Home » Jazz Musicians » Plas Johnson

Plas Johnson

Plas Johnson - saxophone

Jazz aficionados know him by name, but almost anyone exposed to music is familiar with his playing. His is the purring sax solo on Henry Mancini's famous "Pink Panther" movie theme song. His is the saxophone counterpart to Harry "Sweets" Edison's trumpet on Neal Hefti's signature music for "The Odd Couple" TV series.

Plas is the featured soloist heard on countless albums, including those of such artists as Frank Sinatra, Peggy Lee, Nat King Cole, Barbra Streisand, Quincy Jones, Ray Charles, Ella Fitzgerald, Linda Ronstadt and Sarah Vaughan.

Plas was born in Donaldsonville, Louisiana, about sixty miles north of New Orleans. As teens, Plas and brother Ray formed a band, the Johnson Brothers Combo, that played in and around New Orleans for a number of years. Plas left New Orleans in 1951 to go on the road with the Chartes Brown Blues Band. The road, a stint in the Army and a permanent move to California followed. Plas attended the Westlake School of Music in Los Angeles for a year and a half, when his studies were derailed by an overloaded schedule of record dates. He was brought to the attention of Johnny Otis, who immediately added him to his blues aggregation. Johnny then introduced Plas to Dave Cavanaugh, who held an influential A&R position at Capitol Records, where he soon became a regular session sideman and soloist during Capitol's halcyon years.

Plas has been one of the most well-known and sought-after musicians around the California studio scene. He joined "The Merv Griffin Show" band, led by Mort Lindsey, in 1970, where he remained for the next fifteen years, joining an all-star line-up which also included such prominent instrumentalists as Ray Brown, Herb Ellis, Jake Hanna, Benny Powell, Jack Sheldon, Kai Winding and others.

He has kept busy ever since on a constant touring schedule and appearing on scores of sessions.

Plas' recent recordings include his own albums, "Hot, Blue & Saxy," "Evening Delight," "Christmas in Hollywood," and "Keep That Groove Going!" on Milestone, with Red Holloway.


Live Review

Plas Johnson & Friends

Read "Plas Johnson & Friends" reviewed by Jim Santella

Plas Johnson & Friends Founders Hall Orange County Performing Arts Center Costa Mesa, California November 25, 2005

Plas Johnson and his all-star band of Los Angeles jazz veterans brought a session of standards with them for their Orange County performance: standards that rang true with the historic perspective of their collective years of payin' dues on the road and off, in order to further their artistic goals. These are the songs ...

Album Review

Plas Johnson/Red Holloway: Keep That Groove Going!

Read "Keep That Groove Going!" reviewed by AAJ Staff

A number of shopworn lines might be used to characterizeKeep That Groove Going!, a session co-led by Plas Johnson and Red Holloway. Bromides such as “A battle between two veteran tenor saxophonists,” and “A heady combination of blues and bebop” contain more than a grain of truth, yet ultimately obscure the larger picture. Beneath the emotionally charged surface of both Johnson and Holloway’s playing lies a wellspring of intelligence and good taste. Guided by an exceptionally tight rhythm section consisting ...

Read more articles


Los Angeles: Central Avenue Breakdown Featuring Lincoln Center Jazz Orchestra with Gerald Wilson and Plas Johnson

Los Angeles: Central Avenue Breakdown Featuring Lincoln Center Jazz Orchestra with Gerald Wilson and Plas Johnson

Source: All About Jazz

The Lincoln Center Jazz Orchestra with Wynton Marsalis Performs in

LOS ANGELES: CENTRAL AVENUE BREAKDOWN Celebrating Jazz from Los Angeles at Frederick P. Rose Hall, New York City! February 23, 24 & 25, 2006, Rose Theater, 8pm Concert Features L.A. Greats Gerald Wilson and Plas Johnson

Gerald Wilson Featured in Master Class: From Bebop to Big Band February 25, 2006, Irene Diamond Education Center, 2pm

Event: Los Angeles: Central Avenue Breakdown Featuring Lincoln Center Jazz Orchestra with Gerald Wilson and ...

Stefán S. Stefánsson
composer / conductor



Recordings: As Leader | As Sideperson

Keep That Groove...

Fantasy Jazz


Evening Delight

Unknown label



Concord Jazz


The Blues

Concord Jazz


This Must Be The Plas

Concord Jazz




Kenny Burrell
guitar, electric
Richie Cole
saxophone, alto
Jimmy Smith
organ, Hammond B3
Johnny Hodges
saxophone, alto
Ben Webster
saxophone, tenor
Benny Carter
saxophone, alto
Eddie Harris
saxophone, tenor
Howard Roberts
guitar, electric
Gene Ammons
saxophone, tenor
Cecil Payne
saxophone, baritone
Wardell Gray
saxophone, tenor
Don Byas
saxophone, tenor

Get more of a good thing!

Our weekly newsletter highlights our top stories, our special offers, and upcoming jazz events near you.