Waterloo jazz musician Allan Johnson remembered for embracing life

Waterloo jazz musician Allan Johnson is being remembered by friends as a man of many stories, who was larger than life and an inspiration to follow your dreams. Johnson died earlier this week.

Johnson was 'absolutely somebody that everybody should have known,' friend says

Allan Johnson (left) with friend Almeiri Santos and her daughter at the Kensington Jazz Festival in Toronto. Johnson, a jazz musician from Waterloo, died earlier this week. (Provided by Almeiri Santos)

His hair looked like Rod Stewart's, he wore eccentric clothing and his stories were larger than life.

Those who knew Waterloo jazz musician Allan Johnson say he could weave a tale like no one else and always surprised you. 

"Alan, man, he was funny — very funny," said Almeidi Santos, who met Johnson while volunteering at the Kensington Jazz Festival in Toronto in 2017. Santos and her daughter worked the door with Johnson and they all became fast friends.

"I'm not someone who was following his career or going to all of his shows. I met the human being. I met the person," she said.

"He was this loving and fun to be around [person], and he just used good vibes and he had so much to share. Stories would just pop up out of him, like, 'what?' And then he had another story and all of them [were] very interesting."

She said when she first saw Facebook posts this week with his photo, she thought it was because he had another show coming up. Instead, they were tributes to Johnson, who died this week.

"It is such a weird feeling when you know that you're not going to see that person anymore," she said.

She says Johnson was someone who embraced life.

"Enjoy it. Have fun with what you were doing. Be proud of yourself. Do not expect things to be perfect just enjoy what you have — that's his attitude," she said.

"And it's such a good reminder for me and even to my young child being exposed to such a strong message of: Enjoy life and have fun. That is priceless and I am forever grateful for Allan for spreading that message."

'Our community is less bright with his loss'

Johnson was a regular on the local jazz scene, playing shows at The Jazz Room and Patent Social. He was supposed to do a concert on January 30 at The Causerie, but it was cancelled due to him being ill.

Marit Collective, which runs The Causerie, said in a Facebook post they were "beyond saddened" to learn of Johnson's death.

Waterloo Coun. Tenille Bonoguore tweeted that Johnson was "a true advocate for music and community, pushing for better supports for live arts and keeping a close eye on the uptown" district of Waterloo.

Waterloo MPP Catherine Fife tweeted about Johnson as well, saying he played her New Year's levees.

A Facebook group called Fans of Allan Johnson has been started by Parent who hopes to organize a tribute to the late musician.

'Larger than life'

Johnson was a regular at Matter of Taste in downtown Kitchener, often sitting and chatting with people in the coffee shop.

He also enjoyed gelato and was one of the first customers to walk into Chris Parent's Whole Lot-a Gelata store (now Christopher's Gelato) in uptown Waterloo.

"I think he liked the energy of the place, he liked the look and feel of the place and we quickly became friends. He played in my cafe multiple times, I've seen him play other different locations multiple times," Parent said.

Parent delivers his gelato to Matter of Taste in the summer and every time he did, he said he'd take a few minutes to sit and chat with Johnson, no matter how busy he was that day.

They had plans to hold a jazz and gelato event together.

"It was just too busy. Now you look back, you just wish you'd pulled that trigger," he said.

The lesson he'll take away from having Johnson as a friend is to never discount anyone, never assume you know who they are just by looking at them.

"He was larger than life and absolutely somebody that everybody should have known," Parent said. "You've got a dream. Live the dream, just do it. That was the Allan Johnson's message to me."