George Johnson live in Basel, 1950

On some day in late August 1950 my friend, the late Otto Flückiger, took his Webster Wire Recorder to a house at Greifengasse 3 in Basel. There on the first floor was the Tanzcabaret Odeon where George Johnson and his band were supposed to play this evening.

The Tanzcabaret Odeon in Basel, unknown date
(taken from http://www.altbasel.ch)

Alto saxophonis as well as clarinetist George Johnson (born 1910 or 1913, died ???) had played with Zack Whyte as well as with Benny Carter when he went to Europe with Freddy Taylor in the mid-thirties. When that tour ended, Johnson began working with Willie Lewis’ band in Paris and took other gigs. He went back to the US where he played with Frankie Newton, John Kirby as well as Raymond Scott. After the end of  WW II Johnson went back to Europe and led his own group in Spain, later he settled in switzerland for a while.

George Johnson on an ad for the Dolnet Company, France 1951.

The band Johnson brought into the Odeon was a multinational band:

Frank “Boogie” Sergent (tp), George Johnson (as, voc), Jose “Chombo” Silva (ts), George Maycock (p), Claudio Pinillos (b), Owen “Big Fletchit” Campbell (dr)

Unfortunately I can not find out, where Claudio Pinillos and Frank “Boogie” Sergent came from. However Jose “Chombo” Silva (1923–1995) was a legendary tenor saxophonist from Cuba, here is a page dedicated to him (in french).


Jose “Chombo” Silva
(taken from www.montunocubano.com)

George Maycock (1917–1979) and drummer Owen “Big Fletchit” Campbell (1916–1983) both came from Panama.

In the sixties George Maycock would be gathering some local fame in Düsseldorf where Frank “Boogie”Sergent and Owen “Big Fletchit “Campbell where among the members of his quintet. I do not know what became of George Johnson and any help is appreciated.


Big Fletchit Campbell at the Odeon, Basel, august 3 1950. Photo by Hans Bertolf.
Campbell’s nickname is often given as “Big Fetchit”, but look at the drums!

As Otto has dated his recordings “end of August” and there is a photo of Big Fletchit Campbell at the Odeon dated August 3 1950 at the Staatsarchiv Basel (see above) it looks like Johnson and his band played for some weeks at the Odeon. On the evening that Otto was there, he recorded six tunes by Johnson’s band. Right here you can listen to the track noted down by Otto as Rhythm In Bop.  If you are nice enough to ignore the sound quality you’ll be rewarded with solos by nearly everyone. Enjoy!

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