Johnson, Harold [Money] (1918–1978)

By: Daniel Rendon

Type: Biography

Published: December 5, 2006

Updated: September 25, 2015

Jazz trumpet player Harold (Money) Johnson was born in Tyler, Texas, on February 23, 1918. He began playing the trumpet when he was fifteen. During the early 1930s he was with Eddie and Sugar Lou's Tyler Hotel orchestra. He moved to Oklahoma City in 1936 and the next year became a member of the Nat Towles band before joining Horace Henderson.

In a career that spanned four decades he performed in a variety of cities both American and foreign, joining some of the biggest jazz names onstage, including Cootie Williams, Count Basie, and Duke Ellington. Johnson took part in jam sessions in Oklahoma City with fellow Texan Charlie Christian and with Oklahoma City native Henry Bridges. He rejoined Towles in Chicago in 1944, but within the year he was working with Count Basie and sharing time between the bands of Cootie Williams and Lucky Millinder.

While Johnson worked most often in jazz combos, he also formed part of Bullmoose Jackson's rhythm-and-blues band, the Buffalo Bearcats, in 1949. Into the 1950s Johnson recorded with several different band leaders, including Louis Jordan, Little Esther Phillips, Mercer Ellington, Cozy Cole, Buddy Johnson, Lucky Thompson, and Sy Oliver. He traveled the world, playing in 1953 with Panama Francis in Montevideo, Uruguay; on a state department-sponsored tour of the U.S.S.R. in 1966 with Earl Hines; and in Europe with Hines in 1968. He also played from time to time with Duke Ellington in New York in the late 1960s and became a regular Ellington band member in the early 1970s. Johnson can be heard on the album Up in Duke's Workshop (1969). Known for his sharp, active, and precise horn solos, Johnson complemented Ellington's original compositions. His last recording was with Buck Clayton in 1975. He died in New York City on March 28, 1978.

John Chilton, Who's Who of Jazz: Storyville to Swing Street (London: Bloomsbury Book Shop, 1970; American ed., New York and Philadelphia: Chilton, 1972; 4th ed., New York: Da Capo Press, 1985 ). Barry Kernfeld, ed., The New Grove Dictionary of Jazz (London: Macmillan, 1988; 2d ed., New York: Grove's Dictionaries, 2002). Dave Oliphant, Texan Jazz (Austin: University of Texas Press, 1996).


  • Music
  • Genres (Jazz)
  • Peoples
  • African Americans

The following, adapted from the Chicago Manual of Style, 15th edition, is the preferred citation for this entry.

Daniel Rendon, “Johnson, Harold [Money],” Handbook of Texas Online, accessed September 27, 2021,

Published by the Texas State Historical Association.

December 5, 2006
September 25, 2015

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