Johnny Carroll (23 October 1937 – 13 January 1995) was one of the wildest 1950s rockabilly stars. Hailing from the Dallas-Ft. Worth area, he made a string of great singles in the '50s for Decca, Phillips International (a Sun Records label) and several Texas labels.
John Lewis Carroll was born on October 23, 1937 in Cleburne, Texas. He was raised with Country music and at 9 years old bought himself his first guitar. When he was 10 his mother had taught him enough to appear on radio station KCLE in Cleburne on Saturday mornings. During his second year in high school at the age of 15 Johnny formed his first band The Moonlighters. They had their own Saturday morning show on radio station KCLE in Cleburne.
In 1955 Johnny, together with his high school friends Bill Hennen (piano) and Billy Bunton (bass), won first prize in a talent contest. Jay Salem, a guitar player from Burleson, Texas, won second prize at the same contest. Johnny asked him if he would like to join the band to which he agreed. It wasn't too long before they were opening the show for Ferlin Husky at Fort Worth's Northside Colosseum. Their appearance did impress Jack "Tiger" Goldman, the owner of The Top Ten Recording Studio in Dallas, Texas. He became their first manager and the band cut several demos in his studio.
Jack Goldman arranged a deal with Decca in Nashville, were eagerly looking for a reply to RCA's Elvis Presley. Decca was only interested to sign Johnny Carroll to a recording contract, not his band. That's why musicians such as Grady Martin - guitar, Owen Bradley - piano and Harold Bradley – rhythm guitar, appear on his Decca recordings of which "Rock 'n' Roll Ruby" became the biggest seller. To promote his protege Tiger persuaded Sonny Freidman to shoot a quickie rock & roll movie "Rock Baby Rock It" in Dallas in 1957.
Decca dropped their contract with Johnny but fortunately he landed a contract with Sun records. Four songs were recorded of which Sam Phillips released "That's The Way I Love" b/w "l'll Wait" on his new founded Phillips Int. label. In 1958 Johnny got himself a new manager, Ed Mc Lemore. It was at the same time that Gene Vincent settled in Dallas and he too was signed with the McLemore agency. It was the start of a close friendship between the two singers. They both used some of the same musicians such as Howard Reed, Bill Hennen, Royce McAffe and Grady Owen. This group was collectively known as The Spinners, and they backed Johnny on some sides he cut at Seller's Recording Studio, Dallas, Texas.
Johnny Carroll, now tired of the hard life on the road retired in 1959 but made a sort of come back in 1960 with two songs, Trudy" b/w "Run Come See”. This record saw the end of Johnny's recording career until the 1970's. Johnny then made a living as a fixer for Brian Sellers hiring and arranging bands for Sellers string of clubs.
In 1977 Carroll came to the famous "Rollin' Rock" studios in Van Nuys, California to record the album Texabilly. It was a marathon 27 hour recording session over two days. including some unrleased gems.
On January 13, 1995, Carroll passed away due to liver failure, but his classic early recordings were honored a year later in the form of the 33-track compilation Rock Baby Rock It: 1955-1960 (info AMG & rockabilly europe.com)