Johnny Bush (Shinn)

Painted by Russell Cushman

Johnny Bush means one thing to his fans: DANCING!

LISTEN  to Johnny Bush's country classic, Whiskey River:

Johnny Bush had grandparents who lived here in Grimes County and he lived for a while with his Uncle, country music iconoclast Jerry Jericho of Millican. He is a man that has watched a lot of water pass under the bridge... and perhaps his Navasota roots with it, but when he talks, or writes a book, those roots find their way to the surface. He performed at this year's Grimes County Fair, and started his show with a surprising greeting... "It's great to be back home here in Millican, Texas!"

 Johnny Bush shot the rapids of Whiskey River and thanks be to God, lived to tell the tale. In his book by that name he forever identifies himself with the iconic song he wrote and the ironic life he lived. Whiskey River is a surprisingly candid and introspective journey over the deadly falls of a hard living country singer with little or no moral compass. And amazingly, after plunging into the depths, Bush and his readers come out of the spill better for it.

Johnny Bush wrote country classics like Whiskey River, There Stands the Glass, Green Snakes on the Ceiling…  He has a classic, almost operatic voice that has peerless range and engaging passion. But he will tell you he was and is an artist... a performer. Johnny Bush has a voice that fit his lifestyle and his songs... a voice that was crisp as ice and as smooth as whiskey; but one that eventually cracked like a drunk driver into a pine tree.

Texans have always gobbled up his songs like cold beer. Johnny was simpatico.  When he cried out in his sterling tenor voice, it was OK for the toughest dancehall redneck to feel sorry for himself. You might say he provided a catharsis for all country fans caught in the same whirlpool he was singing from. 
A baby-faced Bush, on the right, poses with two  country music legends, his uncle Jerry Jericho (left), and Ernest Tubb.

One might have surmised that with all of that partying in his music, the man was having a good time. And he thought he was. His life was even wilder than his songs, going through women like race car drivers go through automobiles, fueled by hard liquor and uppers and adrenaline. 

Still belting that impeccable voice, at first I started to accuse him of lip-sinking. On a good day his delivery is still phenomenal. And he has more better days than he used to.

Amazingly, through his perilous, self-destructive quest, Bush paired up with Willie Nelson, who became a lifelong friend and adviser, courageously helped Charlie Pride get recognition, and befriended Robbins and Haggard. His story is the story of all the music we ever loved. It is so gratifying reading in his autobiography about his journey and the men who helped guide him and at times saved him. It is sort of a unique, eternal Texas family that has been sewn together with sound waves.

Dancing. Dancers made Bush popular. Dance was the drivng force, the motive and the market. He could always make more money in Texas singing for country dancers than he could anywhere else at mere music concerts.

Whiskey River may be one of the most important books I have read in a long time. And I read a lot. His revelations of his battle with Nashville, the Internal Revenue Service and Spasmodic Dysphonia, and memories about his Uncle Jerry Jericho of nearby Millican, Texas made the read a special experience for me. Bush has created not only an important body of music, but he has left a real, down to earth testament in his autobiography which every proud Texan will want to read.. and cherish, and share with future generations as they face the white rapids ahead.

Most people were buying his CD's from Johnny's wife Lynda, and well they should, but if you do not get his book, you are missing out on a TREASURY OF TEXAS MUSIC!

AND Now, Ladies and gentlemen, one of my all time favorite songs... Green Snakes On the Ceiling! Click and start dancing!

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