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Johnson, Francis (16 June 1792–06 April 1844), musician, bandleader, and composer, also known as Frank Johnson, was born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Little is known of his youth and parentage. Most sources cite Martinique as his birthplace, but Stephen Charpié's (1999) work with baptismal records establishes his birth date, birthplace, and status as a free African American. Though skilled at a number of instruments, Johnson seems to have first attained local prominence as a fiddler at dances, parties, and the like; there is some evidence that he played with Matthew “Matt” Black's band in the late 1810s. Johnson also seems to have received some limited instruction during this period from Richard Willis, an Irish immigrant who later directed the West Point military band and who introduced the keyed bugle (also known as a Kent bugle) to the United States....


Francis Johnson. Courtesy of the Rare Book & Manuscript Library, University of Pennsylvania.


Piron, Armand John (16 August 1888–17 February 1943), jazz and popular violinist, composer, and bandleader, was born in New Orleans, Louisiana, the son of “Professor” Piron, a music teacher and bandleader. His mother’s name is unknown. Piron broke his hip at age seven and was unable to walk for five years, during which time he studied violin. Sometime after 1900 he joined his father’s dance orchestra. He became a member of the Bloom Philharmonic Orchestra in 1903 and the Peerless Orchestra around 1910....