Steve Johns was born in Boston and began playing the drums at age nine. One of his primary musical influences was his uncle and saxophonist Jimmy “Bottoms Up” Tyler who played in the bands of Count Basie and Lloyd Price. At age 15 Johns began a three-year study with renowned jazz drummer and teacher Alan Dawson. He later studied with Boston-based drum guru Bob Gullotti. After high school he was accepted into the prestigious New England Conservatory of Music in Boston, where he was taught by classical percussionists Fred Buda and Vic Firth. He also played in and around Boston with many top jazz musicians, including James Williams, Billy Pierce, Jimmy Mosher, Miroslav Vitous, Jerry Bergonzi, Tiger Okoshi, Mick Goodrick, Jeff Berlin, Mike Stern, and Ray Santisi to name a few.
In 1982 Johns headed to the jazz mecca, New York City. Shortly after arriving in the Big Apple he began adding to his impressive resume, recording and performing with a who’s who of the jazz world, including Donald Byrd, Nat Adderley, the Count Basie Orchestra, the Duke Ellington Orchestra, George Russell, Randy Brecker, Lou Donaldson, Bob Mintzer, John Hicks, Ronnie Cuber, Sonny Fortune, Benny Carter, the Billy Taylor Trio, Larry Coryell, the Thomas Chapin Trio, Mario Pavone, and Stanley Turrentine. Johns was the drummer for NPR’s Billy Taylor’s Jazz from the Kennedy Center in which he recorded 75 shows with guest that included Wynton Marsalis, Nancy Wilson, Joe Lavano, Arturo Sandavol, Ray Barreto, Milt Jackson, Grover Washington, and Gary Burton.
Johns is an adjunct instructor at Montclair State University in New Jersey and is a faculty member of several summer music programs. He is also a member of the group Native Soul, along with Marcus McLaurine, Peter Brainin, and Noah Haidu.