In May 1928 Johnny joined Duke Ellington's orchestra and he remained a mainstay of the group for the next 40 years. From his first recording in 1928 he revealed his authority and technical mastery of the saxophone, playing with a broad, sweeping tone and producing impressive, cascading runs. In the opinion of many people, he soon became Duke's most valuable soloist. He made hundreds of recordings with Duke and from 1937 led his own small studio group drawn from the orchestra which made many successful series of recordings for Victor and other labels. Titles included “Jeep's Blues,” “Hodge Podge,” “The Jeep is Jumpin” all of which were co-written with Duke. Also in this period of great creativity he played in many other small groups with musicians such as Lionel Hampton, Teddy Wilson, etc., producing classics of the period.
Johnny was one of the many stars of the Ellington band of the 40s producing solos of immense authority on songs such as “Things Ain't What They Used To Be,” “Don't Get Around Much Any More,” “Passion Flower,” etc. From the 40s he concentrated on the alto leaving the soprano alone completely and in this period he regularly won the popularity polls run by magazines such as Downbeat, Metronome, and Esquire.
I Got It Bad and that Ain´t Good - Johnny Hodges