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Bill Johnson

Bill Johnson and His Musical Notes, Vocal: Gus Gordon

Don't You Think I Oughta Know

Bill Johnson is probably better remembered for his contributions to Birmingham, Alabama-born bandleader Erskine Hawkins' orchestra - he joined the band in 1936 on alto sax and stayed seven years, co-writing Hawkins' immortal instrumental Tuxedo Junction - than his own recording career. But Johnson and his Musical Notes did score a #3 R&B hit during the autumn of 1947 with his Don't You Think I Oughta Know. In an odd twist, he scored two hits with the tune the same week.

Johnson and his New York-based group waxed it first for Mayo Williams' Harlem logo, which leased it to Syd Nathan's Queen and King labels in Cincinnati, then for RCA Victor (slightly retitled as Don't You Think I Ought To Know). The two versions battled it out for chart supremacy, ultimately ending up tied for two weeks in 'Billboard.' Born September 30, 1912 in Jacksonville, Florida, Johnson's pre-Hawkins resume listed studying at the Wisconsin Conservatory and stints with trumpeter Jabbo Smith and bandleaders Baron Lee and Tiny Bradshaw.

Bill's mellifluous alto sax solo graces Don't You Think I Ought To Know, but drummer Gus Gordon, a Savannah, Georgia native born in 1925 and a then-recent recruit to the group (Johnson had overheard him working on a demo at a New York studio), was the lead vocalist. Guitarist/tenor Clifton 'Skeeter' Best (later a busy New York sessioneer), pianist/tenor Egbert Victor, and bassist/bass Jimmy Robinson comprised the rest of the Musical Notes (Johnson also sang tenor).

RCA Victor issued 10 more singles by the group stretching into late 1948 without recapturing the commercial magic of Johnson's first Victor offering (Gordon fronted most of them, but Bill handled a few himself). It was on to King for another pair in 1949, and after wholesale personnel changes, scattered '50s outings on Regal, Tru-Blue, Ronnex, Jubilee, and Baton. Gordon loyally stuck with Johnson long after The Musical Notes moniker was jettisoned, though he did recut Don't You Think I Ought To Know under his own name in 1959 for IPS. Lung cancer claimed Johnson on July 5, 1960; Gordon moved to Canada in '63.

Bill Dahl

Various - Street Corner Symphonies Vol.01

1939-1949 The Complete Story Of Doo Wop

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You Better Dig It - The Right To Love 7inch, 45rpm
Bill Johnson: You Better Dig It - The Right To Love 7inch, 45rpm Art-Nr.: REP10027

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