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Born Ella Mae Jackson in Darlington, South Carolina, United States, she joined her brother Buddy Johnson in New York as a teenager, where he was leading a popular band at the Savoy Ballroom. Her singing drew comparisons to Ella Fitzgerald and Billie Holiday.
Johnson scored her first hit with "Please, Mr. Johnson" in 1940. Subsequent hits included "Did You See Jackie Robinson Hit That Ball?", "When My Man Comes Home" and "Hittin' On Me". Her popular 1945 recording of "Since I Fell for You", composed by her brother, led to its eventual establishment as a jazz standard. She continued to perform with Buddy Johnson into the 1960s. AllMusic noted that her "later solo sides for Mercury are pale imitations of her work with the band."
- Swing Me with Buddy Johnson (Mercury, 1958)
With Buddy Johnson
- Rock and Roll (Mercury, 1956)
- Go Ahead and Rock Rock Rock (Roulette, 1959)
- Say Ella (Juke Box, 1983)
- "Ella Johnson, 86, Singer in Jazz Bands". The New York Times. 20 March 2004. Retrieved 31 August 2019.
- Doc Rock. "The Dead Rock Stars Club 2004 January To June". Thedeadrockstarsclub.com. Retrieved 2016-08-21.
- Hank Davis. "Ella Johnson". AllMusic. Retrieved 2016-08-21.
- Colin Larkin, ed. (1995). The Guinness Who's Who of Blues (Second ed.). Guinness Publishing. p. 202. ISBN 0-85112-673-1.
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