Plas John Johnson Jr. (born July 21, 1931) is an American soul-jazz and hard bop tenor saxophonist, probably most widely known as the tenor saxophone soloist on Henry Mancini’s "The Pink Panther Theme".
Born in Donaldsonville, Louisiana, he and his pianist brother Ray first recorded as the Johnson Brothers in New Orleans in the late 1940s, and Plas then toured with R&B singer Charles Brown. After army service, he moved to Los Angeles and began session recordings as a full-time musician, backing artists such as B.B. King and Johnny Otis as well as scores of other R&B performers. An early supporter was Maxwell Davis, who hired him to take over his own parts so that he could concentrate on producing sessions for the Modern record label.
Maybe you haven’t heard of him, but you certainly have heard him. How about these: Shuffle In the Gravel by Young Jessie; Stranded In The Jungle by The Cadets; Girl Of My Dreams by Jesse Belvin; Searchin’ by The Coasters; Rockin’ Robin by Bobby Day; Bony Moronie by Larry Williams; Teenage Heaven by Eddie Cochran; Say Mama by Gene Vincent; and a myriad of tracks by Duane Eddy, Ernie Fields, The Piltdown Men, Sandy Nelson, The Ernie Freeman Combo, Johnny Otis, The Marketts, The Routers, The Olympics, and Don & Dewey. And that’s just scraping the surface of the output of Plas Johnson, LA session man extraordinaire.
Johnson can be heard on the 1963 album "Ella Fitzgerald Sings the Jerome Kern Songbook", recorded with the esteemed arranger Nelson Riddle. His sax is also heard on two of the other great Ella Fitzgerald songbooks - The Harold Arlen Songbook and The Johnny Mercer Songbook.
In 1964, Johnson was the featured performer on "Blue Martini" ( Ava Records ), a concept album by John Neel. It was a groundbreaking album, with the saxophone being the lead "voice" surrounded by a full string section. This jazz/classical hybrid contains some of Johnson's best and most innovative playing, with the standout being "Bury Me Blue".
In 1970, he joined the studio band for "The Merv Griffin Show" and also played with a number of jazz and swing bands of the period. He continues to record and perform, particularly at jazz festivals.
Johnson currently performs on silverplated Yamaha tenor saxophone. He uses a very open (150/0 SMS) Berg Larsen goldplated bronze mouthpiece and Rico Plasticover 1.5 or 2 baritone sax reeds, a setup that enables him to produce his very distinctive and instantly recognizable sound.
(Info mainly Wikipedia)