Preservation Hall Mourns Passing Of Dear Friend And Clarinet Player Ralph Johnson (1938-2009)

Dec 7, 2009 by

December 7, 2009 – New Orleans: Preservation Hall of New Orleans is very sad to announce the passing of our dear friend, Ralph Johnson. For nearly twenty years, Mr. Johnson lent the sweet tones of his clarinet to The Preservation Hall Jazz Band, both on the road and in weekly performance slots at the world-famous French Quarter venue. He was a wonderful human being and a spirited performer. His loss will be felt deeply by those who knew him and all who had witnessed his beautiful playing.

Ralph Johnson, clarinet
Born August 24, 1938
Died December 7, 2009
Played with: Jerry Butler, the Impressions, Dr. John, Wallace Davenport, Johnny Adams, Chuck Carbo

Musicians teemed through the Sixth Ward district where Ralph Johnson was raised. His father, Son Johnson, was a clarinetist; when he handed the instrument to his son when Ralph was seven years old, the moment embedded itself in Ralph’s memory as a solemn rite of passage. Still, making music proved anything but solemn for the young artist, who has since spent decades onstage with New Orleans artists of every style. Playing all reed instruments as well as flute and piano, he performed on his first gig at thirteen — he had to lie about his age to even be allowed into the 21 and over venue. His connection to Preservation Hall dates back to appearances there with drummer Chester Jones and other bandleaders. For more than fifteen years Johnson has been a beloved member of the Preservation Hall band, in which he carries on the great traditions of clarinet artistry established in years past by Willie Humphrey and George Lewis.

“Preservation Hall is a place where you can play what’s in your soul and make people happy. It’s not about playing for yourself; it’s playing to see a smile. The more smiles I see, the happier I am. When you play this music, you let your spirit go. You let your spirit say what it has to say. You play your heart out for the people because it makes you happy, just like it makes them happy. That’s all that you can do. Why waste this precious time in your life doing anything that doesn’t make people smile?” “I’ve played it all — rock & roll, straight-ahead — because all of it, all music, is made by God, not man. That’s why I love the whole picture.”

Funeral and Memorial Services to be announced.

For more info, contact:
Deborah Guidry
[email protected]
504 522 2841

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