Bob Johnston

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Bob Johnston
Bob Johnston.jpg
At Hotel2Tango Studio in Montreal (left) with Howard Bilerman (right)
Background information
Born(1932-05-14)May 14, 1932
Hillsboro, Texas, US
DiedAugust 14, 2015(2015-08-14) (aged 83)
Nashville, Tennessee, US
Genres Rock, folk, folk rock, blues, country, gospel
Occupation(s) record producer
Associated acts Bob Dylan, Leonard Cohen, Johnny Cash, The Byrds, Simon & Garfunkel

Donald William 'Bob' Johnston[ citation needed ] (May 14, 1932 – August 14, 2015) was an American record producer, best known for his work with Bob Dylan, Johnny Cash, Leonard Cohen, and Simon & Garfunkel. [1] [2]

Bob Dylan American singer-songwriter, musician, author, and artist

Bob Dylan is an American singer-songwriter, author, and visual artist who has been a major figure in popular culture for more than fifty years. Much of his most celebrated work dates from the 1960s, when songs such as "Blowin' in the Wind" (1963) and "The Times They Are a-Changin'" (1964) became anthems for the Civil Rights Movement and anti-war movement. His lyrics during this period incorporated a wide range of political, social, philosophical, and literary influences, defied pop-music conventions and appealed to the burgeoning counterculture.

Johnny Cash American singer-songwriter and actor

Johnny Cash was an American singer-songwriter, guitarist, actor, and author. He is one of the best-selling music artists of all time, having sold more than 90 million records worldwide. Although primarily remembered as a country music icon, his genre-spanning songs and sound embraced rock and roll, rockabilly, blues, folk, and gospel. This crossover appeal won Cash the rare honor of being inducted into the Country Music, Rock and Roll, and Gospel Music Halls of Fame.

Contents

Early days

Johnston was born into a professional musical family. His grandmother Mamie Jo Adams was a songwriter, as was his mother Diane Johnston. [1] Diane had written songs for Gene Autry in the '50s and scored a hit in 1976 when Asleep at the Wheel covered her 1950 demo "Miles and Miles of Texas". After a stint in the Navy, Bob returned to Fort Worth, then he and Diane Johnston collaborated on songwriting for rockabilly artist Mac Curtis, and others. From 1956 to 1961 Bob recorded a few rockabilly singles under the name Don Johnston. [3] By 1964 he had moved into production work at Kapp Records in New York, freelance arranging for Dot Records and signed as a songwriter to music publisher Hill and Range. He also married songwriter Joy Byers with whom he began to collaborate. [4]

Gene Autry American actor and singer

Orvon Grover "Gene" Autry was an American singer, songwriter, actor, musician and rodeo performer who gained fame as a singing cowboy in a crooning style on radio, in films, and on television for more than three decades beginning in the early 1930s. Autry was the owner of a television station, several radio stations in Southern California, and the Los Angeles/California/Anaheim Angels Major League Baseball team from 1961 to 1997.

Asleep at the Wheel American country music group

Asleep at the Wheel is an American country music group that was formed in Paw Paw, West Virginia and is based in Austin, Texas. The band has won nine Grammy Awards since their 1970 inception, released over twenty albums, and has charted more than 21 singles on the Billboard country charts. Their highest-charting single, "The Letter That Johnny Walker Read", peaked at No. 10 in 1975.

Rockabilly is one of the earliest styles of rock and roll music, dating back to the early 1950s in the United States, especially the South. As a genre it blends the sound of Western musical styles such as country with that of rhythm and blues, leading to what is considered "classic" rock and roll. Some have also described it as a blend of bluegrass with rock and roll. The term "rockabilly" itself is a portmanteau of "rock" and "hillbilly", the latter a reference to the country music that contributed strongly to the style. Other important influences on rockabilly include western swing, boogie-woogie, jump blues, and electric blues.

Elvis and Joy Byers

In later years Bob Johnston claimed that songs still credited to his wife Joy Byers were actually co-written, or solely written by himself. [4] He has cited old "contractual reasons" for this situation. The songs in question include Timi Yuro's 1962 hit "What's A Matter Baby", plus at least 16 songs for Elvis Presley's films between 1964 and 1968, including "It Hurts Me", "Let Yourself Go" and "Stop, Look and Listen". Two songs credited to Byers, the aforementioned "Stop, Look and Listen" and "Yeah, She's Evil!" were recorded by Bill Haley & His Comets (the latter song was titled "The Meanest Girl in Town" when Presley recorded it). Presley recorded "The Meanest Girl in Town" on June 10, 1964, while Bill Haley recorded his version a week later, on June 16, 1964. [5]

Timi Yuro American singer

Rosemary Timothy Yuro, professionally known as Timi Yuro, was an American singer and songwriter. Sometimes called "the little girl with the big voice," she is considered to be one of the first blue-eyed soul stylists of the rock era. According to one critic, "her deep, strident, almost masculine voice, staggered delivery and the occasional sob created a compelling musical presence." Yuro possessed a contralto vocal range.

Elvis Presley American singer and actor

Elvis Aaron Presley, also known mononymously as Elvis, was an American singer, musician, and actor. Regarded as one of the most significant cultural icons of the 20th century, he is often referred to as the "King of Rock and Roll" or simply "the King".

It Hurts Me 1964 song performed by Elvis Presley

"It Hurts Me" is a 1964 Top 40 song recorded by Elvis Presley on RCA Victor. Credited to Joy Byers and Charles E. Daniels, "It Hurts Me" is a ballad that was recorded by Elvis Presley on January 12, 1964.

Columbia Records: Dylan, Cash, and Cohen

Johnston worked briefly as a staff producer for Kapp Records, then for Columbia Records in New York, where he began producing a string of notable and highly influential albums (see list below). He was already producing Patti Page when in 1965 he was successful in gaining the assignment to produce Bob Dylan, [2] [6] followed by Simon & Garfunkel, [2] the Pozo-Seco Singers, Johnny Cash, Flatt & Scruggs, and then Leonard Cohen. His style of production varied from a 'documentary' approach capturing a fleeting moment (exemplified by Dylan's albums and Cash's live albums) to providing subtle arrangements with strings, background vocals and seasoned session musicians (exemplified by Cohen's studio albums).

Columbia Records American record label; currently owned by Sony Music Entertainment

Columbia Records is an American record label owned by Sony Music Entertainment, a subsidiary of Sony Corporation of America, the North American division of Japanese conglomerate Sony. It was founded in 1887, evolving from the American Graphophone Company, the successor to the Volta Graphophone Company. Columbia is the oldest surviving brand name in the recorded sound business, and the second major company to produce records. From 1961 to 1990, Columbia recordings were released outside North America under the name CBS Records to avoid confusion with EMI's Columbia Graphophone Company. Columbia is one of Sony Music's four flagship record labels, alongside former longtime rival RCA Records, as well as Arista Records and Epic Records.

Patti Page American singer and recording artist

Clara Ann Fowler, known by her stage name Patti Page, was an American singer of pop and country music. She was the top-charting female vocalist and best-selling female artist of the 1950s, selling over 100 million records during a six-decade long career. She was often introduced as "the Singin' Rage, Miss Patti Page". New York WNEW disc-jockey William B. Williams introduced her as "A Page in my life called Patti".

Simon & Garfunkel American music duo

Simon & Garfunkel were an American folk-rock duo consisting of singer-songwriter Paul Simon and singer Art Garfunkel. One of the best-selling music groups of the 1960s, their biggest hits—including "The Sound of Silence" (1965), "Mrs. Robinson" (1968), "The Boxer" (1969), and "Bridge over Troubled Water" (1970)—reached number one on singles charts worldwide.

After a couple of years in New York, Johnston became head of Columbia in Nashville, Tennessee, where he had known many of the session musicians, such as Charlie Daniels, for years. [7] He produced three of Cohen's albums, toured with him and also composed music to the Cohen lyric "Come Spend the Morning", recorded by both Lee Hazlewood and Engelbert Humperdinck. [8]

Nashville, Tennessee State capital and consolidated city-county in Tennessee, United States

Nashville is the capital and most populous city of the U.S. state of Tennessee. The city is the county seat of Davidson County and is located on the Cumberland River. The city's population ranks 24th in the U.S. According to 2017 estimates from the U.S. Census Bureau, the total consolidated city-county population stood at 691,243. The "balance" population, which excludes semi-independent municipalities within Davidson County, was 667,560 in 2017.

Session musician Profession; musician hired to perform in recording sessions or live performances

Session musicians, studio musicians, or backing musicians are musicians hired to perform in recording sessions or live performances. Session musicians are usually not permanent members of a musical ensemble or band. They work behind the scenes and rarely achieve individual fame in their own right as soloists or bandleaders. However, top session musicians are well known within the music industry, and some have become publicly recognized, such as the Wrecking Crew, and The Funk Brothers who worked with Motown Records.

Charlie Daniels American singer and musician

Charles Edward Daniels is an American singer, songwriter and multi-instrumentalist known for his contributions to Southern rock, country, and bluegrass music. He is perhaps best known for his number-one country hit "The Devil Went Down to Georgia". Daniels has been active as a singer and musician since the 1950s. He was inducted into the Cheyenne Frontier Days Hall of Fame in 2002, the Grand Ole Opry in 2008, the Musicians Hall of Fame and Museum in 2009, and the Country Music Hall of Fame in 2016.

