Happy Birthday to Alphonso Johnson – born February 2, 1951 | Alphonso Johnson

Alphonso Johnson is an American jazz bassist, who has been active since the early 1970s.


Born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, Johnson started off as an upright bass player, but switched to the electric bass in his late teens. Beginning his career in the early 1970s, Johnson showed innovation and fluidity on the electric bass. He sessioned with a few jazz musicians before landing a job with Weather Report, taking over for co-founding member Miroslav Vitous. Johnson first debuted with Weather Report on the album Mysterious Traveller. He appeared on two more Weather Report albums: Tale Spinnin’ (1975) and Black Market (1976) before he left the band to work with drummer Billy Cobham. During 1976-77 he recorded three solo albums as a band leader, for the Epic label, in a fusion-funk vein.

Johnson was one of the first musicians to introduce the Chapman Stick to the public. In 1977 his knowledge of the instrument offered him a rehearsal with Genesis, who were looking for a replacement for guitarist Steve Hackett. Being more of a bassist than a guitarist, Johnson instead recommended his friend ex-Sweetbottom guitarist and fellow session musician Daryl Stuermer, who would go on to remain a member of Genesis’s touring band until the 2007 reunion tour.

Johnson was one of two bass players on Phil Collins’s first solo album, Face Value, in 1981.

In early 1982, Johnson joined Grateful Dead member Bob Weir’s side project Bobby and the Midnites. He would reunite with Weir in 2000, playing bass in place of Phil Lesh on tour with The Other Ones. He has also performed fusion versions of Grateful Dead songs alongside Billy Cobham in the band Jazz Is Dead.

In 1983, he performed on the hit title track from Jeffrey Osborne’s Stay with Me Tonight album. He then played in the Latin/rock band Santana in 1985-1989.

In 1996, Johnson played bass on tracks Dance on a Volcano and Fountain of Salmacis on Steve Hackett’s Genesis Revisited album.

Later in 1996, Johnson toured Europe and Japan with composer and saxophonist Wayne Shorter, pianist James Beard, drummer Rodney Holmes, and guitarist David Gilmore.

Since the fall of 2011 he has been working toward a music education degree at the Department of Music at California State University, Northridge. He has an extensive experience as a bass teacher and has conducted bass seminars and clinics in Germany, England, France, Scotland, Ireland, Japan, Switzerland, Australia, Brazil and Argentina.

He is currently an adjunct instructor at the University of Southern California.


Electric basses
  • Lobue Custom
  • Warwick Alphonso Johnson Custom Shop Bass Guitar
  • Warwick Infinity
  • 5 String Modulus Fretted and Fretless Bass

Acoustic basses

  • Washburn AB45


As leader

  • Moonshadows (Epic, 1976)
  • Yesterday’s Dreams (Epic, 1976)
  • Spellbound (Epic, 1977)

As sideman

With Chuck Mangione

  • Land of Make Believe (Mercury, 1973)

With Weather Report

  • Mysterious Traveller (1974)
  • Tale Spinnin’ (1975)
  • Black Market (1976)

With Eddie Henderson

  • Sunburst (Blue Note, 1975)

With George Duke/Billy Cobham Band

  • Live on Tour in Europe (Atlantic, 1976)

With Allan Holdsworth

  • Velvet Darkness (CTI, 1976)

With Rod Argent

  • Moving Home (1978)

With Phil Collins

  • Face Value (Virgin, 1981)

With Bob Weir

  • Bobby and the Midnites (Arista, 1981)
  • Where the Beat Meets the Street (Columbia, 1984)

With Santana

  • Beyond Appearances (Columbia, 1985)
  • Freedom (CBS, 1987)
  • Blues for Salvador (1987)
  • Viva Santana! (1988)
  • Spirits Dancing in the Flesh (1990)
  • Abraxas Pool (1997)

With Steve Hackett

    • Genesis Revisited (Snapper Classics UK, 1996)
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