Art&Seek presents This Week in Texas Music History. Every week, we’ll spotlight a different moment and the musician who made it. This week, Texas music scholar Gary Hartman remembers a honky-tonk legend whose health problems almost ended his career.
You can also hear This Week in Texas Music History on Friday on KXT and Saturday on KERA radio. But subscribe to the podcast so you won’t miss an episode. And our thanks to KUT public radio in Austin for helping us bring this segment to you.
And if you’re a music lover, be sure to check out Track by Track, the bi-weekly podcast from Paul Slavens, host of KERA radio’s 90.1 at Night.
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Johnny Bush was born in Houston on Feb. 17, 1935. He grew up playing Western swing much like his idol, Bob Wills. However, Bush eventually established his own unique honky-tonk style that blended western swing with a more straightforward Texas two-step dance beat. During the early 1960s, Johnny Bush played drums with a relatively unknown singer-songwriter named Willie Nelson, and he also worked for a while in Ray Price’s band, the Cherokee Cowboys. Soon, Bush gained fame in his own right as a singer and songwriter, scoring big with his 1972 hit “Whiskey River.” Although vocal chord problems nearly ended Johnny Bush’s singing career, he eventually recovered and returned to perform in nightclubs and dance halls throughout Texas.
Next time on This Week in Texas Music History, we’ll look at a singing group that was founded in the 1800s but still performs today.