Johnson lied about his age frequently. Dates which he himself provided appear on public records (such as draft cards) varying between 1879 and 1889. Historians have speculated that he wanted to appear older than his actual age, and while actual proof of this theory is lacking, the circumstantial evidence is enough to support the later date. Johnson claimed playing in brass bands in the late 19th Century and very early 20th Century (Adam Olivier's in 1894, Buddy Bolden's a bit later), and if true it would be unlikely that his birth date is as late as 1889. But he does not appear in photographs of those musicians taken in that era, and he is never mentioned in recollections of those involved. For a claim in his own words, see Nat Shapiro and Nat Hentoff, Hear Me Talkin' to Ya (1966), an oral history, pages 30-31: "First thing is where I was born. I was born in dear old New Orleans some years ago, on December the 27th, 1879. I was born uptown on Laurel Street between Peters Avenue and Octavia Street."
Father: William Johnson
Mother: Thresa Jefferson
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