Willie “Bunk” Johnson
December 27, 1889 – July 7, 1949
Bunk Johnson was a popular New Orleans Jazz trumpeter in the early part of the 20th century who gained an even bigger audience when his career was revived in the ’40s. Johnson claimed he was born in 1879, but most sources indicate that he was actually born in 1889. What IS know is that Johnson played his trumpet in and around around New Orleans during the early 1900s, only to have his career cut short in 1931 when he lost his trumpet and front teeth in a fight at a dance. In the late ’30s, two writers learned of Johnson during their interviews with Louis Armstrong and others. Armstrong has cited him as an inspiration. Intrigued by their praise, the men tracked down Johnson and and later raised money for new dentures so he could play again. He went into the studio in 1942 to make his first records. With his career revived, Johnson toured more extensively than in years past. Johnson died in 1949 following a stroke.