The Ballad of Johnny Horton

Johnny HortonOver the weekend, I was at the graduation party for my niece. Actually, she is the daughter of the sister of my sister’s husband. And I have to say, they put on a good party. The father is a constant builder and one thing he has built on their vast property is a bar. Admittedly, the beer on tap was marginal and most of the beer in bottles sucked. But since the demand for good beer was low, I managed to spend the day drinking little else but Lagunitas.

At one point, I got into a conversation with the mother about Johnny Horton who was born on this day in 1925. It turned out that she is a big fan of his music and I had to maneuver to avoid borrowing a CD of his music. It wasn’t that I don’t like his music, it is just that it would have been a hassle to get it back to her. I was raised on the music because my own mother was a fan.

Horton was best known for “saga songs,” which I always associate with folk music, but apparently he was considered rockabilly. His best known song is Jimmy Driftwood’s The Battle of New Orleans. I like the song, but I’ve always thought the production was silly with the drums and the “Hup, two, three, four!” part. In fact, Driftwood’s version is far superior.

But I do love Horton’s voice. He has just enough of that bluegrass hollering thing going on to make what is essentially a pop voice interesting. He also has great variety in the timbre of his voice. And for all the silliness of the production of his songs, they have a gusty appeal. Here is “North to Alaska”:

While on tour in Texas, Horton’s was killed at the age of 35 in a car accident when a drunk college student hit the band’s car while crossing a bridge. The other two survived, although guitarist Tommy Tomlinson lost one of his legs. The drunk kid, of course, suffered only minor injuries.

Happy birthday John Horton!

This entry was posted in Uncategorized by Frank Moraes. Bookmark the permalink.
Avatar

About Frank Moraes

Frank Moraes is a freelance writer and editor online and in print. He is educated as a scientist with a PhD in Atmospheric Physics. He has worked in climate science, remote sensing, throughout the computer industry, and as a college physics instructor. Find out more at About Frank Moraes.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *