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Nathaniel Johnson: Bio

Nathaniel William Johnson - Bass Player/Vocalist

Nat was born in Houston, Texas but raised in Marin City, California from the age of 4 years. Growing up in Marin City When the community was very diverse because the majority of the community were ex-World War 2 shipyard workers.

Nat entered into Tamalpias High School, in Mill Valley, as a violinist and had a desire to play another instrument. He was given a Bass Violin and the music folder for the Spring concert. He taught himself to play and was ready for the concert the following Spring. Nat started playing jazz in his junior year of high school. After graduating from high school, Nat played in various groups with varying styles; examples: Blue Grass, Dixie Land, Country, Rhythm& Blues, Folk and Jazz. Nat's first paying jazz gig was with a Dixieland group at the age of 17yrs. The group was comprised of men old enough to be Nat's dad or grandfather. That was the beginning of Nat's education as a performer. Nat played in the folk group Meridian West for a few years; that group was basically an Israeli folk band and lead to a movie invite. This occurred at the "Trident Bar And Restuarant" in Sausalito. Steve McQueen and movie director Peter Yates came in for dinner. After listening to the group they asked Meridian West to play a part in the movie "Bullit". Later that year, Nat did five "Miller Beer" commercials. This was a brief period of Nat working in the movie industry. Though it was an appealing experience the attraction of jazz music drew Nat back to the pursuit of improving his skill of playing. During that same time period at the Trident, Meridian West met Martin Luther King Jr. He had come there for dinner and we spent time in discussion with him.

Nat got the opportunity to hang out with Leroy Vinnegar on a couple of occasions. Leroy watched Nat play and critiqued Nat's playing. Leroy encouraged him to continue to play and develop his style. Leroy also encourage him to learn every standard tune he could. Nat continues to follow that advice. Nat has played with Jon Hendricks, Jeanie Hoffman as well as short stints with Vince Guaraldi, Sammy Davis jr., Big Mama Mae Thorton, Lou Rawls and Dizzy Gillespie. He has played with the Dottie Dodgen Trio once a week on the Monterey Peninsula for 5 years. The trio included: Dottie a Monterey jazz legend, singer & drummer; Marshall Otwell and Eddie Mendenhall alternate days on piano and Nat on bass.

Some of Nat's treasured musical joys are:

He played many years with the late Smith Dobson Jr. Smith who was instrumental by encouraging Nat to play and sing.

Another treasured joy is being a part of the "Young At Heart" band, courtesy of Pianist Larry Vuckovich. "It's been great to have the opportunity to play on many occasions with these fine musicians." It was a great joy to meet and develop a friendship with everyone; Larry, Harold Jones, Noel Jewkes, Jules Broussard, Allen Smith, John Santos, Josh Workman, to name a few.

Nat's regret at this point in life, was to never receive any formal training on the Bass Violin.