TRIBUTE TO JOHNNY HORTON

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My Favorite All-time singer by Cecil Buffington

I don't exactly remember when I first heard Johnny Horton sing.  My thoughts are it was when his rendition of "The Battle of New Orleans" hit the Top 40 and Country and western charts around 1955.  I do know that sometime after that, "Springtime in Alaska" became one of my Favorites.  "Sink the Bismarke" and "North  to alaska" also became favorites.  I guess I play Johnny Horton more than any other disc when I am driving.  I have three or four albums from Johnny that all have a favorite or two on them.  All receive playing time as I move along the Northeast Georgia highways.

I do consider myself to be somewhat of an authority on Johnny Horton.  I have studied about every piece of literature available on the net about his life and times. I continue to be fascinated by the Johnny Horton story.  Like so many of our favorites, Buddy Holly, Jim Croce, Joan Baez and others, he was taken from us far too early.  His music still lives on as I hear his works on some of the oldies stations from time to time.  The days of the pure country singer or combination top 40/country singers are just about gone.  That's sad, but time just does not stand still.  I expect I'll always listen to Johnny Horton music. My destiny seems to strive on happiness derived from 50's, 60's and 70's nostalgia.  Johnny Horton will always be a big part of my 50's and 60's memories.  This tribute features a complete history of Johnny Horton in text and in Photo's.  I hope all cecilbuffington.com viewers enjoy it as much as I enjoyed putting it together.

The Johnny Horton Story 

Although he is better-remembered for his historical songs, Johnny Horton was one of the best and most popular honky tonk singers of the late '50s. Horton managed to infuse honky tonk with an urgent rockabilly underpinning. His career may have been cut short by a fatal car crash in 1960, but his music reverberated throughout the next three decades.

Horton was born in Los Angeles in 1925, the son of sharecropping parents. During his childhood, his family continually moved between California and Texas, in an attempt to find work. His mother taught him how to play guitar at the age of 11. Horton graduated from high school in 1944 and attended a Methodist seminary with the intent of joining a ministry. After a short while, he left the seminary and began traveling across the country, eventually moving to Alaska in 1949 to become a fisherman. While he was in Alaska, he began writing songs in earnest.

The following year, Horton moved back to east Texas, where he entered a talent contest hosted by Jim Reeves, who was then an unknown vocalist. He won the contest, which encouraged him to pursue a career as a performer. Horton started out by playing talent contests throughout Texas, which is where he gained the attention of Fabor Robison, a music manager that was notorious for his incompetence and his scams. In early 1951, Robison became Horton's manager and managed to secure him a recording contract with Corman Records. However, shortly after his signing, the label folded. Robison then founded his own label, Abbott Records, with the specific intent of recording Horton. None of these records had any chart success. During 1951, Horton began performing on various Los Angeles TV shows and hosted a radio show in Pasadena, where he performed under the name "the Singing Fisherman." By early 1952, Robison had moved Horton to Mercury Records.

At the end of 1951, Horton relocated from California to Shreveport, LA, where he became a regular on the Louisiana Hayride. However, Lousiana was filled with pitfalls -- his first wife left him shortly after the move, and Robison severed all ties with Horton when he became Reeves' manager. During 1952, Hank Williams rejoined the cast of the Hayride and became a kind of mentor for Horton. After Williams died on New Year's Eve of 1952, Horton became close with his widow, Billie Jean; the couple married in September of 1953.

Although he had a regular job on the Hayride, Horton's recording career was going nowhere -- none of his Mercury records were selling, and rock & roll was beginning to overtake country's share of the market place. Horton's fortunes changed in the latter half of 1955, when he hired Webb Pierce's manager Tillman Franks as his own manager and quit Mercury Records. Franks had Pierce help him secure a contract for Horton with Columbia Records by the end of 1955. The change in record labels breathed life into Horton's career. At his first Columbia session, he cut "Honky Tonk Man," his first single for the label and one that would eventually become a honky tonk classic. By the spring of 1956, the song had reached the country Top Ten and Horton was well on his way to becoming a star.

"Honky Tonk Man" was edgy enough to have Horton grouped in on the more country-oriented side of rockabilly. Wearing a large cowboy hat to hide his receding hairline, he became a popular concert attraction and racked up three more hit singles -- "I'm a One-Woman Man" (number seven), "I'm Coming Home" (number 11), "The Woman I Need" (number nine) -- in the next year. However, the hits dried up just as quickly as they arrived; for the latter half of 1957 and 1958, he didn't hit the charts at all. Horton responded by cutting some rockabilly, which was beginning to fall out of favor by the time his singles were released.

In the fall of 1958, he bounced back with the Top Ten "All Grown Up," but it wasn't until the ballad "When It's Springtime in Alaska (It's Forty Below)" hit the charts in early 1959 that he achieved a comeback. The song fit neatly into the folk-based story songs that were becoming popular in the late '50s, and it climbed all the way to number one. Its success inspired his next single, "The Battle of New Orleans." Taken from a 1958 Jimmie Driftwood album, the song was a historical saga song like "When It's Springtime in Alaska," but it was far more humorous. It was also far more successful, topping the country charts for ten weeks and crossing over into the pop charts, where it was number one for six weeks. After the back-to-back number one successes of "When It's Spring Time in Alaska" and "The Battle of New Orleans," Horton concentrated solely on folky saga songs. "Johnny Reb" became a Top Ten hit in the fall of 1959, and "Sink the Bismarck" was a Top Ten hit in the spring of 1960, followed by the number one hit "North to Alaska" in the fall of 1960.

