Ecirb Müller’s Twisted Dixie would like to say Happy birthday to William Geary “Bunk” Johnson! The legendary jazz trumpeter earned the nickname “Bunk” for good reason. Johnson gave the year of his birth as 1879, although there is speculation that he may have been younger by as much as a decade. In his youth he performed with Adam Olivier’s band, and as a teenager he may have played a few gigs with Buddy Bolden, but he was not a regular member of Bolden’s band as he often claimed. In 1931 Johnson lost his trumpet and his front teeth in a barroom brawl, effectively ending his musical career. By the end of that decade, while working as a manual laborer, he was rediscovered by jazz researchers and a charitable collection allowed Johnson to be fitted with dentures by Sidney Bechet’s dentist brother, Leonard. Gifted with a new trumpet, Johnson toured internationally and is credited with helping revive traditional New Orleans jazz before his death in 1949.
Read more about Bunk Johnson’s remarkable life in Ecirb Müller’s 1911 book, “Jazz, Sex and the Ghost of Buddy Bolden.”