Driving to the ranch today, I was listening to outlaw country on my Sirius Radio. My favorite DJ, Mojo Nixon, was doing his afternoon show. If you haven't heard him, you are missing the best thing on radio. He always plays great music and his commentary......you need to hear it to believe it.
He played a song by Johnny Horton and it immediately took me back to my childhood. In the days before the Beatles, radio was in pretty sad shape. As I have mentioned in previous posts, I was listening to The Kingston Trio, Bobby Darin and whatever was on AM radio. My musical education had yet to begin. This was before even Guitar Johnny was cool.
One of the few good songs I can remember from this time was North to Alaska by Johnny Horton. This song goes back to the very beginning for me, because I was 8 years old when it was released in 1960. It is amazing that I can remember it.
Johnny Horton was a country singer who wrote and recorded the classic country song Honky-Tonk Man. This great song was a hit for him in 1956 and later was a hit for Dwight Yoakum in 1986. Although a lot of Horton's music leaned towards rockabilly, he is best known for his "historical ballads" like Sink the Bismark, Battle of New Orleans, and North To Alaska that were all charted hits in 1959 and 1960. These songs are still popular today and are often sung by drunken members of the rat pack over Derby weekend.
Horton's career was cut short when he was killed on November 5, 1960 in a car crash with a drunk Texas A&M student (Damn Aggies). It has been written that Horton was haunted by premonitions of his own death. In a strange coincidence, Horton, who was married to Hank William's widow, Billie Jean, at the time, was killed driving home after playing the Skyline Club in Austin, Texas. Hank Williams played his last gig at the Skyline Club before dying in the back of his Cadillac on New Year's Day in 1953.
Obviously, Horton's music is tied to my childhood, but it still sounds good today. You might want to add him to your playlist. Available on iTunes and from Amazon.