The Talented Life Of John Williams Part Two
Early life and family
John Towner Williams was born on February 8, 1932 in Floral Park, New York, to Esther (née Towner) and Johnny Williams, a jazz percussionist who played with the Raymond Scott Quintet. Williams has said of his lineage, “My father was a Maine man—we were very close. My mother was from Boston. My father’s parents ran a department store in Bangor, Maine, and my mother’s father was a cabinetmaker. […] People with those roots are not inclined to be lazy.”
In 1948, the Williams family moved to Los Angeles where John Williams attended North Hollywood High School, graduating in 1950. He later attended the University of California, Los Angeles, and studied privately with the Italian composer Mario Castelnuovo-Tedesco. John Williams had originally briefly attended Los Angeles City College for one semester as the school had a Studio Jazz Band. In 1952, Williams was drafted into the U.S. Air Force, where he conducted and arranged music for The U.S. Air Force Band as part of his assignments.
In 1955, following his Air Force service, Williams moved to New York City and entered Juilliard School where he studied piano with Rosina Lhévinne. During this time John Williams worked as a jazz pianist in the city’s many jazz clubs.
After moving to Los Angeles, he began working as a session musician, most notably for composer Henry Mancini. He worked with Mancini on the Peter Gunn soundtrack where his fellow musicians in the rhythm section included guitarist Bob Bain, bassist Rolly Bundock, and drummer Jack Sperling, many of whom were also featured on the Mr. Lucky television series.
Known as “Johnny” during the 1950s and early 1960s, John Williams composed the music for many television programmes (including several episodes of M Squad), and served as music arranger and bandleader for a series of popular music albums with the singer Frankie Laine.
Williams has two brothers, Donald and Jerry, both of whom work as percussionists in Los Angeles.