JOHNSON, 69, TRUMPET PLAYER
Jazz Stylist Who Began in New Orleans Dies --- Featured at 2 Town Hall Concerts
William Gary (Bunk) Johnson, noted Negro trumpet player, died on Thursday in his home in New Iberia, La., according to word received here last night by friends. He would have been 70 years old on Sept. 24.
Bunk Johnson was a legendary figure In jazz. He started playing the French horn as a schoolboy in New Orleans, where his mother, Theresa, ran a Creole lunch room. He played first with Adam Oliviter's band. The other players followed the score, hut Bunk was unable to read, and he soon switched to Buddy Bolden's band, where it was all improvisation and ear. In those days the competition between bands was so keen that during Mardi Gras and parades, they would drown each other out. Bunk was considered the originator of the New Orleans style of jazz trumpet playing.
He played continuously except for two interludes -- the Spanish-American and the first World Wars -- in both of which he served as an Army bandmaster overseas. Then, in 1931, he lost his teeth. He took to working in the rice fields and doing other odd jobs. Shortly before the outbreak of the recent war he was "rediscovered" by William Russell, who arranged to provide him with a set of store teeth. Bunk began again as a trumpet .player and achieved greater fame than the first time.
He starred in a jazz concert in San Francisco, and then came to New York, where he made a series of records with his band tor Victor, Decca and other leading record firms. In 1945, at the age of 65, he was band leader at the Stuyvesant Casino, Second Avenue and Ninth Street. He was lionized by the younger generation of jazz enthusiasts, and articles about him appeared in The New Yorker, Collier's and other publications.
In 1946 Bunk Johnson and his New Orleans Band were the featured principals of a jazz concert at the Town Hall here. He played his favorites, ANew Orleans Street Parade" and "Maryland, My Maryland." In 1947 he was again featured at Town Hall, under the auspices of the New York Jazz Club.
He was the teacher of Louis Armstrong,. trumpet virtuoso.
Surviving is his widow, Maude. They had twelve children, eleven of whom were living in 1945, and ten grandchildren.