Biographies Billy Johnson, 1858-1916

Image: Cover of Chicken
Chicken by Will Accooe (New York : Howley, Haviland and Co., c1899.). African-American Sheet Music, 1850-1920, American Memory, Library of Congress.

Billy Johnson was born in Charleston, South Carolina, in1858 and was educated in Augusta, Georgia. By 1881 he was performing in minstrel shows. In 1886 he joined Lew Johnson's minstrels and the following year moved to Hicks and Sawyer's minstrels, where he stayed for six seasons. During stints with several other minstrel troops, he began writing songs and eventually landed a job with Bob Cole as songwriter and stage producer for the more upscale Black Patti Troubadours.

Cole and Johnson produced a musical sketch for Black Patti, then left that company to produce their own musical, A Trip to Coontown (1898), the first full length black-produced musical on an American stage. Johnson and Cole both played starring roles. However, during the third season of this musical, Cole accused Johnson of either financial impropriety or of drinking too much (sources vary).

After a period in Chicago, where Johnson got married, dabbled in politics, wrote some songs, and appeared in the last Pekin Stock Company production, he returned to the New York stage around 1911. The last show he performed in was Twenty Miles from Home in 1914. Billy Johnson died in 1916 after a fall.

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About this Item

Title
Billy Johnson, 1858-1916
Subject Headings
-  Johnson, Billy -- 1858-1916 -- -- composer
-  Popular Songs of the Day
-  Songs and Music
-  Parlor and Concert Stage
-  Social Change
-  Progressive Era to New Era (1900-1929)
-  Biographies
Genre
biography
Online Format
online text
Description
Biography. Biography. After a period in Chicago, where Johnson got married, dabbled in politics, wrote some songs, and appeared in the last Pekin Stock Company production, he returned to the New York stage around 1911. The last show he performed in was Twenty Miles from Home in 1914. Billy Johnson died in 1916 after a fall.
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Responsibility for making an independent legal assessment of an item and securing any necessary permission ultimately rests with persons desiring to use the item. Users should consult the bibliographic information that accompanies each item for specific information. This catalog data provides the details known to the Library of Congress regarding the corresponding items and may assist users in making independent assessments of the legal status of these items as related to their desired uses.

Items included here with the permission of the rights holders are indicated as such in the bibliographic record for each item.

In some cases, the Library was unable to identify a possible rights holder and has elected to place some of those items online as an exercise of fair use for strictly non-commercial educational uses. The Library of Congress would like to learn more about these materials and would like to hear from individuals or institutions that have any additional information or know of their history. Please contact:  Performing Arts Reading Room.

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Chicago citation style:

Billy Johnson, 1858 to 1916. Online Text. Retrieved from the Library of Congress, https://www.loc.gov/item/ihas.200038844/. (Accessed March 23, 2017.)

APA citation style:

Billy Johnson, 1858 to 1916. [Online Text] Retrieved from the Library of Congress, https://www.loc.gov/item/ihas.200038844/.

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Billy Johnson, 1858 to 1916. Online Text. Retrieved from the Library of Congress, <https://www.loc.gov/item/ihas.200038844/>.