Johnson: Charles Leslie: 3 Dec – 28 Dec 1950

By | January 29, 2021


Black & White Portrait Photograph of Charles Leslie Johnson wearing a bow tie

Charles Leslie Johnson was born in Kansas City, Kansas in 1876.  He was a prolific composer of ragtime music.

By the age of six he was playing the piano (belonging to his neighbour). Then just a few years later he was studying classical piano, harmony, and music theory. Johnson published over three hundred songs, almost forty being ragtime. He also wrote waltzes, tangos, cakewalks, novelty pieces and music of that time.


His most famous ragtime piece was “Dill Pickles”. You will recognise this song if you thought you didn’t know it. On we have seven different arrangements of Dill Pickles rag for you to try.

His best selling composition was a sentimental ballad called ‘Sweet and Low’ which sold over a million copies.

Johnson apparently wrote more songs than was deemed suitable for one person. In order to bypass this he wrote under different pseudonyms, one of his most used names was Raymond Birch. Rags such as ‘Blue Goose Rag’, ‘Melody Rag’ and ‘Powder Rag’ were attributed to this name. Additionally, the use of pseudonyms enabled Johnson to get around the various publishing restrictions imposed on certain contracts. On top of this, he also wrote music for other writer’s lyrics.

Johnson wrote music ‘of the time’ which entailed writing compositions about the various wars over his career such as the Spanish-American War, World War I and World War II. Such compositions focused on the American Soldiers such as ‘Goodbye Susanna’; ‘We Will Follow the Red, White, and Blue’; ‘Be a Pilgrim (And Not a Ram)’ and ‘We are All in the Same Boat Now’.

Johnson married twice, he had a daughter by his first wife Sylvia and remained with his second wife Eva until his death.

Further Reading & Musical Downloads

On we have a few arrangements for you of Charles Leslie Johnson Dill Pickles Sheet Music.

For further information take a look at Wikipedia.

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