Johnny Horton!

Here is a Country / Rockabilly Artist who, although born in 1925, was at the top of the charts in 1959 and killed in 1960 by a Drunk Driver.  I was 19 at the time of his first “Smash Hit” and even though I was not a Country fan, I really liked this song and it was played everywhere.  His career, while at the top, although short, did produce more than one hit record and he became a bona fied Pop Star.
Johnny Horton
(April 3, 1925–November 5, 1960),

Video: From 1959/Black and White/The Battle of New Orleans/

1.  The Battle of New Orleans/ Columbia 41339/ May 1959/ #1 (6)  #1 Country (10)

2.  Sink the Bismarck/ Columbia 41568/ March 1960/ #3

3.  North to Alaska (title song from the John Wayne Movie)/Columbia 41782/ October 1960/ #4

Johnny Horton had several top ten songs in the late 50’s and early 60’s and was on the verge of becoming one of the top stars of the 60’s when he met with tragedy.

He was born John Gale Horton in Los Angeles in 1925. He was raised in Tyler, Texas. Horton worked in the fishing industry in Alaska and California, and attended Seattle University. He worked for a while as a carpenter, and played basketball at Baylor University. He worked at a local radio station in East Texas and at the Hometown Jamboree in California. He did some recording with little success for the Abbott, Mercury, and Dot labels and picked up the nickname the Singing Fisherman. Horton became a regular on the Louisiana Hayride.

Johnny married Billie Jean Jones, the widow of country music legend Hank Williams. He sang country songs and signed a recording contract with Columbia, where he would achieve his greatest success. Some of his first hits included Honky Tonk Man, I’m A One-Woman Man in 1956, Coming Home in 1957 and All Grown Up in 1958. He topped the country charts in 1959 with When It’s Springtime In Alaska.

Johnny Horton then began to record a series of saga songs that crossed over to the pop charts. He covered Jimmy Driftwood’s The Battle Of New Orleans in 1959. The song topped the country charts and it reached number one on the pop charts, where it remained for a solid six weeks. The song was a tribute to the final battle of the War of 1812. He also recorded Sink The Bismarck in 1960, a song that was suggested by the film of the same title; it went top ten country and pop. Johnny Horton was a star. He sang the title song for the John Wayne movie North To Alaska and it too made the top ten in both charts during the same year.

On November 5, 1960, while North To Alaska was still climbing the charts, Horton was killed in an automobile accident in Milano, Texas following an appearance at the Skyline Club in Austin. He is buried in Hillcrest Cemetery in Haughton, LA.

–o–

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3 responses to “Johnny Horton!

  1. I agree that Johnny Horton was a star on the rise. I loved the songs on Columbia records. I forgotten how soon he died, after having his successes on the charts in 1960.

  2. Hello Gents, Great posting. Did you notice that the first photo here shows Horton with Bill Black, bass and Scotty Moore, gtr.? Yep, Elvis Sun Records band. There are photos of Bill Black and a Kay C1 bass on Louisiana Hay Ride. Here he is playing the Kay M1 with the white trim that is often seen in later photos with Elvis. Interesting to know that guitarist James Burton was with the Louisiana Hay Ride houseband and later played for Elvis after playing on many hit sessions.

  3. Hi Sam
    I think James Burton played with Roy Orbison too.
    Very observant of you about the Kay M1 bass used by Bill Black!

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