Johnny Lytle, Classic jazz Artist

Johnny Dillard Lytle (October 13, 1932 – December 15, 1995)

Johnny Lytle was a jazz drummer and vibraphonist, who Lionel Hampton said was “the greatest vibes player in the world.” Lytle was known for his great hand speed and showmanship. He was also a songwriter, penning many of his own hits, including “The Loop”, “The Man”, “Selim”, “Lela”, and the jazz classic “The Village Caller”. Lytle recorded more than 30 albums for various jazz labels including Jazzland, Pacific Jazz, Solid State, Milestone and Muse. Throughout his career he performed and recorded with jazz greats including Louis Armstrong, Lionel Hampton, Miles Davis, Nancy Wilson, Bobby Timmons and Roy Ayers. Lytle was such an admirer of the music of Miles Davis that he wrote “Selim” (Miles spelled backwards) in honor of Davis. He also featured his son, Marcel Lytle, on several recordings, as a vocalist and drummer.





Born: Springfield, Ohio, USA

Genre: Jazz, Blues, R&B

Lytle grew up in Springfield, Ohio in a family of musicians, the son of a trumpeter father and an organist mother. He began playing the drums and piano at an early age. Before studying music in earnest, he was a boxer, and was a successful Golden Gloves champion. During the late ’50s, Lytle continued to box, but landed jobs as a drummer for Ray Charles, Jimmy Witherspoon and Gene Ammons. Then he switched from drums to vibraphone and toured with organist Hiram “Boots” Johnson from 1955 to 1957. He formed his first group in 1957 with saxophonist Boots Johnson, organist Milton Harris and drummer William “Peppy” Hinnant. He impressed the producer Orrin Keepnews who signed him to his Jazzland label in 1960.

He found success early in his career with chart-topping albums like A Groove, The Loop, and Moon Child. From his swinging uptempo tracks to his soul-satisfying ballads, Lytle knew how to keep a groove. And with a nickname like “Fast Hands”, he could always keep the attention of an audience. In addition to his musicianship, his gregarious personality made him a popular attraction on the jazz circuit. Even though he did not experience the same success he was privileged to during the 1960s, he did continue to record and build a respectable catalog of music with recordings in the ’70s, ’80s and ’90s.

Lytle remained a popular concert attraction in the U.S. and Europe; his last performance was with the Springfield (Ohio) Symphony Orchestra in his hometown on November 18, 1995. Passing away from kidney failure the following month, he was survived by his wife Barbara Jean Lytle, his son Marcel Anthony (of Atlanta), Michael-Lamont (of Toronto), and daughter Ayo Michelle Hagans (of Springfield). At the time of his death, Lytle was scheduled to begin recording a new album on the Muse label. In his hometown of Springfield, Ohio, the street where he used to live was renamed ‘Johnny Lytle Avenue’ in his honor.

Biographical information courtesy of Wiki; for more reading see link below.