Around the time of "North to Alaska"'s November release, Horton claimed that he was getting premonitions of an early death. Sadly, his premonitions came true. On November 4, 1960, he suffered a car crash driving home to Shreveport after a concert in Austin, TX. Horton was still alive after the wreck, but he died on the way to the hospital; the other passengers in his car had severe injuries, but they survived. Although he died early in his career, Horton left behind a recorded legacy that proved to be quite influential. Artists like George Jones and Dwight Yoakam have covered his songs, and echoes of Horton's music can still be heard in honky tonk and country-rock music well into the '90s.

John Gale "Johnny" Horton (April 30, 1925–November 5, 1960) was an American country music and rockabilly singer most famous for his semi-folk, so-called "saga songs" which began the "historical ballad" craze of the late 1950s and early 1960s. With them, he had several major successes, most notably during 1959 with the song "The Battle of New Orleans" (written by Jimmy Driftwood) which was awarded the 1960 Grammy Award for Best Country & Western Recording. The song was awarded the Grammy Hall of Fame Award, and during 2001 ranked No. 333 of the Recording Industry Association of America's "Songs of the Century".

During 1960, Horton had two other successes with "North to Alaska" for John Wayne's movie, North to Alaska, and "Sink the Bismarck." Horton is a member of the Rockabilly Hall of Fame.

Biography

Early life

Horton was born in Los Angeles, California, to John and Claudia Horton, the youngest of five siblings, and raised in Rusk, Texas. His family often traveled to California often as migrant fruit pickers. After graduation from Gallatin High School during 1944, he attended the Methodist-affiliated Lon Morris College (then named Lon Morris Junior College) in Jacksonville, Texas, with a basketball scholarship. He later attended Seattle University and briefly attended Baylor University, although he did not graduate from any of these institutions.

Horton soon went back to California where he found work in the mail room of Hollywood's Selznick Studio. It was here that he met his future wife, secretary Donna Cook.

Horton and older brother Frank briefly pursued the study of geology at Seattle during 1948 but both ended after a few weeks. He went to Florida, then back to California before Horton left for Alaska to look for gold. It was during this period that he began writing songs. He joined Frank in Seattle, went south to Los Angeles, then after Frank married, left for Texas. After much prompting from his sister Marie, he entered a talent contest at the Reo Palm Isle club in Longview, Texas, sponsored by radio station KGRI in Henderson. Hosted by station radio announcer and future country music star Jim Reeves, Horton won first prize—an ashtray on a pedestal. Encouraged by the contest, he went back to California, bought some Western-style clothes and entered talent contests.

Horton came to the attention of entrepreneur Fabor Robison, whose first job as manager was to give him a job with Cliffie Stone's Hometown Jamboree on KXLA-TV in Pasadena. During his early guest performances he worked with musicians such as Merle Travis and Tennessee Ernie Ford. The station then gave him a regular half-hour Saturday night program billed as the Singing Fisherman, during which he sang and displayed his casting skills with a fishing rod. Around this time he also hosted the radio program Hacienda Party Time for KLAC-TV in Los Angeles.

A mixture of Horton's television performances and Robison's acquaintances earned him a couple of singles with the minor Cormac recording company. The first single coupled "Plaid And Calico" with "Done Rovin'" and the second "Coal Smoke, Valve Oil and Steam" with "Birds and Butterflies". The company then terminated and Robinson acquired the masters and started his own company named Abbott Records. By mid 1952, ten Horton singles had been issued but none were very successful. They were, for the most part, ordinary Western-style songs.

After marriage to Donna and a honeymoon in Palm Springs, he relocated back east to be near the Louisiana Hayride where he was then scheduled to appear on a regular basis. Robison persuaded Mercury Records A&R man Walter Kilpatrick to hire Horton, who began with his songs "First Train Headin' South" b/w "(I Wished for an Angel) The Devil Sent Me You" (Mercury 6412), with good reviews by the trade newspapers.

Horton was married twice. His first marriage, to Donna Cook, ended with a divorce granted in Rusk. During September 1953, he married Billie Jean Jones. Jones was the widow of country music singer Hank Williams, to whom she had been married for the two and one-half months prior to his death. With Billie Jean, Horton had two daughters, Yanina (Nina) and Melody. Billie Jean's daughter, Jerry, was also part of the family.

Louisiana Hayride

During September 1952, Horton acquired a full-time band, the Rowley Trio from Nederland, Texas. Featuring Jerry Rowley playing fiddle, his wife Evelyn playing piano and sister Vera (Dido) playing bass or guitar, they were working at KFDM in Beaumont following some gigs backing Lefty Frizzell. While playing in Beaumont, Horton and Robison heard the Trio and were sufficiently impressed to offer them a job touring. They started driving Johnny to their engagements, but he kept stopping to fish and hunt, so they soon bought him his own car with which he met them at the various venues. The new foursome recruited Bob Stegall but still termed themselves The Singing Fisherman and the Rowley Trio, before changing the name to Johnny Horton and the Roadrunners.

