Johnny Claes was born Octave John Claes on August 11, 1916 in London, England and received his education at Lord Williams’s School. He began playing trumpet in a jazz band that included Max Jones on reeds, and another with Billy Mason on piano. By the 1930s he had moved to the Netherlands, where he worked with Valaida Snow and Coleman Hawkins and in Belgium he worked with Jack Kluger’s.
Returning to England, Johnny led his own group, the Clay Pigeons, making a recording in 1942. Unfortunately for the jazz world in the late 1940s he abandoned his jazz career and settled in Belgium as a professional racing driver.
By 1955 Claes’ he had contracted tuberculosis and his health problems worsened. Finally trumpeter, bandleader and professional racer Johnny Claes succumbed to the disease in Brussels on February 3, 1956 at the age of 39.
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