David Earle Johnson

My wife never ceases to amaze me and that includes her family. She is related to French artists, multi award winning French film and video producers, (Give it away now!), Sundance Film Festival actors, African cultural preservationists, West coast music producers and lastly, she was the second cousin of the man for whom this showcase is dedicated to, David Earle Johnson.


I met David Earle while he and his family had moved down from New York to live in Elloree, SC. During this time David was recording with jazz legends from up and down the East coast slowly compiling a healthy catalog of music steeped in progressive and experimental jazz. Early on I was listening to his albums and using them as music backtracks during my guitar practice exercises so I came to know and respect his material and his rhythmic and songwriting style.

A lot of his early work was done with legendary progressive keyboardist, Jan Hammer, although the two would part ways over an issue concerning Hammer’s sampling and use of David Earle’s unique drum sounds which were used in the intro music to the television show Miami Vice. This court case would be one of the first of its kind concerning sampling rights. For that reason I have included with this showcase two documents worth reading: the Akron Law Review 1988-1989 research article and a Berkeley Technology Law Journal article from January 1989.


David Earle Johnson died of cancer in 1998 leaving behind a wife and four children and also my wife, who had great affection for him and thought the world of both he and his wife. He also left behind a short but brilliant career of music, which he created and recorded on his terms. His love of Jazz tempered with free form and deep discovery laid the foundation for some incredible work which is still musically progressive to this day. David Earle's music possessed an adventurous nature and anyone with a musical palette invested in more than the canned industry norm will appreciate it. I salute that creativity and I am very proud I had the opportunity to meet him and shake his hand.

From Wikipedia:

David Earle Johnson was born on April 10, 1938, the son of Earle H. Johnson and Lottie Ruth Troutman Johnson in Florence, SC. He was a percussionist, a composer and a music producer.


He appeared on Billy Cobhams’ Total Eclipse and Clive Stevens’ Voyage to Uranus (1974); Jan Hammers’ First Seven Days (1975); Lenny Whites’ Big City and Miroslav Vitouš' Majesty Music (1977); Jaroslav Jakubovics’ Checkin' In, Mark Moogy Klingmans’ Moogy II, the Players Associations’ Born to Dance, and Josh White Jr’s self-titled album (1978).


Johnson's solo debut came in 1978 with Time Is Free, recorded for Vanguard Records. His relationship with that label proved short-lived, however, and he began recording albums for other labels in subsequent years before his recording career slowed following his 1983 album, The Midweek Blues.


Jan Hammer produced and performed on most of these releases along with John Abercrombie, Jeremy Steig, Col. Bruce Hampton, Allen Sloan, Dan WallBilly McPherson (under the pseudonym Ben 'Pops' Thornton), and Gary Campbell.


Johnson was against the use of sampling, as Hammer used samples of his rare Nigerian Log Drums on the Miami Vice soundtrack without his permission. This resulted in a lawsuit, which Johnson ultimately lost.


He was married to French artist Evelyne Morisot, with whom he had four children. He died from cancer in 1998.

Justice Scales.jpg
Akron Law Review 1988-1989
Justice Scales.jpg
Berkeley Technology
Law Journal article January, 1989
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