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Live In Texas Johnny Horton

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Live in Texas Presents: Johnny Horton 16 Biggest Hits "Live"

Today, we will be presenting Johnny Horton! John Gale "Johnny" Horton was an American country music and rockabilly singer most famous for his semi-folk, so-called "saga songs" which began the "historical ballad" craze of the late 1950s and early 1960s. Horton was born in Los Angeles, the youngest of five siblings, and reared in Rusk, Texas. His family often traveled to California to work as migrant fruit pickers. After graduation from high school in Gallatin, Texas, in 1944, Horton attended the Methodist-affiliated Lon Morris Junior College in Jacksonville, Texas, with a basketball scholarship. He later attended Seattle University and briefly Baylor University in Waco, although he did not graduate from any of these institutions. Horton soon returned to to California and found work in the mail room of Hollywood's Selznick Studio. It was here that he met his future first wife, secretary Donna Cook. He relocated twice before heading to Alaska to look for gold. It was during this period that he began writing songs.

After much prompting from his sister Marie, he entered a talent contest at the Reo Palm Isle Clubin Longview, Texas, sponsored by radio station KGRI in Henderson and hosted by station radio announcer and future country music star Jim Reeves. Horton won first prize—an ashtray on a pedestal. Encouraged by the contest, he returned to California, bought some Western-style clothes and entered talent contests. A mixture of Horton's television performances and acquaintances earned him a couple of singles with the minor Cormac recording company.  By mid-1952, ten Horton singles had been issued but none were highly successful. Horton was married twice. His first marriage, to Donna Cook, ended with a divorce. In September 1953, he married Billie Jean Jones, the widow of country music singer Hank Williams, to whom she had been married for the two and one-half months prior to his death. With Billie Jean, Horton had two daughters, Yanina (Nina) and Melody. Billie Jean's daughter, Jeri Lynn, was also legally adopted by Johnny.

Through out the late 1950's Horton had nine top 20 hits on the country charts. With them, he had several major successes, most notably in 1959 with the song "The Battle of New Orleans" (written by Jimmy Driftwood), which was awarded the 1960 Grammy Award for Best Country & Western Recording. The song was awarded the Grammy Hall of Fame Award, and in 2001 ranked No. 333 of the Recording Industry Association of America's "Songs of the Century". During 1960, Horton had two other successes with "North to Alaska" for John Wayne's movie, North to Alaska, and "Sink the Bismarck". Horton is a member of the Rockabilly Hall of Fame and was inducted into The Louisiana Music Hall of Fame and posthumously inducted into the Delta Music Museum Hall of Fame in Ferriday, Louisiana. He is remembered for his major contribution to both country and rockabilly music.