Born in Lancashire in 1955, Stephen Johnson studied at the Northern School of Music, Manchester, and under Alexander Goehr at Leeds University.
After a brief period working for BBC Radio 3 - listening to LPs for clicks prior to transmission - he did a postgraduate course at Manchester University (subject: Shostakovich's String Quartets). Then two friends - the composer Robert Simpson and the record producer Andrew Keener - suggested he try musical journalism. This soon grew into a full-time career.
Since then he has broadcast frequently for BBC Radio 3, 4 and World Service, major projects including 14 programmes about the music of Bruckner for the centenary of the composer's death (1996), and has written regularly for The Independent,The Guardian, BBC Music Magazine and Gramophone.