Johnny McAfee

Photo of Johnny McAfee

Multi-instrumentalist Johnny McAfee typically played alto saxophone, though he also was proficient on clarinet and flute. McAfee could sing as well, which he did for more than half a dozen orchestras during the big band era, most importantly with Harry James in the early 1940s. The war interrupted his career, however, and he had difficulty recapturing his success in the years after. By the early 1950s, McAfee had fallen from the limelight and disappeared.

Born in Dallas, Texas, McAfee’s parents divorced at some point prior to 1930. During that year, he lived with his father in Houston.[1] McAfee attended Baylor University in the early 1930s. He worked with several orchestras in the latter part of the decade, including Johnny Hamp in 1936, Leighton Noble in 1937 and 1938, and Eddie Duchin in 1939 and 1940. He joined Tony Pastor by September 1940, leaving in early 1942 for a very brief stay with Benny Goodman, where he didn’t vocalize, before settling in with Harry James in July. There he reached his peak in popularity, earning ninth place in Billboard magazine’s 1943 annual college poll for best male band vocalist.

McAfee fell victim to the draft in late 1943, spending his service years in Buddy Morrow’s navy band at Hunter College. After his discharge, he joined Morrow’s civilian orchestra, where he was in March 1946, but by June of that year he was with Charlie Barnet. In early 1948, McAfee was part of Horace Heidt’s band. In the early 1950s, records indicate that he was living in Dallas. He then vanishes until 1963, when he was found working nights with Vincent Lopez’s orchestra at the Taft Grill in New York while driving a cab during the day.

McAfee was the grandfather of singer Fiona Apple. In 1937, McAfee married vocalist Millicent Green, whom he met while with Hamp’s orchestra.[2] They divorced in 1947. Their daughter, Diane, the mother of Apple, was also a singer. McAfee later remarried to Joyce Brownell. The couple had a daughter, Jennifer, who was born in Dallas in 1952.


  1. McAfee’s father had been a railroad claim agent in 1913. At the time of the 1930 census, he was not employed. The two shared their home with a widowed female renter who also didn’t work. On Google Street View, the address appears to be an older house, but according to the census multiple families lived there in 1930. Today, the location is a business. ↩︎

  2. McAfee and Green, who was from Long Island in New York, married in Muskogee, Oklahoma. The marriage certificate oddly states that McAfee’s place of residence was Muskogee. Perhaps he had no permanent residence, being a traveling musician, and used the city he was in as a convenient location. Millicent was misidentified as “Mildred” Green in one Down Beat article. ↩︎


  1. “Millicent Green.” Internet Broadway Database. Accessed 25 Apr. 2023.
  2. “New Acts Band Reviews.” Billboard 24 Oct. 1936: 20.
  3. “Bright Spots After Dark.” The Pittsburgh Press 15 Apr. 1938: 25.
  4. Sheer, Harry. “Recorded Music.” The Pittsburgh Press 17 Sep. 1938: 20.
  5. “Lewis' 23Gs Tops.” Billboard 10 Feb. 1940: 58.
  6. “On the Stage.” Pittsburgh Post-Gazette 20 Jan. 1940: 10.
  7. “Vaudeville Reviews: Paramount, New York.” Billboard 8 Mar. 1941: 22.
  8. “Vaudeville Reviews: Loew's Capitol, Washington.” Billboard 16 Aug. 1941: 23.
  9. “On the Stage.” Pittsburgh Post-Gazette 4 Oct. 1941: n.pag.
  10. “Tony Pastor.” Billboard 17 Jan. 1942: 4.
  11. “Tony Pastor Socko in Maria Kramer's New Spot.” Down Beat 1 Mar. 1942: 4.
  12. “Schertzer Back with B.G.” Billboard 18 Jul. 1942: 21.
  13. “Harry James Takes McAfee.” Down Beat 1 Aug. 1942: 6.
  14. “Profiling the Players: Harry James and His Orchestra.” Down Beat 15 Nov. 1942: 20.
  15. “Students Select Singers.” Billboard 5 Jun. 1943: 20.
  16. “Martins and the James' Settle Baseball Feud.” Down Beat 1 Oct. 1943: 7.
  17. “Morrow Band Better With New Faces.” Down Beat 8 Apr. 1946: 14.
  18. “On the Stand: Charlie Barnet.” Billboard 6 Jul. 1946: 37.
  19. “Barnet Blasts B'way Aquarium.” Down Beat 15 Jul. 1946: 1.
  20. “Trade Tattle.” Down Beat 10 Mar. 1948: 22.
  21. Winchell, Walter. “Dirty Business with Dividends.” The Spartansburg Herald 3 Jan. 1963: n. pag.
  22. “Girl Trouble: Our 1997 Fiona Apple Cover Story.” Spin ( Accessed 7 Apr 2024.
  23. ”Texas Birth Certificates, 1903-1935,“ FamilySearch ( : Fri Mar 08 22:57:11 UTC 2024), Entry for John Morgan McAfee and J P McAfee, 24 Jul 1913.
  24. “United States Census, 1930,” FamilySearch ( : Sun Mar 10 03:27:31 UTC 2024), Entry for Ora McAfee and John McAfee, 1930.
  25. “Oklahoma, County Marriages, 1890-1995,” FamilySearch ( : Fri Mar 15 00:47:59 UTC 2024), Entry for John Morgan Mcafee and Millicent Ann Green, 02 Aug 1938.
  26. “Texas Birth Index, 1903-1997,” database, FamilySearch ( : 5 December 2014), John Morgan Mcafee in entry for Jennifer Marion Mcafee, 23 Mar 1952; from “Texas Birth Index, 1903-1997,” database and images, Ancestry ( : 2005); citing Texas Department of State Health Services.
  27. “Fiona Apple McAfee-Maggart” Geneanet ( : Sun Apr 07 2024).