Louisiana Hayride had been playing for more than four years when Horton joined its cast, and during this time he helped many careers including those of Elvis Presley, Hank Williams, Webb Pierce and Bob Luman.

Horton was, by now, a Shreveport resident. His marriage didn't survive the increasing touring and Donna relocated back to Los Angeles. He was amenable to a reconciliation, but was unwilling to go back to the West Coast. During August, Louisiana Hayride welcomed back Hank Williams, only 28 years old but banished from Nashville's Grand Ole Opry for what some considered as his drunkenness and unreliability. On October 19, Williams married Billy Jean Jones, the daughter of a local policeman, in front of a paying audience at New Orleans' Municipal Auditorium. On one occasion during the time Billie Jean and Hank were married, Horton talked to the couple backstage, and at that meeting, Hank predicted that Billie Jean would one day marry Horton. He remained a Hayride member until his death.

By New Year's Eve, Hank Williams was dead. He had died in the back seat of a Cadillac traveling to a show in Canton, Ohio. Horton and the Rowleys were driving home from a gig when they heard the news by radio. They were in Milano, Texas and it was there after a show at Austin's Skyline Club (the same venue as Williams' last show) that Horton was killed seven years later in a car accident.

Married to Billie Jean

Johnny and Billie Jean married on 26 September 1953. They lived by Johnny's gig money, his newly established writers-contract with American Music of Los Angeles and the settlement Billie Jean had eked from the Williams estate. Horton and Robison had by now parted company, after a disagreement which concerned in part Horton's frustration at the amount of time Robison was spending with Jim Reeves. Stegall had left, to be replaced by Richard and Betty Lou Spears, but soon the Rowleys left. He starting using pick-up bands together with Billie Jean's brothers, Alton and Sonny Jones. The career had stalled and he became so disillusioned that he got a job working in a fishing tackle shop, playing only weekends for Hayride. Even this ceased during November 1954. His last session for Mercury September 23 didn't generate a single album and the two year hiatus had been a strange period with songs ranging from answer songs like "Back to My Back Street" to "Train With a Rhumba Beat". The best seller was "All for the Love of a Girl" (Mercury 70227) which sold about 35-45,000 copies.

It was during this time that country music was changing due to influence by the new rock music. With the example of Elvis Presley, rockabilly was becoming more common both on records and on country music bills, with Hayride one of the most progressive in this respect. It was during that program that Horton first saw Presley, and apparently he immediately liked the singer and the style.

Horton then asked Hayride stalwart Tillman Franks for some advice. Five years older than Horton, Franks had played bass for Webb Pierce, managed the Carlisles and Jimmy & Johnny, worked as a booking agent, a car salesman in Houston and served on the police force. He too was unemployed. "I hadn't worked in four or five weeks when Johnny Horton come to the door. He was broke too. He and Billie Jean had spent the money they got after Hank died, and she'd told him to get his tail out and make some more. He said "If I can get Tillman Franks to manage me, I'll get to number one". He came to my house on Summer Street, and I told him that I just didn't like the way he sang. He said, "No problem. I'll sing any way you want me to". And he was serious!".

They'd already met in Mississippi, when Horton had toured with the Carlisles. By mid 1955 Franks had assumed control of the management, and after the end of the Mercury contract, his first job was to find a new company. After communicating with Webb Pierce, who in turn talked to Jim Denny at Cedarwood and Troy Martin at Golden West Melodies, a one-year contract with Columbia was forthcoming. Cedarwood and Golden West Melodies would both get publishing on two songs per session as part of the deal. With no advance and a session due in Nashville, the duo had to borrow David Houston's father's car for the journey, with the promise that they'd try to get Houston a contract while they were there.

First big hit

On the way to the session, Horton and Franks stopped in Memphis at Elvis Presley's house, leaving with ten dollars (they were too poor to buy gas) and the loan of Bill Black on slap bass. Franks had reservations about his own playing and he wanted the sound to be special. On January 11, 1956, Horton entered the Bradley Barn Studio with Bill Black and two of Nashville's major talent agents, Grady Martin and producer Owen Bradley's brother, Harold. The first song played was the mid-tempo rockabilly "I'm a One Woman Man", composed by Horton and Franks. Howard Crockett (Hausey) had played "Honky Tonk Man" to Horton and Franks and after a quick rewriting of the tune, they split the credits three ways. It was the second song cut that day. By midnight, Don Law and Franks had completed two more songs, "I'm Ready if You're Willing" and "I Got a Hole in My Pirogue". Horton and Franks wanted "Honky Tonk Man" to be the lead-off single but Don Law didn't like the song, and it was only after the intervention of Jim Denny that Law relented and issued it with "I'm Ready if You're Willing" on the flip side. Live shows were arranged to advertise the single with the band featuring Franks playing bass and a teenager from Minden, Louisiana, Tommy Tomlinson, playing guitar.

The single was reviewed by the March 10 issue of Billboard, which said of "Honky Tonk Man", "The wine women and song attractions exert a powerful hold on the singer, he admits. The funky sound and pounding beat in the backing suggest the kind of atmosphere he describes. A very good jukebox record." Of the B-side, it read "Horton sings out this cheerful material with amiable personality. This ever more popular stylist ought to expand his circle of fans with this one." By May the record had scored No. 9 on the C&W Jockey chart, as well as No. 14 on the Best Seller chart.

