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Pate, Johnny


Musician, conductor, and arranger John W. (Johnny) Pate started his career as a self-taught bass player. Born in Illinois on December 5, 1923, Pate characterized his style as "Chicago soul," although he spent the majority of his career playing with jazz musicians. After his service in the AGF Army Band during World War Two, he played with Coleridge Davis' big band from 1947 to 1949. He furthered his musical training by studying at Chicago's Midwestern Conservatory from 1951 to 1953 while, at the same time, arranging numbers for the Club De Lisa, which was modeled after the famous Cotton Club in Harlem.

He formed his own trio, Johnny Pate Trio, during the 1950s, which was also the title of his first album. During the 1960s he did producing and arranging for B. B. King, Wes Montgomery, Curtis Mayfield, and the Universal Recording Studios in Chicago, Illinois, to name only a few. He did the scores for the Shaft television series (1976) and also many movies during this time period. He served as a national trustee on the National Academy of Arts and Sciences and was instrumental in bringing The Grammy Awards to television.

As a jazz pianist and composer, Johnny Pate was a close friend to legendary singer Joe Williams. Pate and Williams share fond memories of touring with Joe Williams and the Count Basie Orchestra, cruises on the Norwegian line, and playing at the Dunes. Williams recalls moving to Las Vegas with Joe in 1968 and their first home on the Las Vegas Country Club golf course, where they were visited by the likes of Joe Lewis, Perry Como, and Andy Williams.

Pate and his wife Carolyn retired to Las Vegas in the 1980s, and for several years he hosted a Las Vegas radio show where he shared his musical expertise with the listeners. He also taught music at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas (UNLV). In 2006 TNC Records released an 80th birthday tribute album and Pate's song "Shaft in Africa" from his 1973 album was featured.

This text is taken largely from a biography written by Ken Hanlon, Director of the Arnold Shaw Popular Music Research Center, and printed in a March 30, 2003 concert program for "Johnny Pate: 80th Birthday Celebration," recorded live at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas.