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Biography

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Overview (4)

Born in Los Angeles, California, USA
Died in Milano, Texas, USA  (road accident)
Birth NameJohn Gale Horton
Nickname The Singing Fisherman

Mini Bio (1)

Johnny Horton was born in Los Angeles, but at an early age he moved with his sharecropping parents to Tyler, Texas, where he grew up. Fishing was an early interest in life and he traveled to Alaska to seek employment in this capacity, but after returning to Texas he took up singing. His singing career began in 1950 in Pasadena, California, on radio station KXLA. He later became a regular on "Hometown Jamboree" with Cliffie Stone, on which he was billed as "The Singing Fisherman". In 1951 he made his first recording.

In 1953 he married the widow of Hank Williams, and she took an interest in furthering his career. He became a regular on the radio show "Louisiana Hayride" in 1955 and soon after made an appearance on "Grand Ole Opry". His first hit, "Honky Tonk Man", came in 1956 and was soon followed by "When It's Springtime in Alaska", "The Battle of New Orleans", "Johnny Reb" and "Sink the Bismarck".

In 1960 he recorded "North to Alaska" for the motion picture of the same name (North to Alaska (1960)) starring John Wayne and Stewart Granger. At this point in his career he decided to add acting to his accomplishments and planned on beginning a movie career, but this was not to be. On a foggy night in November of 1960, he was returning from a concert with his manager, Tillman B. Franks, and his bass player, Tommy Tomlinson, when tragedy struck. A car driven by a drunk driver came out of the fog and collided with Johnny's car head on. Horton was killed instantly.

- IMDb Mini Biography By: George W Hudson

Spouse (2)

Billie Jean Jones (26 September 1953 - 5 November 1960) (his death) (2 children)
Donna Cook (? - 1953) (divorced) (1 child)

Trade Mark (1)

Country music "saga songs"

Trivia (9)

Best known for "saga songs", such as "The Battle of New Orleans" and "When it's Springtime in Alaska (It's 40 Below)" (1959), and "Sink the Bismarck" and "North to Alaska" (1960).
"The Battle of New Orleans" was a No. 1 hit on both Billboard magazine's country singles and Hot 100 charts for 10 weeks, and was among the top songs of 1959 on both charts.
Mentioned alongside Hank Williams (who also was married to Billie Jean Jones at the time of his death) as the two friends whom Tex Ritter meets in his 1961 country song "I Dreamed of a Hillbilly Heaven.".
Made his final public appearance at the "Skyline Club" in Austin, Texas, on Friday night, November 4, 1960, the same venue where Hank Williams made his final public appearance in late December 1952.
Despite being a country-western singer, Johnny didn't like playing at venues which served alcohol. Before his last show at the Skyline Club on November 4, 1960, he told several people he was worried about being hit by a drunk driver while in Austin. As it turned out, he was, but in Milano, Texas, while driving back to Shreveport.
In his autobiography "I Was There When It Happened", Tillman B. Franks, Johnny's manager, says James Davis, the drunk driver who ran into Johnny on November 5, 1960, suffered only minor injuries. Some accounts mistakenly claim Davis was killed in the accident along with Johnny. Franks himself was critically injured in the crash (he was in the front passenger seat, next to Johnny, who was driving). Franks says Davis pleaded "no contest" to "murder without malice" several months later, and was given a two year suspended sentence - he served no time in prison.
According to his manager, Tillman B. Franks, the reason Johnny wanted to get back to Shreveport as soon as possible after the November 4 show at the Skyline Club was that Saturday, November 5, was the opening of duck season in Louisiana. Johnny wanted to be up early that morning. Claude King (famous for recording "Wolverton Mountain") and his brother Perry had set up camp at a place called Hall's Brake, near Ajax, LA, on Friday evening and were awaiting Johnny's arrival to go duck hunting with them. Franks also disputes the story that Johnny was scheduled to meet with Ward Bond, the star of Wagon Train (1957), on the afternoon of November 5 to discuss an appearance on the TV series, calling it "hype". As it turned out, Bond himself died that afternoon of a heart attack after attending a football game.
In Tillman B. Franks' autobiography, he says Johnny once had a live radio show in Shreveport that was sponsored by Holsum Bread. Johnny would read scripted ads for the bread between songs. He lost Holsum as a sponsor when once, after reading the last line of the ad that said "Holsum Bread is never touched by human hands", he added, "They mix it with their feet".
Inducted into the Louisiana Music Hall of Fame in 2009.

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