Song:Battle Of New Orleans
Honky tonk singer Johnny Horton was best known for his historical songs like Battle Of New Orleans which crossed over to pop in 1959. Sadly, Horton died in a 1960 car crash so he is somewhat forgotten today. He was born Apr. 30, 1925 in Los Angeles and he grew up in the East Texas town of Rusk. His parents were sharecroppers who would frequently travel to California to pick fruit. Horton's mom taught him to play guitar. Horton went to college with the intention of becoming a minister. But he left school and even worked in the Selznick Studio mail room in Los Angeles. It was here that he met his future wife Donna Cook. Horton's interest in geology led to him becoming a fisherman in Alaska. That's why he was called The Singing Fisherman. Horton moved back to Texas and won a talent contest. He got a manager who eventually got him a deal with Mercury Records. Though he got some exposure through radio in Los Angeles, his recordings went nowhere. Horton moved to Shreveport to work for the Louisiana Hayride show. His marriage ended as Donna didn't want to live in Shreveport. Horton became friends with Hank Williams and married his widow Billie Jean after Williams' death. He got a new manager who also managed Webb Pierce and Horton signed with Columbia in 1955. His first Columbia single Honky Tonk Man was his first top ten country hit and today is considered a country music standard. Then he had his first number one country hit with When It's Springtime in Alaska (It's Forty Below) in 1958. But I don't think anyone expected Horton to cross over to pop. The Battle Of New Orleans topped the country and pop charts and Horton became known for these kind of historical songs. The Battle Of New Orleans was written by high school teacher turned songwriter Jimmy Driftwood. Horton heard Driftwood's 1957 recording of the song and asked Driftwood if he could record it. The record was so popular that Homer and Jethro recorded a parody called The Battle of Kookamonga. Horton's other top five pop hits were Sink The Bismarck which Horton wrote and the theme of the 1960 John Wayne film North To Alaska. Horton was playing a club in Texas when he had a premonition that he would be killed by a drunk driver. And that's what happened driving home to Shreveport. His car was hit by a truck driven by a drunk driver and Horton died from his injuries on Nov. 5, 1960 at age 35. This 2CD comp is budget priced and includes some of Horton's early recordings. Singers like George Jones and Dwight Yoakam have acknowledged Horton as an influence. Here's Johnny Horton performing The Battle Of New Orleans on The Ed Sullivan Show 1959.