Born in Westmoreland Parish, Jamaica, Johnson started to play music with the Virtues as a bass player before moving into management of the group. When the band split up he worked as an insurance salesman. He first appeared as a record producer in 1968, when he launched his own record label, “Harry J”, by releasing The Beltones’ local hit “No More Heartaches”, one of the earliest reggae songs to be recorded. His agreement with Coxsone Dodd allowed him to use Studio One’s facilities, where he produced the hit “Cuss Cuss” with singer Lloyd Robinson, which became one of the most covered riddims in Jamaica. Johnson also released music under a subsidiary label, Jaywax.