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John Elliott's Obituary

John F. Elliott, 87, Lenexa, Kan., Musician/Teacher, passed away June 24th, 2013. John was born April 21, 1926, in Kansas City, Kan., son of Dr. John A and Anna M. Elliott. He attended area grade schools and graduated from Shawnee Mission Rural High School in 1944. He enlisted in the U.S. Navy and after his tour of duty, he enrolled at Kansas University. There he was a member of Delta Upsilon fraternity. He continued his education at the Kansas City Conservatory of Music and graduated in 1950 with a degree in composition. While at the Conservatory, he met his wife, Betty. They were married in 1950. He created and taught his own method of jazz and other music theory. His lessons have been copied. His teaching was special and that is his legacy. He was preceded in death by his parents and his sister, Jane Raidl. He leaves his wife, Betty, of their home; his nephew, John Alan Raidl; his niece, Janelle Daurio; also a great niece and nephew. Internment at Johnson County Memorial Gardens. Private services. He has asked that there be no flowers or other memorials. "And the night shall be filled with music and the cares that infest the day...shall silently steal away."  

From the Guestbook on John's Obituary page

June 5, 2014


I'm writing more about john. His memorization trick is not was brilliant. Connecting visualization of a chord the sound and spelling together. You can't forget John Elliott's chord cataloging. And I never will. I wish I could teach and give back. He actually came to one of my gigs in the 70's. No teacher ever went to that length for me. He told me to keep my hands on the keyboard:-) And I have John. THANKS.


Franklin Russell, Kula hi, HI 

February 03, 2014


I studied with John beginning during my senior year at the UMKC Conservatory of Music. I had been on a waiting list for years. If my memory is correct we met in the lower floor of Quigley's Music in Kansas City.


He was a "maestro-teacher" whose dedication to music was second to none. He had huge musical "ears."

I had heard and have heard stories that he could be "difficult" during lessons because of his extraordinary mind, but I never experienced any negativity whatsoever. I was of limited ability as a musician and got the feeling that he believed that passing on wisdom is never wasted as long as the student's heart was "true." 


Besides his dedication I admired that he understood, and decided to teach harmony based upon "what was" and did not allow his organization to be convoluted by how harmony developed historically. Obviously he knew the history of music, but that subject was not relevant to his opus.


I have all of the papers from his lessons as prized mementos. One can still see the neat pencil writing. Perhaps in the future all of his pupils can contribute our papers so that someone can organize them and share them with the world.


It is often told that some people of greatness are not recognized in their lifetime. That can be true, but as limited as my abilities were, I knew while I was studying with him how special he was and how lucky I was to be sitting at his elbow, if even for a few years. 


I liked the way he carried himself: He was dignified but not stuffy. He was "cool" in the way of Jazz musicians - a dedicated musician who did not have any "airs."


God Bless John F. Elliott. The world is better for his having been here.


Jonathan Zeko,

San Diego, California



November 01, 2013

John saved my life musically and intellectually back in 1973. I remember my first lesson with him starting out with him asking me why I wanted to study with him. I told him that that I wanted to just know what made music "tick". "We can do that" was his reply. You need to start from scratch. This is my method. You won't find it anywhere else.". I said ok, and after the first month I knew he was right and I saw the "big picture" right away. I have been preaching "the musical gospel of John" ever since. What a great blessing we have been given. Thanks John. We'll keep passing the torch.



Bob Horton,


Palm Harbor, Florida




July 11, 2013

My condolences, Betty. I know its been way too long. They put me away up here at Wexford. Not playing the horn much anymore. All my love from a washed up old man. Tony D






                                                                       Tony DiBenedetto,

Kansas City North,  Missouri





July 08, 2013

John taught me piano, harmonic theory and composition, jazz and classical technique and all were invaluable. I would always try to coax him into playing during my lessons, because hearing him play was a treat beyond compare. Even greater than all that was the friendship and hours of conversation we shared on a host of topics from science to philosophy to finance to sports and much more. He was a great mentor in every respect and the finest teacher one could ever hope to have. His work and his life lives on in all his students and those who had the real pleasure of knowing the unassuming yet powerful talent that was John Elliott.



Terry Gerkovich,


Prairie Village, Kansas




July 07, 2013

Thank you John>>>
My years of study with John opened unlimited understanding of the what is not written on the page. He removed the mystery in improv. Through John all barriers are removed in music.



Phil Rogers,


Blue Springs, Missouri




July 05, 2013

We have always felt so fortunate to be the neighbors of John and Betty Elliott. May the legacy of John's extraordinary talent be a gift to young musicians for many, many years. Much love and prayers to my wonderful friend and neighbor Betty.



Shelle Cox,

                                                                                                                                            Lenexa, Kansas




July 03, 2013

I was so very fortunate to grow up in Overland Park with my Dad, Tommy Williams as one of the premier tenor sax and woodwind player/teacher in KC area. In addition to starting me on clarinet and then sax he sent me to Bob Luyben (Luyben's Music) for clarinet lessons and Jim Hamilton (first in KC Phil) for flute lessons. While early in junior high I was piddling around on the piano and my dad said there were never enough good piano players around so I should go learn piano and arranging with John. I sincerely believe that was the most fortuitous act of many my father did for me in my young musical life.

Every Saturday morning I would go to John's studio on 95th and learn harmony, theory and arranging starting at age 12 or so. Within the first year of study John noticed I had some proficiency on the piano and said why don't we do have theory/arranging and half formal piano lessons as he agreed there were never enough good piano players around. In spite of studying woodwinds full time I began to quickly learn a whole new language of theory and harmony by practicing John's meticulous methods. He opened my ears with the figured bass system and got me hearing in colors, easily identifying chords by ear. And learning the classical repertoire and jazz standards with him was magical. I still use the finger exercises to stay in shape and for warm up.

