Not persé a rock and roller he was an important record producer, musician and music critic from the 1930s to the early 1980s, including the early years of Rock and Roll. A heir to both the Vanderbilt and Sloane fortunes, he grew up in a Manhattan mansion, where he listened to music with the black servants in the basement. He attended St. Bernard’s, Hotchkiss and Yale, but dropped out to be a disc jockey and live in Greenwich Village.
He funded the recording of pianist Garland Wilson in 1931, marking the beginning of a long string of artistic successes as record producer and eventually became one of the most influential figures of 20th century music sparking the careers of Benny Goodman, Charlie Christian, Billie Holiday, Count Basie, Babatunde Olatunji, Asha Puthli, Pete Seeger, Teddy Wilson, Big Joe Turner, Aretha Franklin, George Benson, Bob Dylan, Freddie Green, Leonard Cohen, Bruce Springsteen, Arthur Russell and Stevie Ray Vaughan.
He is also largely responsible for the revival of delta blues artist Robert Johnson’s music. John received a Grammy Trustees Award for being credited with co-producing a Bessie Smith reissue in 1971, and in 1986 was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.
He died from a series of strokes at age 76 on July 10, 1987.
His son John Hammond Jr. is an accomplished blues musician in his own right.