Joseph E. Johnson Jr.(AKA JamminJoe The True Smooth Saxophonist)Was born in Akron Ohio, but raised in Southern California (Compton, Watts, and San Bernardino). JamminJoe’s first instruments were the Trumpet and the Trombone, he eventually settled on the Saxophone because it allowed him more freedom of expression. The foundation of his musical training and development was rooted in his parents garage in San Bernardino, Ca where he, along with his brother Steve who played the (Sousaphone) spent countless hours and days with there father Joe Sr. experimenting with endless chordal harmonies. Needless to say, the experimentation helped develop JamminJoe into one of the most skilled improvisers you’ll find anywhere. Although his style of play is uniquely his own.
JamminJoe has been compared to accomplished saxophonist such as: Grover Washington Jr., Gerald Albright, King Curtis, Stanley Turrentine, Boots Randolph, Kenny G., and Lester “Prez” Young, the latter of which Jammin Joe played the saxophone part in a play about Billie Holiday. Jammin Joe was exposed to Blues, Jazz, Funk, and R&B by the combined influences of his first cousin Clifford Moon, and his mother Carolyn Campbell-Johnson who threw away several of his fathers jazz records by legendary artist like—Louis Armstrong, Ella Fitzgerald, Duke Ellington, Art Tatum, Oscar Peterson, Sarah Vaughn, Joe Williams, and Richard “Grooves” Holmes just to name a few. JamminJoe quickly retrieved these records from the trash and absorbed all that he could. Later he would practice his scales to classical recordings to further develop his smooth playing style.
During the early 80’s while a student at Oregon State Univ JamminJoe was denied acceptance in the OSU Jazz band because as the then band director said to him “your mind is made up about how you want to play”, subsequently during the summer of 1984 JamminJoe would join his first band, A racial and non-racial “punk rock” influenced ska reggae band called the Crazy 8’s that was looking for a black saxophonist to complete there “two tone”(black and white members) line-up.
During his time as the bands first manager and the only black manager of a rock and roll group in Portland, Ore at that time. he convinced the members of the band to record an album and found an investor in his then NBA All-Star brother Steve Johnson, and a world class producer in Marlon McClain of the groundbreaking 70’s music act “Pleasure”. With the help of his then girlfriend who worked at the “Oregonian” newspaper, JamminJoe convinced the band to pay nationally syndicated “Oregonian newspaper” political cartoonist Jack Ohman to provide the eye-catching artwork for there first and most popular album, (LAW AND ORDER) which included JamminJoe’s two songs “Jump Rock” and “I’m Ok Your’e Ok”. The band went on to become the most popular band in the Pacific Northwest, and one of the top favorites on national college radio.
They frequently out charted A-list acts such as Prince and Michael Jackson on college radio. In 1985 JamminJoe eventually garnered the band national exposure when he managed to get them on the nationally syndicated TV show “Star Search”, this came about despite the bands initial objection towards the opportunity; because they thought the show was to “CHEESY”.The Crazy 8’s were the first band to ever renegotiate a “Star Search” contract thanks to JamminJoe’s understanding of contracts and the legal muscle and expertise of attorney JR Barnes (one of the founding members of AFTRA). During this same period the Crazy 8’s lightning rod like attention from the music industry continued to catapult there
popularity until they exploded on the national music scene with articles in TV guide (FEB 23- March1, 1985), Billboard and Rolling Stone magazine, the latter of which described the Crazy 8’s as a band to “watch in the future”.
JamminJoe The True Smooth Saxophonist currently performs as a solo artist in Las Vegas.