Nathaniel Johnson, veteran American radio broadcaster and record producer, was born in Concord, Massachusetts where he attended both private and public schools. From an early age, he showed a remarkable aptitude for music and sound reproduction.
In 1961, he joined the U.S. Army Intelligence Agency where he majored in communications during training at Fort Devens, Massachusetts. In 1962, he was assigned to the Hakata Base, Japan where he spent twenty-four months as a specialist in foreign communications for the United States Army Security Agency.
Following an honorable discharge in 1964, Johnson, a student at Emerson College, became a radio announcer and later, Music Director for radio station WBCN-FM in Boston, a primary originator of classical music programming for east-coast stations of The Concert Network. In 1966, Johnson broke with the traditional classical format and introduced Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band to New England radio audiences, marking the first FM stereo broadcast in the United States of this revolutionary Beatles album. While Music Director at WBCN-FM, Johnson brought his popular organ music program, "The King of Instruments", to college radio stations WERS-FM at Emerson College, Boston, and to WBUR-FM at Boston University.
In 1967, Johnson joined the WGBH Educational Foundation and was assigned the unique, triple-role of announcer, producer and audio engineer. In 1969, Johnson became the first classical announcer on WGBH Radio to host and engineer Morning Pro Musica and continued in this role until 1971 when he passed the position on to Robert J. Lurtsema. For nearly 12 years, Johnson served as audio balance engineer and music editor for WGBH Radio and TV, supervising sound recordings radio and TV drama plus recordings of live broadcasts by the Boston Symphony and Boston Pops Orchestras. In addition he supervised numerous live radio concerts from Jordan Hall at The New England Conservatory of Music, The Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum, Sanders Theater at Harvard University and Kresge Auditorium, MIT.
In the mid-1970s, Johnson collaborated with artists and producers at the New Television Workshop at WGBH, which supported the creation and broadcast of experimental works by video artists from 1974 to 1993. Johnson received a grant from the Rockefeller Foundation to produce a video-synthesized version of Debussy's Girl With the Flaxen Hair arranged by Isao Tomita on RCA Red Seal.
In 1980, prior to his departure from WGBH, Johnson was engaged by Masterpiece Theatre Executive Producer Joan Wilson to produce a new record album, "Favorite Themes from Masterpiece Theatre." Johnson then commissioned two British composers, Kenyon_Emrys-Roberts (Poldark) and Wilfrid Josephs (I, Claudius) to extend their respective themes for inclusion on the forthcoming album. Johnson supervised the recording sessions in the BBC Studios at Maida Vale. During his tenure at WGBH Johnson also collaborated with Alistair Cooke on various Public TV programs and, occasionally, recorded Cooke's "Letter From America" for later broadcast on the BBC.
In the 1970s, Johnson participated in the WGBH Radio Drama Development Project and later studied radio drama production with Desmond Briscoe of the BBC Radiophonic Workshop at WHA in Madison, Wisconsin. As audio designer for WGBH Radio Drama projects, Johnson produced "Herakles" by Archibald MacLeish, an experimental radio drama in quadraphonic sound.
While in England for WGBH, Johnson received an invitation from Ray Dolby to tour Dolby Laboratories at Clapham. Working with Dolby engineers in New York, Nat Johnson pioneered the implementation of Dolby Surround Sound for compact-discs at the RCA Studios where he remastered numerous Dolby Surround albums for both the RCA Red Seal and RCA Victor labels. Among his principal projects in Dolby Surround were the remakes of RCA's Victory at Sea (Volumes 1 & 2), Motion Picture Classics (Volumes 1 & 2) with Arthur Fiedler and the Boston Pops and "Themes From The Pink Panther" which Johnson remastered in collaboration with composer Henry Mancini.
In 1991, Nathaniel Johnson was appointed Head of Reissues at RCA Records in New York, having previously produced two quadraphonic LP best-sellers for RCA Red Seal Records, "Spaced-Out Bach," Volumes I and II. Following "Spaced-Out Bach", Johnson produced a 3-record boxed set of Bach's English Suites for RCA Red Seal, London. At RCA in New York, Johnson supervised the remastering of the entire 64-CD Grammy Award-winning Heifetz Collection along with numerous albums from the RCA Living Stereo series and the Toscanini Edition. In addition, Johnson supervised the remastering of an award-winning collection of Boston Symphony albums featuring music by French composers, conducted by Charles Münch. Over several years, Johnson also supervised the restoration of numerous recordings by Arthur Fiedler and the Boston Pops Orchestra for RCA Red Seal Records and RCA Victor.
In 1999, while supervising classical reissues at BMG/RCA, Johnson initiated a revolutionary audiophile series of high-end compact discs, “High Performance,” featuring outstanding analogue LP masters of performances by the Boston Symphony and Boston Pops Orchestras. In addition, High Performance highlighted a variety of eminent artists including Erich Leinsdorf, Arthur Fiedler, Leontyne Price, Vladimir Horowitz and the Guarneri Quartet.
In 2000, Nathaniel Johnson was nominated for a Grammy Award for Best Historical Album as Producer of a 94-CD set, The Rubinstein Collection for RCA Red Seal Records.
In 2001, Johnson created an innovative web-based, multimedia music education program titled "Music Matters" for Northeastern University in conjunction with the university's student Cooperative Education program.
In 2003, Johnson founded Rockport Restoration Studios - an independent company dedicated to the conservation and preservation of historic recordings. Since 2005, Johnson has concentrated on the restoration and preservation of all extant speeches and addresses by Franklin Delano Roosevelt and Winston Churchill. He is a member of The Roosevelt Institute and has restored Churchill's address, "Their Finest Hour" for The Churchill Centre.
The author of several novels, screenplays and a collection of short stories, Johnson's most recent works have appeared in AlienSkin, Boston Literary Magazine, Writer’s Stories, SNM Horror Magazine, Bewildering Stories’ First Quarterly Review 2010, The Foundling Review, Every Day Fiction, and Absent Willow Review.
In 2010, Johnson launched a blog honoring the pioneers who built WGBH, titled WGBH & Friends.