b. John Robert Smith (a.k.a. Johnny Hammond), 16th December 1933, Louisville, Kentucky
d. 4th June 1997, Hesperia, California, U.S.A.
Johnny Hammond hailed from Louisville, Kentucky.
He was a highly respected Hammond B-3 organ player, an instrument that he was named after.
His original name was John Robert Smith.
Johnny’s career took him from performing the hard bop style of Jazz, then later, emerging as a major performer of the Fusion format of the genre, collaborating with the Mizell Brothers in some timeless Seventies recordings.
have you heard - 1958 / imagination - 1959 / that good feelin' - 1959 / all soul - 1959
His early career saw a young Johnny working in various groups, initially working alongside Paul Williams and Chris Columbo before starting work on his own projects.
talk that talk - 1960 / gettin' the message - 1961 / stimulation - 1961 / a little taste - 1963
He was 18 years old when he left Louisville.
Johnny relocated to Cleveland, playing with groups led by (saxophonist) Jimmy Hinsley and (guitarist) Willie Lewis.
Johnny’s early groups bands featured the singers Etta Jones and Byrdie Green.
The groups also featured the instrumentalists Houston Person, Earl Edwards (on saxophone), Eddie McFadden, Floyd Smith, James Clark (on guitars) and Freddie McCoy on vibes.
An early break, in 1958, saw Johnny working alongside Nancy Wilson, who was a relative unknown vocalist at the time.
In 1961, Johnny signed to the Prestige Records imprint, where he remained up until 1971, releasing these albums:
open house - 1963 / black coffee - 1963 / mr. wonderful - 1963 / look out! - 1963
the stinger - 1965 / opus de funk - 1966 / the stinger meets the golden thrush - 1966 / love potion #9 - 1967
ebb tide - 1967 / nasty! - 1968 / soul flower - 1968 / dirty grape - 1968
soul talk - 1969 / black feeling - 1970 / herev it is - 1970 / what's going on - 1971
In 1971 Johnny signed to the new Kudu Records label for a three year period, and released his debut album ‘Breakout’.
breakout - 1971 / the prophet - 1972 / higher ground - 1974 / gambler's life - 1974
Kudu was a subsidiary label to Creed Taylor’s CTI Records organisation.
It was across this time that Johnny decided to record under the name Johnny Hammond, dropping the surname ‘Smith’.
In 1974, Johnny signed to the Salvation Records label, where he began a collaboration with the writers and producers Larry & Fonce Mizell.
This arrangement saw the release of the album ‘Gamblers Life’, which featured the fusion classics ‘Yesterday Was Cool’ and ‘Gambler’s Life’.
gears - 1975 / forever taurus - 1976 / storm warning - 1977 / don't let the system get you - 1978
He then switched to the Milestone imprint for the follow-up 1975 set ‘Gears’.
This release is seen by many fans of fusion, as one of the finest recordings from the Larry & Fonce Mizell collaborations.
‘Gears’ featured ‘Los Conquistadores Chocolates’, ‘Fantasy’ and ’Shifting Gears’, amongst several other fine tracks.
Johnny recorded 3 further albums for Milestone, which were ‘Forever Taurus’ (in 1976), ’Storm Warning’ (in 1977) and ‘Don’t Let The System Get You’ (in 1978).
He then retired from jazz for a while, settling in Southern California and became involved in buying property.
In 1987, Johnny taught at the Cal Poly Pomona music department near Los Angeles.
He also co-penned the song ‘Quiet Fire’ for Nancy Wilson (along with Carl Friberg), on her album ‘Nancy Now’ in 1988.
Johnny passed away from cancer in 1997, at home in Hesperia, California. He was 63.
'Gears' was reissued in 2015, with some bonus, previously unreleased tracks.
Have You Heard (Arrow Records 1959)
Imagination (Warwick Records 1959)
All Soul (New Jazz Records 1959)
That Good Feelin' (New Jazz Records 1959)
Gettin' the Message (Prestige Records 1960)
Talk That Talk (New Jazz Records 1960)
Stimulation (Prestige Records 1961)
Opus De Funk (Prestige Records 1961)
Johnny "Hammond" Cooks with Gator Tail (Prestige Records 1962)
Look Out! (New Jazz Records 1962)
Black Coffee (Riverside Records 1963)
Mr. Wonderful (Riverside Records 1963)
Open House! (Riverside Records 1963)
A Little Taste (Riverside Records 1963)
The Stinger (Prestige Records 1965)
The Stinger Meets the Golden Thrush (Prestige Records 1966)
Love Potion #9 (Prestige Records 1967)
Gettin' Up/Ebb Tide (Prestige Records 1967)
Soul Flowers (Prestige Records 1968)
Dirty Grape (Prestige Records 1968)
Nasty! (Prestige Records 1968)
Soul Talk (Prestige Records 1969)
Black Feeling! (Prestige Records 1969)
Here It 'Tis (Prestige Records 1970)
What's Going On (Prestige Records 1971)
Breakout (Kudu Records 1971)
Wild Horses Rock Steady (Kudu Records 1971)
The Prophet (Kudu Records 1972)
Higher Ground (Kudu Records 1973)
Gambler's Life (Salvation Records 1974)
Gears (Milestone Records 1975)
Forever Taurus (Milestone Records 1976)
Storm Warning (Milestone Records 1977)
Don't Let the System Get to You (Milestone Records 1978)