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Clifford Elston "Violin Man" Johnson
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Birth: Jun. 8, 1913
Whittier
Los Angeles County
California, USA
Death: Nov. 5, 1989
Whittier
Los Angeles County
California, USA

Legendary Walking Violin Minstrel. For nearly 25 years Clifford Elston Johnson put on hundreds of impromptu concerts in the parks and on the sidewalks, in the alleys and on the streets of Whittier where he was a local legend. When Johnson was younger he walked between 10 and 25 miles a day through Whittier, playing his fiddle. Johnsons repertoire included Mozart and Gershwin, but he preferred the more popular ditties, such as "When Irish Eyes Are Smiling" or "Let Me Call You Sweetheart." He put on the concerts because he loved music and fresh air, he once said, adding that he does not play for handouts. Johnson said he started walking and fiddling in 1964, shortly after his parents died. "There was no use sitting around and feeling sorry for myself," he said. At the time, it was Johnson's way of handling grief, he said. For as long as Johnson had been walking the streets, rumors about him had circulated among residents. Some residents said they thought Johnson was homeless and owned only the clothes on his back and his old violin. Other residents said they wondered if he was crazy and some speculated that he might be a miser with a fortune stashed away someplace. Johnson scoffed when told about the rumors. He said he was not crazy and he's "got the papers to prove it." Johnson was born in Whittier in 1913, one of five children. He graduated from Whittier High School in 1933 and attended Whittier College, where he studied music. Later, Johnson worked as a groundskeeper at the college and continued living at home with his parents. He never married. Over the years, Johnson has been the subject of several portraits by local artists. The Whittier Historical Museum has a portrait of Johnson in their collection. People also claim to know why he walked so much. Johnson's favorite route carried him up to Rose Hills Memorial Park, they said, where his parents are buried. Taking the rumors from the top, Johnson, actually carried a violin and a brown umbrella in his sax case, and a harmonica in his pocket. Rain or shine, he spent at least six hours a day hunched over his cart, shuffling slowly along Whittier's tree-lined streets and pausing occasionally to play a song. Johnson says he never married and he scoffs at the notion of playing daily at his parents' graves or frequenting Rose Hills. "Why should I?" he said. "Nothing there but a bunch of graves." With his white beard, bright blue eyes and red watch cap, he wandered around town looking like a poor man's Santa Claus. Appropriately enough, he loved to play Christmas carols. Johnson died at his home after suffering from a prolonged illness. A public visitation for the fiddler was held at White Emerson Funeral Home in uptown Whittier. A memorial plaque was erected at the northeast corner of Philadelphia and Washington streets (in front of Chase bank) near one of his favorite benches.









 
 
Family links: 
 Parents:
  Irvin Johnson (1874 - 1964)
  Laura Belle Lindsey Johnson (1878 - 1965)
 
Burial:
Rose Hills Memorial Park
Whittier
Los Angeles County
California, USA
Plot: El Portal de Paz mausoleum, Santa Ynez, sec. 7, lot C, crypt 1234
 
Created by: Louis Mata
Record added: Sep 30, 2011
Find A Grave Memorial# 77352703
Clifford Elston Violin Man Johnson
Added by: Louis Mata
 
Clifford Elston Violin Man Johnson
Added by: Louis Mata
 
Clifford Elston Violin Man Johnson
Added by: Louis Mata
 
 
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- Ernest Sharpe Jr
 Added: Jan. 20, 2015
Thank you for giving the world beautiful music during your time on earth. Here's hoping you are still making lovely sounds for the angels in heaven.
- wesblues
 Added: Apr. 1, 2014

- Neil B (John 3:16)
 Added: Mar. 7, 2014
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