Bob Johnston was very sophisticated. His hospitality was extremely refined. It wasn't just a matter of turning on the machines. He created an atmosphere in the studio that really invited you to do your best, stretch out, do another take, an atmosphere that was free from judgment, free from criticism, full of invitation, full of affirmation. Just the way he'd move while you were singing: He'd dance for you. So, it wasn't all just as laissezfaire as that. Just as art is the concealment of art, laissezfaire is the concealment of tremendous generosity that he was sponsoring in the studio.

Leonard Cohen quoted in The Stranger Music of Leonard Cohen by William Ruhlmann, Goldmine

At the beginning of "To Be Alone with You" on Nashville Skyline , Bob Dylan asks Johnston "Is it rolling, Bob?" [9]

"To Be Alone with You" is a song by Bob Dylan from his 1969 album Nashville Skyline.

<i>Nashville Skyline</i> 1969 studio album by Bob Dylan

Nashville Skyline is the ninth studio album by American singer-songwriter Bob Dylan, released on April 9, 1969, by Columbia Records as LP record, reel to reel tape and audio cassette.

Independent producer

Dissatisfied with his salary earnings as a Columbia staff producer, particularly after several hit albums which earned him no royalties, Johnston became an independent producer, most successfully with Lindisfarne on Fog on the Tyne , which topped the British album chart in 1972.

In 1972 he toured with Leonard Cohen as a keyboard player, and produced the resulting live album Live Songs .

In 1978 he produced Jimmy Cliff's Give Thankx album, featuring "Bongo Man". In 1979, Johnston produced an album with the San Francisco band Reggae Jackson, titled Smash Hits that featured Jimmy Foot, Cheryl Lynn, Kenneth Nash, and Wayne Bidgell (the low voice heard on Jimmy Cliff's "Bongo Man" track).

In 1985, Johnston produced an album Walking In The Shadow by the San Francisco band The Rhyth-O-Matics, for engineer Fred Catero's newly formed Catero label. Billboard magazine's "Pop Pick of The Week", the album's release was plagued with distribution difficulties.

During a period of financial difficulty, when he was under scrutiny from the IRS, Johnston moved to Austin, Texas, and did no record production for some time. He eventually returned with work on Willie Nelson's 1992 album The IRS Tapes: Who'll Buy My Memories? (Nelson had his own financial difficulties at the time).

In the mid 1990s, Johnston produced Carl Perkins' album Go Cat Go! which featured numerous guest stars including Paul Simon, George Harrison and Ringo Starr, as well as unreleased recordings of Perkins' "Blue Suede Shoes" by John Lennon and Jimi Hendrix. This album's release was delayed until 1996.

Towards the end of his life Johnston returned to working with fresh talent including singer-songwriters Natalie Pinkis (USA), Eron Falbo (Brazil) [10] , and indie rock band Friday's Child (USA). [11] Falbo's album 73 was released in 2013. The final project Johnston worked on before his death was Evolution: Live at the Saxon Pub which he co-produced for Austin, TX band Hector Ward and The Big Time in 2015, which was released in 2016.

Death

Johnston was in a memory facility and a hospice in Nashville for the last week of his life before dying on August 14, 2015. [12] His wife Joyce Johnston (nee Byers) died in May 2017.

Selective discography as producer

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References

  1. 1 2 Evans, Rush (February 8, 2011). "Dylan producer, Bob Johnston, recalls lifetime of musical memories". Gold Mine Mag. Retrieved January 3, 2014.
  2. 1 2 3 Black, Louis (September 30, 2005). "Momentum and the Mountainside Sound". Austin Chronicle. Retrieved January 3, 2014.
  3. Hilburn, Robert (2013). Johnny Cash: The Life. Hachette Digital Inc. ISBN   9780316248693.
  4. 1 2 Simmons, Sylvie (2012). I’m Your Man: The Life of Leonard Cohen. Random House LLC. ISBN   9780771080425.
  5. Elvis Presley: The Originals.
  6. Bob Johnston interviewed on the Pop Chronicles (1969)
  7. Kingsbury, Paul (1998). The Encyclopedia of Country Music: The Ultimate Guide to the Music. Oxford University Press. p. 297. ISBN   9780199770557.
  8. "Engelbert Humperdinck – Come Spend the Morning". AllMusic. Retrieved January 6, 2014.
  9. Nelson, Paul (May 31, 1969). "Nashville Skyline". Rolling Stone. Retrieved January 6, 2014.
  10. "Breedlove Presents Bob Johnston at Festival". Cascade Business News. July 7, 2011. Retrieved January 3, 2014.
  11. Archived March 31, 2012, at the Wayback Machine
  12. "Bob Johnston, producer for Bob Dylan, Johnny Cash & more, dies at 83". Billboard.com. Retrieved August 16, 2015.
  13. http://www.esther-ofarim.de/Disco.htm

Further reading