To earn extra money, Horton established a fake ticket agency whereby he telephoned the citizens of Alexandria, Louisiana selling tickets by the name Earl Baker, with Billie Jean delivering them the next day. Franks thought that Billie Jean was keeping some of the money, but discovered he was wrong.

Franks assumed control of the Hayride bookings, organizing performances in the South. Horton was contracted for his Monday night performances on KLTV-TV in Tyler, Texas, which restricted how far away he could tour. He wanted to end the contract, so on one of the shows, when it was time to read a commercial for Hol-Sum Bread, he announced "Friends, we are proud to be here, and proud to be sponsored by Hol-Sum Bread. Tillman Franks my manager eats Hol-Sum Bread, and I eat it too. What I like about Hol-Sum Bread is that it's never touched by hand. That's right, they mix it with their feet". After the show, the station owner called him and said she'd be happier if he stopped working for the station. Now he was free to travel, and he started earning as much as $500 a night.

On May 23 they went back to Music City for a second session. Grady Martin again led the proceedings with Ray Edenton replacing Harold Bradley and Floyd "Lightnin'" Chance standing in on double bass. They began at 7 p.m. with "Take Me Like I Am" before doing the Horton-Hausey composition, "Sugar-Coated Baby". It was one of those mid-tempo tracks at which Horton was to excel, with playful vocals and Martin's bass string guitaring. Claude King's "I Don't Like I Did" was another such song. The fourth cut was Autry Inman's ode to women, "Hooray For That Little Difference".

The next single (Columbia 21538) had "I Don't Like I Did" on the B-side but the header was "I'm a One Woman Man" from the January session. Billboard enthused that "One Woman" was a "Smart and polished job," adding that Horton was "singing with a light, airy touch. Guitar work is just as convincing, adding up to listenable, commercial stuff".

By August, Columbia and Franks ran an advertisement in Billboard claiming their "Sensational New Artist goes on a spree with his newest two-sided hit". The accompanying photo did nothing for the image of a rocker, showing him looking middle-aged with a cowboy hat to hide his receding hair. The campaign continued with a tour of western Texas starting in El Paso with Johnny Cash, Faron Young and Roy Orbison. Booked by Bob Neal Stars Inc. of Memphis, the group moved to Ontario, Canada for six dates commencing on the 18th, culminating in Detroit.

Billboard's first issue in September noted that "Somewhat like his last hit - "Honky Tonk Man" - this release (I'm A One Woman Man) started off rather quietly, but has gradually become a powerful chart contender. This week it made an appearance on the Houston territorial chart and was selling well in Nashville, Dallas, Durham and Birmingham". Within a week or so he was rewarded with a second country hit, this time maximizing at No. 7 on the Jockey chart and No. 9 on both the Best Seller and Jukebox charts.

On October 14, after shows throughout Florida, Horton played in Memphis again for Bob Neal, this time with Johnny Cash, Faron Young, Sonny James, Roy Orbison and the Teen-Kings and Charlene Arthur. They continued around Tennessee until the 23rd, before continuing to New Mexico and West Texas. It must have been a confident crowd that arrived at Bradley's Barn on November 12. Only two songs were produced, the unissued "Over Loving You" and the rockabilly "I'm Coming Home", composed by Horton and Franks.

"I'm Coming Home" was released with "I Got A Hole In My Pirogue" on the flip side (Columbia 40813). Released as the same time as the Johnny Burnette Trio's "Lonesome Train" (Coral 61758) and Rosco Gordon's "Cheese and Crackers" (Sun 257), Billboard predicted that "the singer, has material in I'm Coming Home that could give him his biggest record to date". Horton's vocal against this twangy backing makes a terrific impression. "Pirogue" is a rockabilly type novelty song of great appeal. It's hard to see how this can miss becoming a gold mine". On February 9, Billboard noted that "not only Southern markets are doing good business with this, but Northern cities report that both country and pop customers are going for this in a big way". It was again a success on the country charts (No. 11 Jockey, No. 15 Best Seller) but it failed to score the popular music charts.

He loved fishing as much as, if not more than, singing and was once billed as The Singing Fisherman. His favorite fishing holes were in the Piney Woods of East Texas and in northern Louisiana. His other passion was spiritualism and he was devoted to the writings of spiritualist Edgar Cayce.

Premonitions of death

Horton had premonitions of his death and started telling friends and family that he would soon die at the hands of a drunk. He asked his sister to pray and care for Billie Jean and their daughters, and had his mother visit for the week. He cancelled his scheduled attendance at the premiere of North To Alaska and tried to back out of his next gig, a nightclub date at the Skyline club in Austin, Texas on November 4, 1960.

Tommy Tomlinson flew in from Nashville, where he was producing a duet album with Jerry Kennedy (Tom and Jerry). Johnny used the morning to make arrangements to go duck hunting with Claude King once he'd returned from Austin and he also telephoned Johnny Cash for a chat. Cash didn't accept the call, and always regretted it. Against his wife's wishes, Franks got out of his sick bed and they began traveling to Austin.

When they got to the Skyline club, Horton stayed in his dressing room, saying that a drunk would kill him if went near the bar. After the show, they started the 220-mile (350 km) journey back to Shreveport. Tomlinson was in the back, observing that Horton was driving too fast - Franks was asleep in the front. About 2 a.m., near Milano, Texas they were crossing a bridge when a truck came at them, hitting both sides of the bridge before plunging into Horton's Cadillac. Horton had practiced avoiding head-on collisions by driving into ditches, but on the narrow bridge he had no opportunity. He was still breathing when he was pulled out of the car but died on the way to the hospital. The 19-year-old truck driver, James Davis, was intoxicated. Franks suffered head injuries and young Tomlinson had multiple leg fractures and nine months later, had his left leg amputated. Davis was virtually unscathed.

Tillman's preacher brother, Billy, performed the funeral service on November 8, with Billie Jean becoming a widow for the second time at the age of 28. Johnny Cash read Chapter 20 from the Book of John, having flown in on a chartered airplane.

Columbia released various singles and a greatest successes album and on October 5, 1964, Johnny Cash and the Tennessee Three overdubbed "Rock Island Line" and "I Just Don't Like This Kind of Livin'" to Horton's demos. Other such sessions were held throughout the sixties for album release. "Sleepy-Eyed John" scored the country charts during April 1961, scoring No. 9 and a year later "Honky Tonk Man" was reissued, scoring No. 11. During February 1963 he made his last appearance in the charts (to date) with "All Grown Up" maximizing at No. 26.

An unfounded rumor was that Horton was on his way to Dallas to meet actor Ward Bond on the night of the crash about a role on the NBC-TV series Wagon Train. Bond was attending a football game in Dallas and died of a heart attack several hours after Horton died. Horton, however, was on his way from Austin to Shreveport, Louisiana, not Dallas. An unrelated actor with the last name Horton did appear on Wagon Train—actor Robert Horton.

Horton is buried in the Hillcrest Cemetery in Haughton, east of Bossier City in northwestern Louisiana.

Legacy

Horton will be remembered for his major contribution to both country and rockabilly music. When Johnny Cash, a good friend of Horton's, learned about the accident he said, " locked myself in one of the hotel's barrooms, and cried." Cash also dedicated his rendition of "When It's Springtime in Alaska (It's Forty Below)" to Horton on his album Personal File: "Johnny Horton was a good old friend of mine."

Horton was inducted into The Louisiana Music Hall of Fame and posthumously inducted into the Delta Music Museum Hall of Fame in Ferriday, Louisiana.

Some racist songs have sometimes been incorrectly associated with Horton. These songs are by a singer calling himself "Johnny Rebel," who did not began recording until years after Horton's death. The mistake is apparently because Horton recorded the historical song "Johnny Reb."

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Singles

 Complete singles discography.

Johnny Horton 1956-1960 - Vol 1 / 01 - I'm A One Woman Man

Johnny Horton 1956-1960 - Vol 1 / 02 - Honky Tonk Man

Johnny Horton 1956-1960 - Vol 1 / 03 - I'm Ready If You're Willing 

Johnny Horton 1956-1960 - Vol 1 / 04 - I Got A Hole In My Pirogue

Johnny Horton 1956-1960 - Vol 1 / 05 - Take Me Like I Am 

Johnny Horton 1956-1960 - Vol 1 / 06 - Sugar-coated Baby

Johnny Horton 1956-1960 - Vol 1 / 07 - I Don't Like I Did

Johnny Horton 1956-1960 - Vol 1 / 08 -   Hooray For That Little Difference 

Johnny Horton 1956-1960 - Vol 1 / 09 -  I'm Coming Home 

Johnny Horton 1956-1960 - Vol 1 / 10 - Over Loving You

Johnny Horton 1956-1960 - Vol 1 / 11 - She Knows Why

Johnny Horton 1956-1960 - Vol 1 / 12 - Honky Tonk Mind (The Woman I Need)

