only of the jazz critics of the time but even of the normally comprehensive Tom Lord discography, covering "Honky Tonk" and "Night Train" plus "Blip Blop" with organist Bill Doggett's band.

Candy retired from the road and settled in Toledo in `62 but made several European tours and even performed with Duke Ellington.

He initiated a concert on November 10, 1974 at Bowling Green State U., bringing in organist Milt Buckner and his altoist brother Ted plus McKinney's vocalist Dave Wilborn for combo and big band settings.

The International Assn. of Jazz Record Collectors' Bob Byler recorded the concert which the IAJRC subsequently released on IAJRC #47, which LP you will find among Jazz Record Mart's 99-cent offerings on page 35. The album includes four great standards sung by Dave Wilborn (including Cherry and I Want A Little Girl from the McKinney's repertoire), Milt Buckner's Hamp's Boogie Woogie (including a no-hands chorus) and a lot of Candy and Ted Buckner solos in combo and orchestral format.

Buy it! If you don't like, return it for credit toward another album! You might also want to get that Milt Buckner album as well.

(Quoted bio above and much hard info from Bob Byler's LP liner note, for which many thanks.)

-Bob Koester

All reviewed items are available from the Jazz Record Mart, 1-800-684-3480.