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Charlotte musician and teacher John Holloway dies at age 93
West Charlotte High instructor formed jazz group
Published Sunday, August 5, 2018 8:41 am
by Herbert L. White | The Charlotte Post

John Holloway was more than a band teacher and jazz musician.

He was the Chief.

Mr. Holloway, who died July 30 at age 93, will be buried Aug. 8 at VA National Cemetery in Salisbury after funeral service at The Park Church, 6029 Beatties Ford Road at 11 a.m. Visitation is at 10 a.m. He was one of Charlotte’s best-known musicians as band director at West Charlotte High School for 35 years and founder of his own jazz group, Johnny Holloway and the Hi-Tones.

Mr. Holloway, a recipient of the Order of the Long Leaf Pine, North Carolina’s highest civilian award, moved from Durham, his hometown, to Charlotte in 1950 to teach at segregated West Charlotte High School. He was an instructor until 1985. In a 2007 oral history recording on the “Brooklyn to Biddleville” project at UNC Charlotte’s J. Murrey Atkins Library, Mr. Holloway recounts his years as a high school band director and jazz musician.

“They had about 17 students, and they were in the upper grade,” Mr. Holloway recalled, noting West Charlotte was grades 7-12 at the time and band members had to bring their own instruments. “The band had really gone down. I had to start from scratch, more or less.”

Mr. Holloway's work paid dividends as West Charlotte's band program became one of the best in North Carolina. The Marching Lions were noted for their mix of showmanship, marching prowess and music command.

“As band director in fall 1960, he made [my sister] Eula the first featured twirler for the West Charlotte High marching band," Ken Koontz of Charlotte wrote in the condolences notes to Mr. Holloway's family. “He would have football stadium lights darkened for halftime shows so she could dazzle the cheering crowds with fire baton twirling. She also played bass fiddle in his school orchestra. And he would occasionally have her join his personal stage band when he would play at The Excelsior Club and other local venues...as would my musically-inclined uncles. I ultimately got to know Chief as I would subsequently own The Excelsior [Club] and developed a lasting friendship. What a great and special man.”

Mr. Holloway, who played in the Army marching band, brought, brought enhanced technique he learned as a student at Ohio State University to West Charlotte and its feeder schools. He also introduced many of those students to jazz with the help of John Harding, a UNCC professor.

“We got a grant to bring it. We had other musicians coming in and talking and playing. It wasn’t affiliated with the schools as such. We brought it in as a special attraction for about 20 or 30 schools.”

Mr. Holloway branched outside academia to launch the Hi-Tones, a 12-piece group that performed regionally, including jam sessions at the Excelsior. They also opened for national acts such as Lionel Hampton.

“We played the Pecan Grove, the Nixon Brothers Steakhouse,” he recalled. “That was our biggest location. Those were our biggest draws. …We also had a larger group that played for a lot of dances.”

Mr. Holloway’s impact on local music instruction led A Sign of the Times of the Carolinas to establish the the John L. Holloway Music Scholarship to assist a Charlotte-Mecklenburg high school senior who plans to pursue a college degree in music.

Applicants must have a minimum 3.0 grade point average, be accepted in an accredited college or university as music major and be recommended by their high school music instructor.

Mr. Holloway is survived by his wife, Bettye, and a granddaughter.


Johnny was a very wonderful gentleman
whose talents as a teacher and performer
were exceptional
Posted on August 6, 2018
Ken Koontz the former WBTV anchor
Posted on August 6, 2018

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