Johnny Horton 1956-1960 - Vol 1 / 13 - Tell My Baby I Love Her

Johnny Horton 1956-1960 - Vol 1 / 14 -  Goodbye Lonesome, Hello Baby Doll

Johnny Horton 1956-1960 - Vol 1 / 15 -  I'll Do It Everytime

Johnny Horton 1956-1960 - Vol 1 / 16 - You're My Baby

Johnny Horton 1956-1960 - Vol 1 / 17 - Let's Take The Long Way Home

Johnny Horton 1956-1960 - Vol 1 / 18 - Lover's Rock

Johnny Horton 1956-1960 - Vol 1 / 19 - Honky-Tonk Hardwood Floor

Johnny Horton 1956-1960 - Vol 1 / 20 - The Wild One

Johnny Horton 1956-1960 - Vol 1 / 21 - Everytime I'm Kissng You

Johnny Horton 1956-1960 - Vol 1 / 22 - Hot In The Sugarcane Field

Johnny Horton 1956-1960 - Vol 1 / 23 -Lonesome And Heartbroken

Johnny Horton 1956-1960 - Vol 1 / 24 - Seven Come Eleven

Johnny Horton 1956-1960 - Vol 1 / 25 - I Can't Forget You

Johnny Horton 1956-1960 - Vol 1 / 26 - Wise To The Ways Of A Woman

Johnny Horton 1956-1960 - Vol 1 / 27 - Out In New Mexico

Johnny Horton 1956-1960 - Vol 1 / 28 - Tetched In The Head

Johnny Horton 1956-1960 - Vol 1 / 29 - Just Walk A Little Closer

Johnny Horton 1956-1960 - Vol 1 / 30 - Don't Use My Heart For A Stepping Stone

Johnny Horton 1956-1960 - Vol 1 / 31 - I Love You Baby

Johnny Horton 1956-1960 - Vol 1 / 32 - Wise To The Ways Of A Woman

Johnny Horton 1956-1960 - Vol 2 / 01 - Counterfeit Love

Johnny Horton 1956-1960 - Vol 2 / 02 -  Mister Moonlight 

Johnny Horton 1956-1960 - Vol 2 / 03 - All Grown Up

Johnny Horton 1956-1960 - Vol 2 / 04 - Got The Bull By The Horns

Johnny Horton 1956-1960 - Vol 2 / 05 - When Its Springtime In Alaska

Johnny Horton 1956-1960 - Vol 2 / 06 - Whispering Pines

Johnny Horton 1956-1960 - Vol 2 / 07 - The Battle Of New Orleans

Johnny Horton 1956-1960 - Vol 2 / 08 -  All For The Love Of A Girl

Johnny Horton 1956-1960 - Vol 2 / 09 - Lost Highway

Johnny Horton 1956-1960 - Vol 2 / 10 - Sam Magee

Johnny Horton 1956-1960 - Vol 2 / 11 -  Cherokee Boogie

Johnny Horton 1956-1960 - Vol 2 / 12 - The Golden Rocket

Johnny Horton 1956-1960 - Vol 2 / 13 - The Battle Of New Orleans (British Version)

Johnny Horton 1956-1960 - Vol 2 / 14 - Joe's Been A-Gittin' There

Johnny Horton 1956-1960 - Vol 2 / 15 - The First Train Headin' South

Johnny Horton 1956-1960 - Vol 2 / 16 - Got The Bull By The Horns

Johnny Horton 1956-1960 - Vol 2 / 17 - Sal's Got A Sugerlip

Johnny Horton 1956-1960 - Vol 2 / 18 - Words

Johnny Horton 1956-1960 - Vol 2 / 19 - Johnny Reb 

Johnny Horton 1956-1960 - Vol 2 / 20 - Sal's Got A Sugarlip

Johnny Horton 1956-1960 - Vol 2 / 21 - Ole Slew Foot

Johnny Horton 1956-1960 - Vol 2 / 22 - I'm Ready If You're Willing 

Johnny Horton 1956-1960 - Vol 2 / 23 - Take Me Like I Am

Johnny Horton 1956-1960 - Vol 2 / 24 -  They Shined Up Rodolph's Nose

Johnny Horton 1956-1960 - Vol 2 / 25 - The Electrified Donkey

Johnny Horton 1956-1960 - Vol 2 / 26 - The Same Old Tale The Crow Told Me

Johnny Horton 1956-1960 - Vol 2 / 27 -  Sink The Biamarck 

Johnny Horton 1956-1960 - Vol 2 / 28 -  Sink The Biamarck 

Johnny Horton 1956-1960 - Vol 2 / 29 -  The Same Old Tale The Crow Told Me 

Johnny Horton 1956-1960 - Vol 2 / 30 - All Grown Up

Johnny Horton 1956-1960 - Vol 2 / 31 - Got The Bull By The Horns

Johnny Horton 1956-1960 - Vol 3 / 01 - Ole Slew Foot 

Johnny Horton 1956-1960 - Vol 3 / 02 - Miss Marcy

Johnny Horton 1956-1960 - Vol 3 / 03 -  Sleepy Eyed John

Johnny Horton 1956-1960 - Vol 3 / 04 - The Mansion You Stole

Johnny Horton 1956-1960 - Vol 3 / 05 - They'll Never Take Her Love From Me

Johnny Horton 1956-1960 - Vol 3 / 06 -  The Sinking Of The Reuben James

Johnny Horton 1956-1960 - Vol 3 / 07 - Jim Bridger

Johnny Horton 1956-1960 - Vol 3 / 08 - The Battle Of Bull Run

Johnny Horton 1956-1960 - Vol 3 / 09 - Snow-Shoe Thompson

Johnny Horton 1956-1960 - Vol 3 / 10 - John Paul Jones 

Johnny Horton 1956-1960 - Vol 3 / 11 - Comanche (The Brave Horse) 

Johnny Horton 1956-1960 - Vol 3 / 12 - Young Abe Lincoln

Johnny Horton 1956-1960 - Vol 3 / 13 - O'Leary's Cow

Johnny Horton 1956-1960 - Vol 3 / 14 - Johnny Freedom

Johnny Horton 1956-1960 - Vol 3 / 15 -  Go North!   The alternate to "North To Alaska."

Johnny Horton 1956-1960 - Vol 3 / 16 -  North To Alaska   North To Alaska

Johnny Horton 1956-1960 - Vol 3 / 17 -  North To Alaska

Johnny Horton 1956-1960 - Vol 3 / 18 - I Just Don't Like This Kind Of Livin'   

Johnny Horton 1956-1960 - Vol 3 / 19 - Rock Island Line

Johnny Horton 1956-1960 - Vol 3 / 20 - Hank And Joe And Me

Johnny Horton 1956-1960 - Vol 3 / 21 - The Golden Rocket 

Johnny Horton 1956-1960 - Vol 3 / 22 - A-Sleeping At The Foot Of The Bed

Johnny Horton 1956-1960 - Vol 3 / 23 - I Just Don't Like This Kind Of Livin'   

