Monday, 25 March 2013
Johnny Burnette born 25 March 1934
John Joseph "Johnny" Burnette (March 25, 1934–August 14, 1964) was a Rockabilly pioneer. Along with his older brother Dorsey Burnette and a friend named Paul Burlison, Johnny Burnette was a founding member of The Rock and Roll Trio. He was the father of 1980s rockabilly singer Rocky Burnette.
Johnny grew up with his parents and Dorsey Jr. in a public housing project in the Lauderdale Courts area of Memphis. Johnny went initially to the Blessed Sacrament Parochial
School and after graduating from the eighth grade he moved on to the Catholic High School in Memphis where he showed an aptitude for sports. Both he and Dorsey were keen amateur boxers and were to become Golden Gloves Champions.
After leaving high school, Johnny tried his hand at becoming a professional boxer, but after one fight with a sixty dollar purse and a broken nose, he decided to quit the ring. He went to work on the barges traversing the Mississippi River, where Dorsey Burnette also worked. Johnny worked mainly as a deck hand while Dorsey worked as an oiler. Both of the brothers worked separately, but they would take their guitars on board and write songs during their spare time. After work they would go back to Memphis, where they would perform those and other songs at local bars. It was in memphis that Johnny formed The Rock and Roll Trio.
Allegedly rejected by Sun Records owner Sam Phillips, the group recorded "Go Mule Go" for Von Records in New York and were subsequently signed to Coral Records, where they enjoyed a minor hit with "Tear It Up". After touring with Carl Perkins and Gene Vincent, the trio underwent a change of personnel in November 1956 with the recruitment of drummer Tony Austin. That same month, the trio featured in Alan Freed's movie Rock Rock Rock. During this period, they issued a number of singles, including "Honey Hush", "The Train Kept A-Rollin'", "Lonesome Train", "Eager Beaver Baby", "Drinking Wine, Spo-Dee-O-Dee" and "If You Want It Enough", but despite the quality of the songs their work was unheralded.
By the autumn of 1957, the trio broke up and the Burnette brothers moved on to enjoy considerable success as songwriters. Writing as a team, they provided Ricky Nelson with the hits "It's Late", "Believe What You Say" and "Just A Little Too Much". After briefly working as a duo, the brothers parted for solo careers.
In the fall of 1958, Johnny obtained a recording contract as a solo artist with Freedom Records, which was an off-shoot of Liberty Records. He had three single releases on this label. In mid-1959, the Freedom Label was shut down and Johnny moved to the main Liberty Label under the direction of producer Snuff Garrett. Since Liberty had more promotional machinery than Freedom, Johnny’s Liberty singles stood a greater chance of succeeding. Johnny proved an adept interpreter of teen ballads, whose lyrics conjured up innocent dreams of wish fulfilment. Both "Dreamin'" and "You're Sixteen" were transatlantic Top 10 hits, perfectly suited to Burnette's light but expressive vocal. A series of lesser successes followed with "Little Boy Sad", "Big Big World", "Girls" and "God, Country And My Baby".
He had three single released during 1962 with Chancellor Records, but none of these singles were hits. He then briefly joined Dorsey on Reprise Records for one single "Hey Sue"/"It Don’t Take Much" before signing a one year contract with Capitol Records in the summer of 1963 again without much success.
When his Capitol contract ran out, Johnny decided to take charge of his own affairs on his own terms. He formed his own label Sahara and in July 1964 released the single "Fountain of Love"/"What A Summer Day" . When he was informed that the name Sahara had already been taken, he renamed the label Magic Lamp and a different single "Bigger Man"/"Less Than A Heartbeat" was quickly released
Before anyone could gauge the chances of "Bigger Man", tragedy struck. After dark on August 14, 1964, Johnny’s tiny unlit fishing boat was struck by an unaware cabin cruiser on Clearlake, California. The impact threw him off the boat and he drowned. When he was given the news, a distraught Dorsey Burnette called Paul Burlison, who immediately flew out to comfort him and attend Johnny’s funeral. The two men were to keep in constant touch until Dorsey’s death of a heart attack in 1979. Johnny Burnette was interred in Forest Lawn Memorial Park Cemetery in Glendale, California.
Among the family he left behind was his son Rocky Burnette, who subsequently achieved recording success in the 70s. (info edited mainly from Wikipedia & NME)