Mississippi Writers and Musicians
MISSISSIPPI MUSICIANS: Johnny Russell


Johnny Russell Johnny Russell

Major Works

Albums

  • Actin' Naturally Released: 2000
  • Greatest Hits
  • Rednecks, White Socks, Blue Ribbons

Major recordings as a writer

  • "Act Naturally"-Buck Owens/The Beatles
  • "Makin' Plans"-Dolly Parton/Emmylou Harris/Linda Ronstadt/Conway Twitty/Loretta Lynn/Vince Gill
  • "Let's Fall To Pieces Together"-George Strait
  • "Got No Reason Now for Going Home"-Gene Watson
  • "Beautiful Unhappy Home"-Loretta Lynn/Ernest Tubb
  • "The World's Meanest Man"-Burl Ives
  • "It Sure Seemed Right"-Dottie West
  • "That's What I Tell Them"-Patti Page
  • "Hurt Her Once for Me"-The Wilburn Brothers
  • "You'll Be Back"-The Statler Brothers

Major recordings as an artistActin' Naturally, Johnny Russell

  • "Rednecks, White Socks & Blue Ribbon Beer"
  • "Catfish John"
  • "The Baptism of Jesse Taylor"
  • "Mr & Mrs. Untrue"
  • "Chained"
  • "What a Price"
  • "Hello, I Love You"
  • "She's In Love with a Rodeo Man"
  • "You'll be Back"

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Johnny Russell: A Biography

John Bright Russell was born in  Sunflower County, Mississippi,  January 23, 1940. Russell's family moved to Fresno, California, when he was twelve years old. Even then his goals were centered around country music. He is both a  songwriter and  performer as he sings and plays the guitar.  Jim Reeves heard his first record, 'In A Mansion Stands My Love' (for Radio Records when he was 18), and recorded  the song as the back side of 'He'll Have To Go'. Other early Russell compositions include Loretta Lynn 's 'Two Mules Pull This Wagon' and the Wilburn  Brothers' 'Hurt Her Once For Me'.  Russell was working on a song about Hollywood but a chance remark, 'They're gonna put me in the movies', enabled him to complete it as 'Act Naturally'. Russell's co-writer, Vonnie Morrison,  placed the song with Buck Owens and it became a number 1 US country hit.Johnny Russell, Almost Alilve

'Act Naturally' was recorded by the Beatles with Ringo Starr on lead vocals for their Help! album, and was also the backside of their US number 1, 'Yesterday'. Russell, who had recorded as a sideline for MGM and ABC-Paramount, took his own career seriously when he signed with Chet Atkins for RCA in 1971. He had US country hits with 'Catfish John', 'The Baptism Of Jesse Taylor', 'She's In Love With A Rodeo Man' and, most significantly, 'Rednecks, White Socks And Blue Ribbon Beer', which became an anthem in the South. 'I was appearing on Charley Pride 's road show,' says Russell, 'and he wouldn't let me sing the song 'cause he thought it was racial.'  Russell did not write his biggest RCA singles. He explains, 'I like singing people songs and as I tend to write hurting love songs, I never wrote the kind of songs that were right for me.' Russell's 1977 single 'Obscene Phone Call' was banned by several US radio stations. In 1978 he moved to Mercury and his singles  included 'While The Choir Sang The Hymn, I Thought Of Her', 'You'll Be Back  Every Night In My Dreams' and 'Song Of The South'.

Russell married his  second wife, Beverly Heckel, in 1977 when she was 17. She had her own   chart success with 'Bluer Than Blue' and she joined his stage show. George  Strait had a US country number 1 in 1984 with Russell's 'Let's Fall To Pieces Together' and Gene Watson did well with 'I Got No Reason Now For Going Home'. Although Johnny Russell's name was known only to die-hard fans in England, he was a showstopper at the 1985 Wembley country music festival with his Burl Ives -styled personality and humour (Ives did, in fact, record a Russell song, 'Mean Mean Man'). Russell, a heavy man, made this opening remark, 'Can you all see me at the back?', was a winner; a successful tour in the United Kingdom with Boxcar Willie followed. A heart attack put Russell out of action for some time, but he returned to Nashville as a songwriter and singer.

In 1985 Russell became a member of the Grand Ole Opry.  Hal Durham of the Opry, once said, "Johnny consistently delights the Grand Ole Opry audiences with his unique style of singing and comedy.  He is an outstanding showman who carries on our tradition of quality entertainment here at the Opry."

Johnny Russell died on July 3rd, 2001 at the age of 61. Johnny Russell and Mississippian Marty Stuart

Awards

  • Grammy Nomination-"Male Vocalist of  the Year"
  • BMI Achievement Awards
  • Nashville Song Writers Association-2 of  the top 15 Songs of the Year
  • RCA Records-"Golden Boot Award"
  • ASCAP-Awards of Merit
  • R.O.P.E.-"Lifetime Achievement as an  Entertainer" 1995

 

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Related Websites

Johnny Russell's home page

Yahoo's biography of Russell.

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Last updated in 2001
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