January 12

Johnny Bush, “Whiskey River”, His Story and His Career

In the early ‘70s, Johnny Bush’s career as a solo artist was taking off. This was the time when he came to a disc jockey convention in Nashville to sign a deal with RCA records.  At the event, the Texas native met Jerry Bradley. The RCA executive planted the seed for “Whiskey River”.  Unknowingly, the song blossomed into the best-loved and most recorded song in all of country music.

At the time, Johnny had already experienced success with a series of hits. To name are “You Gave Me a Mountain” and “My Cup Runneth Over”. Nonetheless, Jerry wanted him to write an out of the ordinary song.

Johnny’s & “Whiskey River”’s Story

Johnny shared that Jerry told him that what they had got to do is for Bush to write a hit. Johnny asked him with all the songwriters – Harlan Howard, Willie Nelson, Hank Cochran, Bill Anderson in Nashville — why did he want him to write the song. In Jerry’s mind, he knew that Johnny had a hit in him, and put the ball back in Johnny’s court. On Bush’s way back from Nashville to Tennessee on his tour bus, he woke up in Texarkana. Johnny continued that right then and there, he had the idea about “Whiskey River”. By the time he reached his house, he had it written.

Johnny’s “Whiskey River” cover went on to become a Top 15 hit. On the other hand, Willie Nelson—his Texas buddy—recorded it. In Willie’s signature tune, he made it a huge hit in 1978.  Believe it or not, Willie has recorded the song over twenty times.

Johnny admitted that it was a good thing.  The royalty checks from the song helped sustain Johnny through some lean years that resulted from a rare vocal disorder.

To his recollection, he had just released “Whiskey River” and it was climbing the charts when it struck.   Consequently, Johnny’s career took a serious slump. It would require him several years before his vocal problem was correctly diagnosed and treated.  Now, he has got a new album Green Snake. In addition, he is back working as many dates as he wants to.

Throughout Bush’s journey, “Whiskey River” and pal Willie never left his side. As a support, Willie joined Trick Pony in recording the tune for the group’s upcoming album.

In full humility, Johnny said that he just hopes his album will make the cut. He also added that we are aware of artists recording songs that never make it onto the album.

We assure you, dear Johnny, it will be there.


Johnny Bush, whiskey river

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