Johnny Horton 1956-1960 - Vol 3 / 24 - Old Blind Barnabas

Johnny Horton 1956-1960 - Vol 3 / 25 - Evil Hearted Me

Johnny Horton 1956-1960 - Vol 3 / 26 - Hot In The Sugarcane Field

Johnny Horton 1956-1960 - Vol 3 / 27 - You Don't Move Me Baby Anymore 

Johnny Horton 1956-1960 - Vol 3 / 28 - The Gosh-Darn Wheel

Johnny Horton 1956-1960 - Vol 3 / 29 - Broken Hearted Gypsy

Johnny Horton 1956-1960 - Vol 3 / 30 - The Church By The Side Of The Road

Johnny Horton 1956-1960 - Vol 4 / 01 - The Vanishing Race

Johnny Horton 1956-1960 - Vol 4 / 02 - Broken Hearted Gypsy

Johnny Horton 1956-1960 - Vol 4 / 03 - That Boy Got The Habit

Johnny Horton 1956-1960 - Vol 4 / 04 - Hot In The Sugarcane Field

Johnny Horton 1956-1960 - Vol 4 / 05 -  You Don't Move Me Baby Anymore

Johnny Horton 1956-1960 - Vol 4 / 06 - The Church By The Side Of The Road

Johnny Horton 1956-1960 - Vol 4 / 07 - I Just Don't Like This Kind Of Livin'   

Johnny Horton 1956-1960 - Vol 4 / 08 - Take It Like A Man

Johnny Horton 1956-1960 - Vol 4 / 09 - Hank And Joe And Me

Johnny Horton 1956-1960 - Vol 4 / 10 -  The Golden Rocket  

Johnny Horton 1956-1960 - Vol 4 / 11 - Old Blind Barnabas

Johnny Horton 1956-1960 - Vol 4 / 12 - Empty Bed Blues

Johnny Horton 1956-1960 - Vol 4 / 13 - Rock Island Line

Johnny Horton 1956-1960 - Vol 4 / 14 -  Shake, Rattle And Roll

Johnny Horton 1956-1960 - Vol 4 / 15 - A-Sleeping At The Foot Of The Bed

Johnny Horton 1956-1960 - Vol 4 / 16 - Old Dan Tucker 

Johnny Horton 1956-1960 - Vol 4 / 17 - The Gosh Darn Wheel

Johnny Horton 1956-1960 - Vol 4 / 18 - From Memphis To Mobile

Johnny Horton 1956-1960 - Vol 4 / 19 - Back Up Train

Johnny Horton 1956-1960 - Vol 4 / 20 - Schottische In Texas

Johnny Horton 1956-1960 - Vol 4 / 21 - Take It LIke A Man

Johnny Horton 1956-1960 - Vol 4 / 22 - That Boy Got The Habit

Johnny Horton 1956-1960 - Vol 4 / 23 - My Heart Stopped, Trembled And Died

Johnny Horton 1956-1960 - Vol 4 / 24 - Alley Girl Ways

Johnny Horton 1956-1960 - Vol 4 / 25 - How You Gonna Make It

Johnny Horton 1956-1960 - Vol 4 / 26 - Witch Walking Baby

Johnny Horton 1956-1960 - Vol 4 / 27 - Down That River Road

Johnny Horton 1956-1960 - Vol 4 / 28 -  Big Wheels Rollin'

Johnny Horton 1956-1960 - Vol 4 / 29 - I Got A Slow Leak In My Heart

Johnny Horton 1956-1960 - Vol 4 / 30 -  You Don't Move Me Baby Anymore

Johnny Horton 1956-1960 - Vol 4 / 31 - What Will I Do Without You

Johnny Horton 1956-1960 - Vol 4 / 32 - Janey

Johnny Horton 1956-1960 - Vol 4 / 33 - Streets Of Dodge

Johnny Horton 1956-1960 - Vol 4 / 34 - Give Me Back My Picture And You Can Keep The Frame

Johnny Horton Live - John Henry

Johnny Horton Rare - Shake, Rattle And Roll

Johnny Horton - 1954 Rare - It Meant So Little To You 

Johnny Horton Early - Shotgun Boogie

Rock and Roll Version - Johnny Horton  -  Ole Slew Foot 

Johnny Horton Live -  Jambalalya

Johnny Horton Early - Hey Sweet Thing

More Johnny Horton - Mean, Mean, Mean Son Of A Gun

A Little Known Johnny Horton Song - The Devil Made A Masterpiece

More Johnny Horton - I'm A Fishing Man

A Johnny Horton Oldie - Move Down The Line

More Johnny - Riding The Sunshine Special

Cajan Johnny Horton - Shadow Of The Old Bayou

More Johnny Horton Live - Frankie And Johnny

The Very Earliest Johnny Horton - Birds And Butterflies

More Early Johnny - 1951 - The Tennessee Jive

Although he is better-remembered for his historical songs, Johnny Horton was one of the best and most popular honky tonk singers of the late '50s. Horton managed to infuse honky tonk with an urgent rockabilly underpinning. His career may have been cut short by a fatal car crash in 1960, but his music reverberated throughout the next three decades.

The following year, Horton moved back to east Texas, where he entered a talent contest hosted by Jim Reeves, who was then an unknown vocalist. He won the contest, which encouraged him to pursue a career as a performer. Horton started out by playing talent contests throughout Texas, which is where he gained the attention of Fabor Robison, a music manager that was notorious for his incompetence and his scams. In early 1951, Robison became Horton's manager and managed to secure him a recording contract with Corman Records. However, shortly after his signing, the label folded. Robison then founded his own label, Abbott Records, with the specific intent of recording Horton. None of these records had any chart success. During 1951, Horton began performing on various Los Angeles TV shows and hosted a radio show in Pasadena, where he performed under the name "the Singing Fisherman." By early 1952, Robison had moved Horton to Mercury Records.

Although he had a regular job on the Hayride, Horton's recording career was going nowhere -- none of his Mercury records were selling, and rock & roll was beginning to overtake country's share of the market place. Horton's fortunes changed in the latter half of 1955, when he hired Webb Pierce's manager Tillman Franks as his own manager and quit Mercury Records. Franks had Pierce help him secure a contract for Horton with Columbia Records by the end of 1955. The change in record labels breathed life into Horton's career. At his first Columbia session, he cut "Honky Tonk Man," his first single for the label and one that would eventually become a honky tonk classic. By the spring of 1956, the song had reached the country Top Ten and Horton was well on his way to becoming a star.

In the fall of 1958, he bounced back with the Top Ten "All Grown Up," but it wasn't until the ballad "When It's Springtime in Alaska (It's Forty Below)" hit the charts in early 1959 that he achieved a comeback. The song fit neatly into the folk-based story songs that were becoming popular in the late '50s, and it climbed all the way to number one.

"The Battle of New Orleans" is the title of a song written by Jimmy Driftwood. The song describes the 1815 Battle of New Orleans from the perspective of an American soldier; the lyrics are evidently intended to be comical. It has been recorded by many artists, but the singer most often associated with this song is Johnny Horton. His version scored number 1 on the Billboard Hot 100 in 1959.

In Billboard magazine's rankings of the top songs in the first fifty years of the Billboard Hot 100 chart, "The Battle of New Orleans" was ranked as the twenty-eighth song overall and the number-one country music song to appear on the chart.

Horton died on November 5, 1960 in an auto accident after playing at the Skyline Club in Austin, Texas, which is the same place Hank Williams made his final appearance. Horton's widow Billie Jean Jones Eshlimar was once married to Williams.

Johnny Horton is Cecil Buffington's All-Time Favorite number one male singer. Country or Top 40.

Horton was born in Los Angeles in 1925, the son of sharecropping parents. During his childhood, his family continually moved between California and Texas, in an attempt to find work. His mother taught him how to play guitar at the age of 11. Horton graduated from high school in 1944 and attended a Methodist seminary with the intent of joining a ministry. After a short while, he left the seminary and began traveling across the country, eventually moving to Alaska in 1949 to become a fisherman. While he was in Alaska, he began writing songs in earnest.

At the end of 1951, Horton relocated from California to Shreveport, LA, where he became a regular on the Louisiana Hayride. However, Lousiana was filled with pitfalls -- his first wife left him shortly after the move, and Robison severed all ties with Horton when he became Reeves' manager. During 1952, Hank Williams rejoined the cast of the Hayride and became a kind of mentor for Horton. After Williams died on New Year's Eve of 1952, Horton became close with his widow, Billie Jean; the couple married in September of 1953.

"Honky Tonk Man" was edgy enough to have Horton grouped in on the more country-oriented side of rockabilly. Wearing a large cowboy hat to hide his receding hairline, he became a popular concert attraction and racked up three more hit singles -- "I'm a One-Woman Man" (number seven), "I'm Coming Home" (number 11), "The Woman I Need" (number nine) -- in the next year. However, the hits dried up just as quickly as they arrived; for the latter half of 1957 and 1958, he didn't hit the charts at all. Horton responded by cutting some rockabilly, which was beginning to fall out of favor by the time his singles were released.

Johnny Horton was always a big fan of Elvis Presley.

Its success inspired his next single, "The Battle of New Orleans." Taken from a 1958 Jimmie Driftwood album, the song was a historical saga song like "When It's Springtime in Alaska," but it was far more humorous. It was also far more successful, topping the country charts for ten weeks and crossing over into the pop charts, where it was number one for six weeks. After the back-to-back number one successes of "When It's Spring Time in Alaska" and "The Battle of New Orleans," Horton concentrated solely on folky saga songs.

Around the time of "North to Alaska"'s November release, Horton claimed that he was getting premonitions of an early death. Sadly, his premonitions came true. On November 4, 1960, he suffered a car crash driving home to Shreveport after a concert in Austin, TX. Horton was still alive after the wreck, but he died on the way to the hospital; the other passengers in his car had severe injuries, but they survived. Although he died early in his career, Horton left behind a recorded legacy that proved to be quite influential. Artists like George Jones and Dwight Yoakam have covered his songs, and echoes of Horton's music can still be heard in honky tonk and country-rock music well into the '90s. ~

Elvis and Johnny.

Billie Jean Jones (born 1933) was the second wife of country singer Hank Williams. She was introduced to Hank by her then boyfriend, Faron Young. They married in 1952 each having had a previous marriage that ended in divorce. After Williams' death from heart failure on New Year's Day 1953, she married country singer Johnny Horton and was important in promoting his career. Horton died in an automobile accident in 1960, widowing her a second time.

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