R&B vocalist Howard Johnson started out in Miami, holding forth in local bars and clubs until the appearance of a life-changing business contact. That was Sandy Torano, a guitarist and producer associated with performers such as the Commodores and Phyllis Hyman. Johnson was his choice for a new vocal group and thus began the singer's recording career. It was 1977, the group was called Niteflyte, and the label was Ariola. The project lasted for only two albums but created enough of a buzz for A&M to sign Johnson to a solo contract.
A trio of close associates -- Kashif, Paul Laurence Jones, and Morris Brown -- produced Keepin' Love New (1982), Johnson's solo debut; both "So Fine" and the title track did very well in the British market. The singer recorded two more albums for the label: Doin' It My Way (1983), produced by the System, and The Vision (1985), some of which was handled by Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis. At the end of the decade, the singer returned to A&M as part of the duo Johnson & Branson with Regis Branson. In the interim, Johnson did some recording with singer Donna Allen.
The '90s, if not a completely fallow period, represented a stark respite from the action-packed '80s. Johnson was not really to be seen until he showed up again with old pal Branson in the new millennium, this time at the behest of a Japanese outfit, Soul Japan, that had gone mad for the sound of old-school '80s soul. Packed and Waitin' was released in 2002. Roughly a decade later, Johnson's A&M albums were reissued by the Netherlands' PTG label. ~ Eugene Chadbourne