Who was/is Johnny Seay ? - CDs, Vinyl LPs, DVD and more
Johnny Seay (aka Johnny Sea)
15.July 1940 - 14. May 2016
In the mid-to-late 1950s, as in the mid-to-late 1960s, and the mid-2000s, Johnny Cash was a hot property. For someone so influential, he attracted surprisingly few soundalikes, but Mercury's Shelby Singleton always had an eye for an angle, and he found a kid with a soulful baritone named Johnny Seay. Now, Seay was an Irish name that should have been pronounced Shay, but everyone pronounced it Sea, and Singleton made the obvious connection: Johnny Cash… Johnny C… Johnny Sea.
John Allan Seay was born in Gulfport, Mississippi on July 15, 1940. His father was in the coastguard for 32 years, but his parents separated when he was small, and he shuttled between relatives in Mississippi, Florida, and Georgia. His grandfather, Jesse Pitts, hosted a radio show on WGCM in Gulfport, Mississippi in the 1930s, and his mother sang old country songs.
"I believe my mother was without a doubt the greatest influence on my music," says Johnny. "She was a great singer. I can still remember some of the songs my mother sang to us when we were really small like 'Put My Little Shoes Away,' 'Little Pickaninny' and 'Babes In The Woods.' My sister and I both cried when she did songs of this kind, and I still have a tough time singing those songs without choking back tears." Things weren't so good after the divorce, though. "From time to time my sister and I would have to go to my father's house in St. Petersburg, Florida, to try out his new wife to see if it would work," he wrote later. "I guess it didn't. We never stayed too long. Sometimes, we stayed with my aunt and uncle in Union City, Georgia, or my grandmother in Gulfport. From time to time, we lived with my mother and stepfather in Atlanta." Johnny got his first guitar when he was ten, but it was sold to buy shoes for his sister. "Although," Johnny adds, "I've wondered many times if my grandmother didn't get rid of it because I was driving her crazy with it instead of my sister needing new shoes."
Johnny's performing career followed a familiar path: first guitar (1950), second guitar (1955), first appearance on a talent portion of a local hillbilly jamboree (1957); and a local entrepreneur saying, "Sign here, kid." Johnny won the Georgia Jubilee's amateur talent contest, beating out Bill Anderson and winning enough money to buy an 1873 Colt 45. The kingpin of the Atlanta music scene, Bill Lowery, signed him, and Johnny made his first record in 1958 with another Lowery protégé, Jerry Reed, playing guitar.
The early sessions were issued on Lowery's NRC Records. The first single coupled Johnny's I Love You with Jerry Reed's It Won't Be Easy To Forget. Johnny Cash had recently recorded Reed's If The Good Lord's Willing, and Reed might have written It Won't Be Easy as another song for Cash. Bill Lowery had published Young Love, and probably saw I Love You as a song in the same vein. Shelby Singleton, then a salesman for Mercury Records, signed Johnny to a management deal and brought him to the Louisiana Hayride in Shreveport. Every other Saturday, Johnny appeared on the Cowtown Hoedown in Fort Worth. The Hayride ads for November 1958 mention that Johnny was back "by popular demand," so he probably joined sometime around then, but was gone early the following year. The Hayride, like most radio barndances, was fading away, anyway.
Toward the end of 1958, Johnny Cash's first Columbia LP appeared with a new arrangement of the immemorial folk blues, Frankie And Johnny. Cash was atop the country charts with Don't Take Your Guns To Town, and Singleton knew that some dee-jays were spinning Frankie's Man, Johnny so he persuaded Lowery to rush out a cover version by Johnny Seay. It climbed the country charts, eventually reaching #13 before Columbia wised up and rush-released Cash's version, which reached #9.
Johnny Seay Blue Moon Of Kentucky
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