A self taught drummer, el john was raised in a musical family in the New York neighborhoods of Crown Heights and West Harlem. el john learned piano at home and sang in church choir at an early age. By age 12 el john was participating in West African drum and dance ensembles at Babatunde Olatunji's Center for African Culture in Harlem while also being invited to drum in street rhumbas with Cuban and Peurto Rican congueros in the neighborhoods of Harlem. Eventually developing a natural interest in the trap drum set, el john studied privately with master drummers Alan Nelson, Anthony Williams, and David Girabaldi. In 1982, el john joined the Pagan Babies as their percussionist, an experience that honed practical knowledge and skills of African and Carribean rythyms such as zouk, high-life, reggae, and Nyabinghi. It is during this period also that el john met Poi Dog Pondering founder, Frank Orrall which developed a lifetime friendship and musical partnership.
Among the artists el john has worked with: Thievery Corporation, Poi Dog Pondering, Victor Krummenacher, Charanga Cakewalk, Federico Aubele, Penelope Houston, and Benny Rietveld, Captain Bringdown, Candy Machine, and The Pagan Babies,.