Archive for the ‘Johnny Bush’ Category

Johnny Bush talks about writing Whiskey River

Thursday, October 22nd, 2020
bush by you.

www.texasmonthly.com
by: John Spong

Read article here.

t was one of the cruelest jokes the country music fates ever played on a performer, in this case a journeyman Texas dance hall musician on the verge of becoming a national superstar. By the time Johnny Bush died Friday in his longtime home of San Antonio of complications from pneumonia at age 85, he’d had a long, admirable career on the commercial margins of the country music industry.

But back in 1972, the Houston native was racing up the charts with his first major-label single, a song he’d recently written titled “Whiskey River.” At that time, he was known as the Country Caruso, and the single made plain why. Bush sang in a rich tenor capable of an operatic boom. His voice sounded dramatic, like Waylon Jennings’s, only higher, clearer, and with a ready vibrato, all of which was on display in “Whiskey River.”

When he leapt to the high notes that open the chorus—“Whiskey river take my miiiind”—his voice soared skyward. The outmatched backup singers tasked with supporting him sound almost embarrassed.

But then, with the single working its way toward the top ten and a cross-country tour set to begin, Bush’s voice failed him. Some nights he could get through a show, albeit with diminished range, but other nights he couldn’t sing at all. It became a labor just to speak. And no doctor could offer a medical explanation. It wasn’t until 1978 that he was diagnosed with spasmodic dysphonia, a neurological disorder that disrupts messages from the brain to the vocal cords. There was no known cure.

Through the eighties and nineties he relied on experimental treatments, hypnosis, and vocal training to play gigs and record sporadically, and in the early aughts he started taking Botox treatments to stop the spasming in his throat muscles. He worked his voice back into form and, with the support of Lynda, his fourth wife and new business manager, once again became a fixture in Texas dance halls and honky-tonks. But million-selling records and stardom were no longer a part of the dream.

In Whiskey River (Take My Mind), the 2007 memoir he coauthored with Houston music writer Rick Mitchell, he wrote about his lost years, about struggles with his marriages, his health, and his faith, and about how hard it was to watch new acts like George Strait and Ricky Skaggs dominate country radio with the traditional sound he’d always stuck with, even as he was struggling to muster enough fans to fill a dive bar.

Still, even in the darkest years Johnny had two things he could rely on: his biggest hit, “Whiskey River,” and his friend Willie Nelson. By the late seventies, “Whiskey River” was established as Willie’s signature show opener; just the first four guitar strums were instantly recognizable to country fans. The two men had become tight when they met in the fifties. They’d played together in Ray Price’s backing band, the Cherokee Cowboys, in the early sixties, and through most of the rest of the decade Johnny played drums in Willie’s touring three-piece, the Record Men, and Willie played guitar in Johnny’s band, the Hillbilly Playboys. They’d even raised hogs together at Willie’s farm in Ridgetop, Tennessee, just outside Nashville.

At no time did Willie’s support of Johnny ever waver. They recorded a duets album, Together Again, in 1982, and released two other records, in 1997 and 2000, under the original name that Johnny had come up with for the Record Men, the Offenders. Johnny recorded at Willie’s Pedernales studio and made frequent appearances at Willie’s Fourth of July picnics, and Willie wrote a foreword to Johnny’s memoir, just as he’d written the liner notes for Johnny’s first album, The Sound of a Heartache, back in 1968. And through all those years, as Willie established “Whiskey River” as an inarguable country classic, the song’s royalty payments kept Johnny afloat.

This summer I called Johnny to talk about his old friend for a special all-Willie issue Texas Monthly published in August. It ended up being the last interview he ever gave. In that article, we ran an anecdote Johnny told about his fateful first trip to Las Vegas as part of Willie’s band more than a half century ago. Below are his reflections on the birth and long life of “Whiskey River,” the song that kept him alive.

In 1971, my producer at RCA in Nashville, Jerry Bradley, told me he wanted me to write a song. And I said, “But wait, with all the great songwriters in Nashville”—and I named them off: Hank Cochran, Harlan Howard, Willie, all of them—”I could call any of them and get a song from them right now.” And he said, “No, it’d be better if you write one.” So he kind of put the ball in my court, and I figured my record contract was riding on it. I thought, “My god, my career right now depends on me.”

Well, the boys and I had just played a disc jockey convention in Nashville and were about to head home to San Antone. Texarkana is halfway, so we played a date there, and the next morning I woke up and I had a line in my head: “Bathing my memoried mind in the wetness of its soul.” And I thought, “Man, that’s a Willie Nelson song.” So I started writing on the bus to San Antone, and the rest just kind of came to me. But I didn’t think it was finished.

When I got home, I reached out to Willie, who was living nearby in Bandera because his house at Ridgetop had burned down. Bandera is not that far from San Antonio, so I called him and sang it to him on the phone. And he said, “Well, I like it.” Now to me, Willie’s the greatest songwriter who ever lived, and if he said he liked it, I knew I had something. But I told him, “It only has one verse and a chorus. Country songs usually have more than that.” He said, “Well, you already said everything that needs to be said. Anything after that would be redundant.” And I thought, “Okay.” So that’s the way I recorded it, one verse, one chorus, then I turned it around and sang them again, because that’s what Willie told me to do.

And it sure did work. My version of “Whiskey River” was released in 1972, and it did pretty well. But after Willie recorded it for Shotgun Willie a year later, it just took off. Fast-forward, and he’s recorded it so many times, by himself and with other artists, on so many different albums, that he’s kind of made it a household word, you know? And all the mailbox money off that has been great. I get the publishing check every six months, for sales. And then every ninety days I get the BMI check, for when the song gets played on the radio. That money saved me through the spasmodic dysphonia years. 

Eventually, “Whiskey River” earned me not one, but two Million-Air Awards from BMI for getting over a million spins on radio. I got the first one probably fifteen years or so ago in Nashville. The Country Music Hall of Fame had asked me to come to town because they were closing out their big Ray Price exhibit, and they wanted as many of the old Cherokee Cowboys there as they could get. And while I was there, BMI gave me that first Million-Air Award. When they explained to me what it takes to get a million plays—all those spins over all those years—well, it’s just fantastic.

Then last July, at a show I was playing at the Devil’s Backbone Tavern in Fischer, Texas, BMI gave me a second Million-Air Award. I have it on my wall, right next to the first one. That song has been really good to me.

Read article here.

Sad, sad news, the passing of Johnny Bush

Friday, October 16th, 2020
This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is Johnnybush2.jpg

Johnny Bush Official

It is with heavy heart that I make this post. Texas Country Music Hall of Famer, Country Music legend, nicknamed the Country Caruso, a friend to everyone in the music business, a friend to all of his fans, Johnny Bush passed away this afternoon surrounded by his family and some of his closest friends. Please keep the Bush family in your heart and prayers. A jewel of a man we have lost.

Congratulations, Johnny Bush, “Whisky River” sung 2,000,000 times

Monday, November 11th, 2019

I think Willie has sung it that many times himself.

“Whiskey River” by Johnny Bush (the story behind the song)

Thursday, January 31st, 2019

by David Scarlett
Country Weekley

Johnny Bush’s career as a solo artist was taking off in the early ’70s when he came to a disc jockey convention in Nashville to sign a deal with RCA records. That’s where the Texas native met RCA executive Jerry Bradley, who planted the seed for “Whiskey River,” a song that would blossom into one of the best-loved — and most recorded — in all of country music.

At the time, Johnny had already experienced sucess with a series of hits including, “You Gave Me a Mountain” and “My CUp Runneth Over.” Still, Jerry wanted him to write a very special song.

Johnny picks up the story.

“Jerry told me, ‘Johnny, what we’ve got to do now is, you’ve gotta write a hit.’ And I said, ‘Jerry, with all the songwriters in Nashville — Harlan Howard, Willie Nelson, Hank Cochran, Bill Anderson and people like that we can draw from — you want me to write the song?.”

But Jerry knew Johnny had a hit in him, and put the ball back in Johnny’s court.

“On my way back to Texas from Nashville,” continues Johnny, “I was on my tour bus and when I woke up in Texarkana, I had the idea about ‘Whiskey River.’ And by the time I got home, I had it written.”

Johnny’s recording of the song went on to becoem a Top 15 hit, but his longtime Texas buddy, Willie Nelson, recorded it and made it a huge hit in 1978 — and his signature tune. In fact, Willie has recorded the song over twenty times.

And it’s a good thing. The royalty checks from the song helped sustain Johnny through some lean years that resulted from a rare vocal disorder.

“I’d jsut released ‘Whiskey River’ and it was climbing the charts when it struck,” he recalls. As a result, Johnny’s career took a serious downturn and it would be years before his vocal problem was correctly diagnosed and treated. Now he’s got a new album, Green Snake, and is back working as many dates as he wants to.

But ‘Whiskey River’ and his pal, Willie, were always there for him. Willie even joined Trick Pony in recording the tune for the group’s upcoming album.

