Brother-and-sister jazz duo Buddy and Ella Johnson were born in Darlington in the early part of the twentieth century – Buddy in 1915 and Ella in 1919. Born Woodrow Wilson Johnson and nicknamed Buddy, Johnson took piano lessons as a child and became more impassioned about music as grew older. As a student at Mayo High School, where this marker stands, Johnson began writing and composing his own songs.
Johnson moved to New York City in 1938 and toured Europe with the Cotton Club Revue; the group’s act got them expelled from Nazi Germany. His sister, singer Ella Johnson, joined Johnson in New York in 1939, who was at that time bandleader at the Savoy Ballroom. Ella performed with her brother as a vocalist in his own band, Buddy Johnson and His Orchestra, which by 1941 included 17 members. Together the Johnson siblings wrote and performed songs that have gone down in jazz history, including the beloved standard,”Since I Fell for You,” later made famous by Lenny Welch.
Buddy and Ella Johnson were inducted into the South Carolina Music Hall of Fame as well as the Blues Hall of Fame in 2012. Buddy Johnson died in 1977 of sickle cell anemia, and Ella Johnson died in 2004 of Alzheimer’s disease.