The Troy Street Observer

August 11 1934: Drummer, Vibraphonist Johnny Rae Born

Cover of LP Opus de Jazz, Vol. 2
Johnny Rae’s only date as leader produced Opus de Jazz, Vol. 2 (Savoy MG 12156)

Johnny Rae (born John Anthony Pompeo) was born in Saugus, Mass. on August 11, 1934, and he left Boston at age 21, so he’s another guy whose status as a Boston jazz musician is debatable. He might have been a short-timer, but he was a very busy drummer and vibraphonist while he was here.

Rae studied piano at the New England Conservatory, timpani at the Boston Conservatory, and drums at Berklee, but didn’t graduate from any of them. He was too busy playing.

Rae was 17 when he joined Herbie Lee’s R&B band in 1952, and he traveled in fast company outside the Lee band, too, working gigs with Slim Gaillard and the Milt Buckner Trio. He played drums and vibes with Al Vega in late 1953 and again from July 1954 to January 1955. In between, he was with Jay Migliori, and the New Grove Dictionary of Jazz also has him with Herb Pomeroy’s big band. That’s clearly an error, as that band didn’t exist during Rae’s time in Boston, and Pomeroy himself was on the road with Lionel Hampton.

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