“I just hope it makes the cut,” says Johnny modestly. “You know a lot of time songs are recorded that never make it onto the album.”

Don’t worry Johnny. It’ll be there.

— David Scarlett

Paul English and Johnny Bush

Monday, February 19th, 2018

See Johnny Bush with Dallas Wayne in Fort Worth this weekend.

Thursday, November 16th, 2017

Johnny Bush and special guest Dallas Wayne at Lil’ Reds Longhorn Saloon in the Historic Fort Worth Stockyards.

Whiskey River: the story behind the song

Monday, November 13th, 2017

by David Scarlett
Country Weekley

Johnny Bush’s career as a solo artist was taking off in the early ’70s when he came to a disc jockey convention in Nashville to sign a deal with RCA records.  That’s where the Texas native met RCA executive Jerry Bradley, who planted the seed for “Whiskey River,” a song that would blossom into one of the best-loved — and most recorded — in all of country music.

At the time, Johnny had already experienced sucess with a series of hits including, “You Gave Me a Mountain” and “My CUp Runneth Over.”  Still, Jerry wanted him to write a very special song.

Johnny picks up the story.

“Jerry told me, ‘Johnny, what we’ve got to do now is, you’ve gotta write a hit.’   And I said, ‘Jerry, with all the songwriters in Nashville — Harlan Howard, Willie Nelson, Hank Cochran, Bill Anderson and people like that we can draw from — you want me to write the song?.”

But Jerry knew Johnny had a hit in him, and put the ball back in Johnny’s court.

“On my way back to Texas from Nashville,”  continues Johnny, “I was on my tour bus and when I woke up in Texarkana, I had the idea about ‘Whiskey River.’  And by the time I got home, I had it written.”

Johnny’s recording of the song went on to becoem a Top 15 hit, but his longtime Texas buddy, Willie Nelson, recorded it and made it a huge hit in 1978 — and his signature tune.  In fact, Willie has recorded the song over twenty times.

And it’s a good thing.  The royalty checks from the song helped sustain Johnny through some lean years that resulted from a rare vocal disorder.

“I’d jsut released ‘Whiskey River’ and it was climbing the charts when it struck,” he recalls.   As a result, Johnny’s career took a serious downturn and it would be years before his vocal problem was correctly diagnosed and treated.  Now he’s got a new album, Green Snake, and is back working as many dates as he wants to.

But ‘Whiskey River’ and his pal, Willie, were always there for him.  Willie even joined Trick Pony in recording the tune for the group’s upcoming album.

“I just hope it makes the cut,” says Johnny modestly.  “You know a lot of time songs are recorded that never make it onto the album.”

Don’t worry Johnny.  It’ll be there.

— David Scarlett

Willie Nelson’s 4th of July PIcnic Concert in Austin 2017

Monday, April 17th, 2017

www.austin360amphitheater.com

Tickets for Willie Nelson’s 4th of July Picnic are open to the public starting at 10 a.m. on April 21. It’s the third year for the annual event to be held at the Circuit of the Americas and the 44th edition of the picnic overall.

This year’s all-day event features performances from artists on two stages, including Willie Nelson & Family, Sheryl Crow, Kacey Musgraves, Jamey Johnson, Steve Earle, Margo Price, Asleep At The Wheel, Turnpike Troubadours, Hayes Carll, Ray Wylie Hubbard, Johnny Bush, Billy Joe Shaver, David Allan Coe, Lukas Nelson & Promise of The Real, Insects vs. Robots, Raelyn Nelson Band, Folk Uke.

Tickets are priced at $89.50 for the GA Pit Section and Reserved Seat Section in front of the stage. Reserved bowl tickets are $69.50-$89.50 and $39.50 for H-E-B General Admission Lawn. There are also a limited number of special VIP packages available for sale including the “Outlaw” hospitality package for $350, the “Trigger” package for $450, and “Shotgun” hospitality for $550.

All tickets will be available at ticketmaster.com, thecircuit.com, all Ticketmaster outlets throughout Texas, or they can be charged by phone at 1-800-745-3000.

Standard parking lots at Circuit of The Americas open at 10 a.m. and gates to the Austin360 Amphitheater will open at 11:00 a.m. Standard Parking is included in the price of the ticket. Premium Parking, Bus Parking, RV Parking, as well as campsites are also available for purchase at the time tickets are purchased.

