Bernard “Bunchy” Johnson Passes Away

It distresses me no end to tell you that my friend, drummer/percussionist/actor Bunchy Johnson died early this morning.

Bunchy lit up the world with his smile, talent and beautiful spirit. He was one of those people who consistently made you feel good about life and yourself.  Bunchy is featured in the upcoming HBO series Treme and lately was a part of the ensemble of “Joint’s Jumpin’,” a tribute to classic New Orleans R&B that regularly plays at Harrah’s New Orleans.

From Harrah’s “Joint’s Jumpin'” Web site:

Bernard “Bunchy” Johnson grew up along the musically fertile streets of uptown New Orleans’ 13th Ward and downtown’s Treme neighborhood. As a youngster he second lined with Mardi Gras Indians in Uptown’s Shakespeare Park, as well as in Treme, home of some of the city’s best brass bands.

At 19, Bunchy went on tour with King Floyd, Johnnie Taylor, and Candi Staton. He returned to New Orleans to perform with Clarence “Frogman” Henry and The Deacons, the precursor to Chocolate Milk. He also performed and/or recorded with Dr. John, Allen Toussaint, The Dixie Cups, Irma Thomas, Lloyd Price, Jean Knight, Ernie K-Doe, Johnny Adams, and Ruth Brown. When drummer James Black passed away Bunchy took his place in Dave Bartholemew’s band.

God bless you, Bunchy. You will be sorely, sorely missed by the New Orleans music community and by your friends and family.

  • Incredible – I mean it's really hard for me to believe and accept this !

  • Harold Collier

    Coming back home to visit just won't be the same for me. We've been running the streets of New Orleans since 1971 going back to Xavier U days. I left New Orleans in 1975 and only visit once or twice a year and we ALWAYS found time to clown a while before gigs after gigs, during gigs. Even when he came to Chicago for gigs. I miss the brother I never had already.

  • Ralph "Sid" Sidney

    Bunchy and I have been friends since the fourth grade at Holy Ghost School. I am deeply sadden by his passing but will forever cherish his friendship over the years. A piece of NOLA has gone but not forgotten.
    And do I have stories about our childhood. Great man, great father great son that Bunchy. Was a good dancer but when he put Hallie Berry out the house in that movie … we had to talk about that one!

  • Naydja CoJoe

    I miss you Bunchy!!

  • George French

    i saw bunchy sunday at St. joan of Arc's black Arts Fest. He was the Lil Dude Bunchy. We worked together for 7 years at the sheraton. He will be missed as a dear friend. May he rest in peace.

  • Ron Bartholomew

    I miss you my brother… I really was awaiting your Tampa trip on the 29th! I’ll continue to do what we had planned and I’ll make sure that its completed! The Bartholomew’s love you! I appreciate you being the heartbeat of the Dave Bartholomew Band! It was always nice to know that you were there when I couldn’t get to town. Thanks for loving my dad and being there for both of us! You always said you we’re Dave Bartholomew’s other son and guess what you were right! I miss you my brother…

    Ya lil brotha,

    Ron B.

  • Anais St. John

    We will all miss your sweet smile, your laughter, and your gentle spirit.

  • Tommye Myrick

    BUNCHY, I can not remember a time in my life when I did not know you. Elem School, Jr. High, High School and even Xavier U. Shocked – I am reminded of my own mortality. Though we only saw each other 2 or 3 times a year at various functions around town; always – the lifetime connection was there. I will miss you, my friend, for I have known you as long as I have KNOWN me. I will never again hear the beating of a drum and not think of you. When my time comes – I will listen for the drumming from the other side. My soul will follow the beating of the drums. I am sure to see you there.

    Tommye Myrick

  • I´m so sorry.

    you was a good guy.

  • Diane Wanek

    This makes me so sad! I really loved Bunchy. He was my friend. He was such a genuinely nice fellow – a prince of a man – and a great talent, too.

  • Stan Joseph

    Bunchy was a senior in the drum section when I was a freshman at St. Aug. Bunchy became a friend and mentor when the other seniors paid little attention to freshman. He and I performed side by side and together on at festivals around the world. He was my friend. I will miss him dearly.

  • cplove

    Bunchy and I go way back to La Strada days with Frogman Henry. He was a longtime friend and of course a fantastic drummer. Our last gig together was my first gig he turned me on to when I moved back to N.O. at a N.O. Music Night at a casino in Miss. You'll be surely missed, Lil Daddy! You're in The Lord's Band now.

  • Israel and Joyce

    We will sure miss you at the holiday family dinners. We always hoped you'd be in town and missed you when you weren't. Things felt “good” when you walked in the door. God bless you !

  • Don Rousell

    Wow! There will never be another Bunchy, my God bring peace to his family and friends.

  • Craig Wroten

    Bunchy brought love to life, fun to work, funk to the groove. The world will not be the same without the Bunch

  • beth


  • Al Bernard

    Bunchy, one of the very best drummers and a wonderful person!

  • I am so very very sad, my friend Bunchy has passed away. He showed me New Orleans like no one else did, and he was always there, with a big smile!
    I loved him and I will miss him dearly .

  • Ole "Fessor" Lindgreen

    Dear Bunchy.
    It has been a honour to know you and a pleasure to play with you.
    I´ll miss you.