The multiple roles in which John Clayton excels—composer, arranger, conductor, producer, educator, and, yes, bassist—have earned him a Grammy Award as well as eight Grammy nominations.
After graduating from Indiana University's School of Music with a degree in bass performance in 1975, he toured with the Monty Alexander Trio, then with the Count Basie Orchestra, and later as the principal bassist with the Amsterdam Philharmonic Orchestra. During his time in Europe, he was also a bass instructor at the Royal Conservatory in the Hague.
In 1985, he moved to California, cofounded the Clayton-Hamilton Jazz Orchestra in 1986, rekindled the Clayton Brothers quintet, and taught bass at California State University at Long Beach, University of California at Los Angeles, and University of Southern California. In 1988, he joined the faculty of the University of Southern California Thornton School of Music, where he taught until 2009. Now, in addition to holding individual clinics, workshops, and teaching private students, Clayton directs the educational components associated with the Lionel Hampton Jazz Festival, Centrum Festival, and Vail Jazz Party.
His career highlights include arranging the "Star Spangled Banner" for Whitney Houston's performance at the 1990 Super Bowl (the recording went platinum); playing bass on Paul McCartney's album Kisses on the Bottom; arranging and playing bass with Yo-Yo Ma & Friends on Songs of Joy and Peace; arranging, conducting, and performing on the 2009 album Charles Aznavour & the Clayton-Hamilton Jazz Orchestra; recording with Diana Krall, the Clayton Brothers, the Clayton-Hamilton Jazz Orchestra, Milt Jackson, Monty Alexander, and many others; and working with Queen Latifah, Dee Dee Bridgewater, and Gladys Knight.