Johnny Horton, Honky Tonk Rockabilly Legend
Born: April 30, 1925
Johnny grew up in Rusk, Texas. Although he was born in Los Angeles he always insisted that East Texas was his home. He first hit the headlines as a star basketball player for baylor University. After collegiate years, Johnny became a professional angler. From childhood, Horton spent every leisure moment working with fishing tackle and equipment. He fished every stream in that lake-covered south-east Texas inland area and the Gulf of Mexico shoreline. As a hobby, while relaxing after a day in hip-boots or in a rowboat with a fishing party, Johnny took up pickin' and singin'. On one of his expeditions into the mossfiligreed bayous, a staff member of radiostation KWKH (Shreveport) was fishing. Horton, as usual, played and sang for the group. The report of this staff member reached Horace Logan, programm director of the Louisiana Hayride. Only one audition covinced logan that Horton had it all. So, Johnny stayed in Shreveport, Louisiana, where he was a star for eight years on the Louisiana Hayride Radio Show.
Fabor Robison (Fabor Records), a fellow Texan, heard Johnny perform on the Hayride. A personal talk and an audition convinced Robison he had a new star! And he was right! Johnny recorded his first ten singles on Abbott (a Fabor sub-label), with two sides being duets with Billy Barton. Horton had his first hit on the country music charts with "Gobbler, the hounddog" and some other big ones for the Fabor label. And the string of hits never really stopped. Of course, the New Orleans epic hit a new peak. Johnny recorded the Jimmy Driftwoord song "The battle of New Orleans" in 1959 and it became a number 1 hit, it even wound up being the number one song for the entire year.
Johnny was killed in an automobile crash on November 5, 1960, on U.S. Route 79 near the small town of Milano, Texas. He was returning from an engagement in Austin, Texas. His widow, Billy Jean, was the former wife of Hank Williams, who met his death in the backseat of a car, on his way to do a show, in 1953. Hank's hart just gave out from alcohol and drugs abuse.
More recently, in 1996, Bear Family dug up a Johnny Horton recording that had been mysteyously burried for 40 years. It is a very good cover of the Tennessee Ernie Ford original "Shotgun Boogie" which is now issued on the Bear Family CD "That'll flat git it! Volume 8". Most, if not all, of Johnny recordings, masters and demos, have been re-issued by Bear Family records are are very much worth while!
Johnny did a lot of country and western, for us Rockabilly freaks, the following tracks are the most interesting and they have all been compiled on a Bear Family LP named "Rockin' Rollin' Johnny Horton" which was first issued in 1981 (recording dates between brackets).
Compiled by The BlackCat from the following sources: