One of the Big Band Era's greatest jazz saxophonists. He nurtured a longtime collaboration with Duke Ellington.
He was a self-taught piano performer before taking an interest in the saxophone. His nickname was "Rabbit" for his unusual speed and ability to escape truant officers.
He worked with several other important jazz artists, including Willie Cook, Roy Eldridge, and Harold Baker.
He grew up with baritone saxophonist Harry Carney and saxophonists Charlie Holmes and Howard E. Johnson. He fathered two children, Johnny Jr. and Lorna, with wife Edith Cue.
His skills were admired and revered by such luminaries as Ellington, Benny Goodman, and Charlie Parker.