Fans Of Song Writers Johnny Horton And Hank Williams Sr.
In the forties and fifties North Lamar which was not yet a part of Austin and was still known as the Dallas Highway -- was a well-known roadway lit up by nightclubs. The Skyline Club was a large club that opened on the Dallas Highway in 1948. It was was later given the address of 11306 North Lamar Boulevard, which is approximately the location of the Eckerd Drugs at North Lamar and Braker today (Page 24, The Austin American-Statesman, 09-07-2000). ).
Probably the most interesting and most well-known event regarding the Skyline Club concerns the strange confluence of events that formed the destiny of two well-known western musicians -- Hank Williams and Johnny Horton -- and one unfortunate widow.
Hank Williams, among the most beloved of western singers and songwriters was a tragic figure. Hank Williams married Billie Jean Jones after a failed first marriage.
In December of 1952 Hank played at a gig at the Skyline Club; it was to be his last. On his way to his next gig in Canton, Ohio, Hank died while sleeping in the back of a car at the age of 29.
A December, 1952, Austin Newspaper Ad for Hank Williams Sr.'s Appearance at the Skyline Club
Johnny Horton, while still almost an unknown, had met and befriended Hank Williams. In 1960 Johnny Horton, now famous for such songs as Battle of New Orleans and Sinking of the Bismarck had according to members of his band--been having premonitions of death. He had claimed that he felt he was going to be killed by a drunkard. On Friday night, November 4, Johnny Horton had a gig at the Skyline Club on Dallas Highway. He avoided the bar, because of his stated premonition that he was going to die in that very place. After the gig the band loaded their equipment into Hortons white Cadillac and left the Skyline. It seemed that Hortons premonition was not fulfilled.
Horton was driving toward Shreveport, where he had just purchased a house. At the town of Milano, east of Austin. Hortons Cadillac approached a bridge over a train trestle, a truck coming from the other direction hit one side of the bridge, then the other side, then it struck Hortons car. The driver was found to be drunk and had liquor in the truck cab: Horton was indeed killed by a drunk. Like Hank Williams, a gig at the Skyline had been his last, and like Hank Williams, Horton left behind a grieveing widow named Billie Jean. Horton had married Billie Jean Jones, the same woman who had been widowed by Hank Williams.
Article by Michael Corcoran, Page 24, The Austin American-Statesman, 09-07-2000
A December, 1952, Austin Newspaper Page Displaying Music Events at the Skyline Club and at Dessau Hall
Johnny Horton, Honky Tonk Rockabilly Legend
Born: April 30, 1925
Died: November 5, 1960
Hometown: Tyler, Texas
Johnny grew up in Rusk, Texas. Although he was born in Los Angeles he always insisted that East Texas was his home. He first hit the headlines as a star basketball player for baylor University. After collegiate years, Johnny became a professional angler. From childhood, Horton spent every leisure moment working with fishing tackle and equipment. He fished every stream in that lake-covered south-east Texas inland area and the Gulf of Mexico shoreline. As a hobby, while relaxing after a day in hip-boots or in a rowboat with a fishing party, Johnny took up pickin' and singin'. On one of his expeditions into the mossfiligreed bayous, a staff member of radiostation KWKH (Shreveport) was fishing. Horton, as usual, played and sang for the group. The report of this staff member reached Horace Logan, programm director of the Louisiana Hayride. Only one audition covinced logan that Horton had it all. So, Johnny stayed in Shreveport, Louisiana, where he was a star for eight years on the Louisiana Hayride Radio Show.
Fabor Robison (Fabor Records), a fellow Texan, heard Johnny perform on the Hayride. A personal talk and an audition convinced Robison he had a new star! And he was right! Johnny recorded his first ten singles on Abbott (a Fabor sub-label), with two sides being duets with Billy Barton. Horton had his first hit on the country music charts with "Gobbler, the hounddog" and some other big ones for the Fabor label. And the string of hits never really stopped. Of course, the New Orleans epic hit a new peak. Johnny recorded the Jimmy Driftwoord song "The battle of New Orleans" in 1959 and it became a number 1 hit, it even wound up being the number one song for the entire year.
Johnny was killed in an automobile crash on November 5, 1960, on U.S. Route 79 near the small town of Milano, Texas. He was returning from an engagement in Austin, Texas. His widow, Billy Jean, was the former wife of Hank Williams, who met his death in the backseat of a car, on his way to do a show, in 1953. Hank's hart just gave out from alcohol and drugs abuse.
More recently, in 1996, Bear Family dug up a Johnny Horton recording that had been mysteyously burried for 40 years. It is a very good cover of the Tennessee Ernie Ford original "Shotgun Boogie" which is now issued on the Bear Family CD "That'll flat git it! Volume 8". Most, if not all, of Johnny recordings, masters and demos, have been re-issued by Bear Family records are are very much worth while!
Johnny did a lot of country and western, for us Rockabilly freaks, the following tracks are the most interesting and they have all been compiled on a Bear Family LP named "Rockin' Rollin' Johnny Horton" which was first issued in 1981 (recording dates between brackets).
Sal's got a sugarlip (1959)
Honky tonk hardwood floor (1957)
Honky tonk man (1956)
I'm coming home (1956)
The woman I need (1957)
Tell my baby I love her (1957)
The first train heading south (1959)
Lover's rock (1957)
The electrified donkey (1959)
All grown up (1958)
Sugar coated baby (1956)
Let's take the long way home (1957)
Ole slew foot (1960)
Sleepy eyed John (1960)
The wild one (1957)
I'm ready if you're willing (1956)