I most remember his amazingly gentle demeanor, searingly intense but child like love for music and discovery. Every advance in learning with him felt to me like he shared in the triumph. I came to revere him as a person and I can only remember one time I was not fully prepared to ace my lesson. That's all it took because he didn't have to say anything to me but "You didn't practice, come back next week". I was mortified as there was no one I more respected than Mr. Elliot. Through my next 6 years with him I studied and practiced every lesson until I had it down so as not to let him down.

I credit much of my success as a professional musician with the intelligence, passion, wit and magic of John Elliot. Pat Metheny and I don't see each other often but when we do we always talk of what a giant John was and will always be in our hearts and minds.

Larry Williams
Los Angeles

Larry Williams,

Los Angeles, California





July 02, 2013

I am saddened to learn of the passing of John. He was a consummate musician who couldn't be rattled no matter what. And boy, what a gentle man. He played piano on almost every recording session I produced when I worked in Kansas City. I one time asked the rhythm section to make a stupid five bar phrase sound musical to hit a timing. John was the one who made it work. I always knew when I had succeeded or failed by the look on his face as he played one of my charts. It was a tiny smile or he just focused on the music in front of him and showed no reaction.

He also taught me two great lessons that changed my life. He said if only one other person is touched by your music, you have succeeded. He also said not to end life by saying I wish I had… That's why I've spent the last 34 years in Los Angeles amongst the best of the best in music. Thanks John.

David Izzard

David Izzard,

Los Angeles, California





July 02, 2013

In his obituary it says "his lessons have been copied". I know this is true, because I copied them! I still have the materials from our lessons. I use them all the time. He gave me a big break by letting me sub on his early 70's Hilton hotel gig when I needed it so. Thank you John.

Steve Lockwood,

Los Angeles, California





July 02, 2013

The stuff I got from John I use every day of my life. To a great degree, he has enabled me to make a living with the guitar and for that I am immensely, eternally grateful. I consider it providential that his path and my path intersected. I have benefited enormously by having known him.

Jay EuDaly,

Kansas City, Missouri





July 02, 2013

 I never had the honor of knowing Mr. Elliott, but the eloquent testimony of his friends & talented associates here, & elsewhere, are more than sufficient for me to begin to understand that an invaluable, humane sage & wisdom teacher in the Arts has left us. But he has clearly left also his decisive mark & lasting influence here in our community. I only hope the contributions of exceptional educators like himself may become more recognized & acknowledged.

Jay Mandeville,

Independence, Missouri





July 02, 2013

I'm so sorry for your loss. I only know John through his wonderful reputation. He was an incredible man who touched so many lives. His spirit lives on! I know Bill is greeting John in Heaven!

Kimberly Caldwell,

Wichita, Kansas




June 30, 2013

I'll always be grateful for John's recommendation that I listen to Bill Evans. He is my favorite jazz pianist. Wish I could have heard John play.

Liz Craig,

Mission, Kansas




June 29, 2013

Johnny was our pianist in the Roger Muir Orchestra during the 1940s and 1950s. There wasn't a more pleasant guy or finer pianist and arranger in Kansas City at the time. His arrangements included "'Swonderful," "April in Paris" and "In the Rain," sung by our song bird Ellen White. Only Leonard Wyatt, Bob Nester and I remain; as soon as we're all together again, maybe we'll do it all over - from memory!

Roger Muir,

Ventura, California




June 29, 2013

I studied jazz piano with John from '79 through '83. He took a trombone-playing kid knowing only Sousa marches to a much higher jazz standards player. He had the perfect balance between patience and discipline.

I recall one night in the early 80's, my wife and I went to see John perform with a trio at the penthouse club at the Hyatt Regency Hotel. His jazz sound was as elegant as one could ever experience.

John came over to our table on break and apologized for playing “Do The Hustle”, saying that management wanted some disco music added to the mix.

We said, “Oh, no, that was the most beautiful version of ‘Do The Hustle' we had ever heard.”

John, you will live on within us FOREVER -- through music appreciation and life in general. 

Gene & Vickie Frost

Gene & Vickie Frost,

Merriam, Kansas




June 29, 2013

It was truly my pleasure to take care of John in his final months. I only wish I had known him many years before in his teaching days. He was one in a million and will forever live on in my heart.

Shannon Wrigley,

Kansas City, Kansas




June 27, 2013

Celebrating a life well lived and an impact on the musical history of Kansas City. We were honored to be your neighbor and friend.

Caryn Brown,

Lenexa, Kansas




June 27, 2013

The greatest teacher!!! Thank you John.

George Boje,

Overland Park, Kansas




June 26, 2013

I use what I learned from John every day of my life. I use his method when I teach, play, or learn a new instrument. He asked a lot from every one of his students. I feel very fortunate to have known him and studied with him. He is missed but he lives on in the music we play and listen to.

Rick Mareske,

Kansas City, Kansas




June 26, 2013

My prayers and love go out to you Betty as you say goodbye to John. You are a wonderful example of a loving and devoted wife. Please know I'm always here for you my friend

Denise Huber,

Lenexa, Kansas




June 26, 2013

John was my jazz theory teacher about 30 years ago. He was an excellent teacher and musician. I'm very sorry to hear of his passing.

Liz Craig,

Mission, Kansas


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