Johnson began his musical career as a drummer in 1922 in Kansas City. From 1926 to 1938 , he performed as a pianist, often together with Big Joe Turner. In 1938Johnson and Turner appeared in the "From Spirituals to Swing" concert at Carnegie Hall. The concert provided a Boogie-Woogie craze and Turner, who also performed together with the pianists Meade Lux Lewis and Albert Ammons worked there for a long time. They have toured and recorded albums together. Johnson appeared In1941 , Ammons and Lewis in the film Boogie Woogie Dream.
The number: Roll 'em Pete (1938), with Johnson on piano and Turners vocals is considered by some to be the first rock and roll recording, although others argue that the song was stolen by Jelly Roll Morton.
In the late 1940s, Johnson took a concept album Pete's House Warminon called, in which he plays solo in the beginning only; later he is accompanied by j. c. Higgenbotham, J.C. Heard, and other Kansas City players. Each played his solo supported by Johnson. The entire group then played a jam sessiontogether. On the album Let Johnson his considerable stride pianoand his ability to work well in a group.
Johnson also played in a nightclub in Niagara Falls, where he had a piano on the bar . In 1950 he moved to Buffalo. Despite his health problems, he continued to tour and record plates, particularly with Jimmy Rushing and Big Joe Turner. Despite an accident involving a blown tire a portion of his finger was missing, he performed at theJazz at the Philharmonic tour of Europe.
After a brain hemorrhage in 1958 hit a part of Johnson's body paralyzed. Johnson's last public appearance was in January 1967, in John Hammonds Spirituals to Swingconcert, where he with his right hand a version of the song Roll 'em Pete played, two months before his death.
Johnson died in Meyer Hospital of Buffalo.
- "1280 Stomp"
- "627 Stomp"
- "Basement Boogie"
- "Buss Robinson Blues"
- "Cherry Red"
- "Death Ray Boogie"
- "Goin' Away Blues"
- "Holler Stomp"
- "Just for You"
- "Lone Star Blues"
- "Pete's Blues"
- "Pete's Lonsome Blues"