Hoyt Johnson, He Could Have Been the Greatest

Arley, Alabama never knew how to contend with Hoyt. As a matter of fact, the surrounding counties and even Nashville, Tennessee, didn't know! His story began, as I was told, on a chicken farm. Music was a part of the Johnson Family; everyone played an instrument or two. Mamma wrote beautiful songs and I suppose it was only natural for Hoyt to be good at this also. However, the talent he possessed was overruled by an inner demon that a lot of artists have to contend with.

Becoming good at guitar, mandolin, fiddle, singing and writing, Hoyt soon made a few recordings, with modest hits. "Eenie Meenie Minie Moe" on Erwin Records out of Memphis, Tn. drew interest from all over the industry. He was soon on The Louisiana Hayride and recording with Chet Atkins as his producer on RCA. While with RCA, Hoyt recorded "Little Boy Blue" b/w "My Special Girl". He was asked to be a member of The Grand Ole Opry, but this is when everyone realized his weakness.

The Cavemen
Front L-R: Jerry Grammer, Maybron MckKinney,
Hoyt Johnson and J.C. Raynor.
Back L-R: Harold Hollis and Judge Wright (not shown Scotty Moore)

Recording as many as a dozen small hits, writing songs for other artists and performing regular with "The Cavemen", a group consisting of good musicians, including Mabron McKinney (later to form "HourGlass") with the Allman Brothers, The Great Scotty Moore on guitar, Jerry Grammer, (drums and Trumpet, later to work with "The Clovers", Joe South, Charlie Rich, Johnny Tillotson, Redd Foxx, Brother Dave Gardner, Jerry Woodard and many more.) Hoyt had it all.

The Grand Ole Opry dropped him, his band dropped him, some fans dropped him, so there was nothing left except to retreat to the Chicken Farm and his bottle. Hoyt died from the excesses of his being unable to cope with those inner demons! The Music Business lost a genius. He could have been the greatest!

Story by Jerry Grammer
Used with permission, 2003