Live Nation, C3 Presents and Circuit of The Americas (COTA) are proud to announce the return of Willie Nelson’s 4th of July Picnic to Circuit of The Americas. The legendary Willie Nelson plays host to one of America’s most celebrated festivals, and the 4th of July Picnic returns to COTA for the third year. Joining Willie at this year’s party is a star-studded cavalcade of his friends.

Ticket and pre-sale information here.  

Willie Nelson and Friends

Thursday, August 25th, 2016

 

Dallas Wayne, LeeAnn Womack, Johnny Bush, backstage at Willie Nelson’s picnic

Tuesday, July 5th, 2016

16picnic8

Dallas Wayne, Lee Ann Womack and Johnny Bush backstage at Willie Nelson’s 4th of July Picnic in Austin, TX.

Willie Nelson, Johnny Bush, “The Party’s Over”

Sunday, November 8th, 2015

Johnny Bush and Ben Dorcy at Willie Nelson’s Picnic

Tuesday, July 7th, 2015

Andybush

Thanks to Andy Bush, from Georgia, for his photo of Johnny Bush and Ben Dorcy, who kindly posed for him, at Willie Nelson’s 4th of July Picnic Saturday.  Nice to meet you, Andy!

Andy said this about the show:

“The 3rd song (actually 2nd of the three) they sung together was “Reasons to Quit.” What a thrill it was to stand there a few feet from the stage and watch my favorite two singers together. I’ve seen them both dozens of times, but together only once before on the “Last of the Breed” tour. This was my first picnic and I got to meet Linda Banks to boot!

One funny thing that happened during their set together took place during “Poncho and Lefty.” Willie is so used to singing the song by himself every show now (I believe in the old days, Jody Payne sang Merle’s lines with him), he just went ahead and sang Merle’s line. Figuring out what he’d done, he just looked over at Merle and gave that priceless Willie Nelson smile. They laughed it off, no egos, just two class acts.

God thank you for such a great day!”

Andy and I took a selfie, too.

image

Willie Nelson and Johnny Bush

Friday, July 3rd, 2015

bush by you.

Johnny Bush was at Willie Nelson’s first 4th of July Celebration — and he will be there Saturday, July 4th, 2015 in Austin.

“Whiskey River” by Johnny Bush (The Story behind the song)

Friday, January 9th, 2015

by David Scarlett
Country Weekley

Johnny Bush’s career as a solo artist was taking off in the early ’70s when he came to a disc jockey convention in Nashville to sign a deal with RCA records. That’s where the Texas native met RCA executive Jerry Bradley, who planted the seed for “Whiskey River,” a song that would blossom into one of the best-loved — and most recorded — in all of country music.

At the time, Johnny had already experienced sucess with a series of hits including, “You Gave Me a Mountain” and “My CUp Runneth Over.” Still, Jerry wanted him to write a very special song.

Johnny picks up the story.

“Jerry told me, ‘Johnny, what we’ve got to do now is, you’ve gotta write a hit.’ And I said, ‘Jerry, with all the songwriters in Nashville — Harlan Howard, Willie Nelson, Hank Cochran, Bill Anderson and people like that we can draw from — you want me to write the song?.”

But Jerry knew Johnny had a hit in him, and put the ball back in Johnny’s court.

“On my way back to Texas from Nashville,” continues Johnny, “I was on my tour bus and when I woke up in Texarkana, I had the idea about ‘Whiskey River.’ And by the time I got home, I had it written.”

Johnny’s recording of the song went on to becoem a Top 15 hit, but his longtime Texas buddy, Willie Nelson, recorded it and made it a huge hit in 1978 — and his signature tune. In fact, Willie has recorded the song over twenty times.

And it’s a good thing. The royalty checks from the song helped sustain Johnny through some lean years that resulted from a rare vocal disorder.

“I’d jsut released ‘Whiskey River’ and it was climbing the charts when it struck,” he recalls. As a result, Johnny’s career took a serious downturn and it would be years before his vocal problem was correctly diagnosed and treated. Now he’s got a new album, Green Snake, and is back working as many dates as he wants to.

But ‘Whiskey River’ and his pal, Willie, were always there for him. Willie even joined Trick Pony in recording the tune for the group’s upcoming album.

“I just hope it makes the cut,” says Johnny modestly. “You know a lot of time songs are recorded that never make it onto the album.”

Don’t worry Johnny. It’ll be there.

— David Scarlett

Legendary Reunion: Johnny Bush, Mickey Gilley

Wednesday, September 10th, 2014

www.khou.com

Thanks to Sue Mayfield Geiger, for sending along the video.  Check out her website here:
www.smgwriter.com