George Washington Johnson




George Washington Johnson was a Black singer and musician, and a pioneer in American recorded music. He was born into slavery and his birthplace is unknown, but Johnson moved to New York in the 1870s and became a street performer. His songs "The Whistling Coon" and "The Laughing Song,"' both essential minstrel pieces, were the most popular American songs in the 1890s record industry. Technology didn't allow for duplicating Edison cylinders at that point, so Johnson, with a pianist backing him, sang each of his songs thousands and thousands of times, at about .20 cents each. An estimated 25,000 copies were in print by 1894 alone.



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