“They call it practicing. Let’s agree, no more practicing. From now on, only perform!” –John Clayton
Clayton began studying double bass at age 16 with Ray Brown. Three years later he was bassist on the Henry Mancini’s television series The Mancini Generation. In 1975, he graduated from Indiana University.
He went on to tour with the Monty Alexander Trio and the Count Basie Orchestra before taking the position of principal bass in the Amsterdam Philharmonic Orchestra in Amsterdam, Netherlands. After five years he returned to the U.S. for break from the classical genre and founded the Clayton-Hamilton Jazz Orchestra with his brother, saxophonist Jeff Clayton, and drummer Jeff Hamilton. He also performed in a duo as the Clayton Brothers with musicians such as Bill Cunliffe and Terell Stafford.
He has been Artistic Director for the Lionel Hampton Jazz Festival, Sarasota Jazz Festival, Santa Fe Jazz Party, Jazz Port Townsend Summer Workshop, Jazz at Centrum and Vail Jazz Workshop. From 1999 to 2001 was Artistic Director of Jazz for the Los Angeles Philharmonic program at the Hollywood Bowl. He conducted the All-Alaska Jazz Band. He has taught at the University of Southern California Thornton School of Music and has served as president of the International Society of Bassists.
He has composed and arranged for The Count Basie Orchestra, Diana Krall, Whitney Houston, Carmen McRae, Nancy Wilson, Joe Williams, Ernestine Anderson, Quincy Jones, Dee Dee Bridgewater, Natalie Cole, Till Bronner, and The Tonight Show Band.