Join us for the Thanksgiving Day debut of "The Reason & The Rhyme", written by Bandolero, Weyman McBride, with Paula Nelson on vocals and the one and only JOHNNY BUSH on drums! Johnny knew Paula her entire life and really loved the work she did on this recording. He was excited to play on it!
Friends, this was Johnny’s last recording session. Be sure to join us at 11:00 AM Central time on Thanksgiving Day on SiriusXM, Willie’s Roadhouse. Musicians include Bandoleros Weyman McBride on guitar, Lynn Daniel on upright bass, T Jarrod Bonta on piano, and Johnny Bush on drums. The Paula Nelson Band brings Landis Armstrong on guitar
Johnny Bush Shinn III was born on Feb. 17, 1935, in Houston. At age 17, he became known as Johnny Bush because of a television announcer’s mix-up. The next day, he went to get his musician’s union card and it was already typed up – Johnny Bush, take it or leave it. He took it and ran.
Bush’s association with [Ray] Price opened doors in Nashville, and he got a job singing demo records for a big-league song publisher. Meanwhile, he played drums in Nelson’s new band, The Record Men, and tried to land a record deal. But label executives thought he sounded too much like Price. So Nelson, primarily known as a songwriter in the 1960s with such songs as Price’s “Night Life,” funded Bush’s first single recording, “Sound of a Heartache,” the title track of his debut album in 1967.
By 1972, Bush’s career was arching up into national prominence thanks to RCA Records, whose Nashville division was headed by the legendary Chet Atkins. Bush’s amazing vocals that soared to operatic levels with a honky-tonk beat led one music critic to dub him the “Country Caruso.”
“Whiskey River,” Bush’s first RCA single, was churning up the charts with airplay across the nation. He was selling out big clubs and was looking forward to a hard-
charging tour to support the single.
Finally, in 1978, a correct diagnosis was made. He had spasmodic dysphonia, a rare neurological disorder that affects the signal between the brain and the larynx that essentially shuts down the muscles surrounding the vocal cords.
While tremendously relieved to discover the cause, Bush still faced an uncertain future. There were only experimental treatments available at that time.
In 1985, with the help of innovative voice exercises developed by speech therapist Gary Catona, Bush regenerated a large part of his singing range and improved his everyday speech skills. It sparked the first steps of an incredible renaissance of his career.
In 2002, a new treatment involving Botox injections into the muscles surrounding the vocal cords allowed Bush to reclaim his speaking voice and his “Country Caruso” range.
Since the turn of the millennium, Bush has released a dozen studio albums – “Lost Highway Saloon,” “Johnny Bush Sings Bob Wills,” “Green Snakes,” “Honkytonic,” “Texas State of Mind,” “Devil’s Disciple,” “Texas on a Saturday Night,” “Kashmere
Gardens Mud: A Tribute to Houston’s Country Soul,” “Lillie’s White Lies,” “Who’ll Buy My Memories,” “Texas Legends: Johnny Rodriguez & Johnny Bush” and “Reflections.”
Bush was inducted into the Texas Country Music Hall of Fame in 2003 along with Kris Kristofferson and Lefty Frizzell, his hero. His life-long compadre Nelson did the honors.
His renewed visibility has made him a mentor to younger Texas artists who were inspired by the honky-tonk/hardcore country sound that Bush does so much to perpetuate. They regularly invite him to share the stage at their shows, presenting Bush with a new generation of fans.
Bush - “In contrast to the powers that be in Nashville, who have either boldly or subtly set out to kill the original roots of country music, in Texas it is our musical birthright and responsibility to keep these sources alive."
-- by JOHN GOODSPEED - Chairman of the Board, Texas Outdoor Writers Association, www.towa.org
2019 - BMI Two Million-Air Award for 2 million spins of "Whiskey River"
2018 - Texas Regional Radio Report: Lifetime Achievement Award
2014 - First Recipient, Ameripolitan Founder of the Sound Award
2005 - BMI Million-Air Award for 1 million spins of "Whiskey River"
2003 - Inducted into the Texas Country Music Hall of Fame
2001 - The National Council of Communicative Disorders and the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association honored Bush with their 2001 Annie Glenn Award at the 20th Anniversary Communication Awards at the Kennedy Center Terrace Theater
1973 - Library of Congress recognizes "Whiskey River" as one of the all time Top 20 country music standards
1970 - BMI Songwriter Achievement Award
1970 - Music City News Most Promising Male Vocalist
1968-1979 - Most Promising New Artist from Record World
"If I wasn't getting paid for this, I'd be doing it anyway. It's what I do."
"Retire from what? Breathing? People only retire from jobs they hate.
Performing is not a job. It's what I do."
When it comes to Texas honky-tonk, nobody knows the music or the scene better than Johnny Bush. Author of Willie Nelson's classic concert anthem "Whiskey River," and singer of hits such as "You Gave Me a Mountain," "Undo the Right," "Jim, Jack and Rose," and "I'll Be There," Johnny Bush is a legend in country music, a singer-songwriter who has lived the cheatin', hurtin', hard-drinkin' life and recorded some of the most heart-wrenching songs about it. He has one of the purest honky-tonk voices ever to come out of Texas. And Bush's career has been just as dramatic as his songs—on the verge of achieving superstardom in the early 1970s, he was sidelined by a rare vocal disorder that he combated for thirty years. But, survivor that he is, Bush is once again filling dance halls across Texas and inspiring a new generation of musicians who crave the authenticity—the "pure D" country—
that Johnny Bush has always had and that Nashville country music has lost.
In Whiskey River (Take My Mind), Johnny Bush tells the twin stories of his life and of Texas honky-tonk music. He recalls growing up poor in Houston's Kashmere Gardens neighborhood and learning his chops in honky-tonks around Houston and San Antonio—places where chicken wire protected the bandstand and deadly fights broke out regularly. Bush vividly describes life on the road in the 1960s as a band member for Ray Price and Willie Nelson, including the booze, drugs, and one-night stands that fueled his songs but destroyed his first three marriages. He remembers the time in the early 1970s when he was hotter than Willie and on the fast track to superstardom—until spasmodic dysphonia forced his career into the
slow lane. Bush describes his agonizing, but ultimately successful struggle to keep performing and rebuild his fan base, as well as the hard-won happiness he has found in his personal life.
Woven throughout Bush's autobiography is the never-before-told story of Texas honky-tonk music, from Bob Wills and Floyd Tillman to Junior Brown and Pat Green. Johnny Bush has known almost all the great musicians, past and present, and he has wonderful stories to tell. Likewise, he offers shrewd observations on how the music business has changed since he started performing in the 1950s—and pulls no punches in saying how Nashville music has lost its country soul. For everyone who loves genuine country music, Johnny Bush, Willie Nelson, and stories of triumph against all odds, Whiskey River (Take My Mind) is a must-read.
With his early musical associations with both Willie Nelson and Ray Price, singer-songwriter John Bush Shinn III was a minor but significant figure in 1960s and 1970s Texas honky-tonk. Bush's most enduring claim to fame is the song "Whiskey River," which he wrote and had a Top Twenty country hit with in 1972.
With a vocal style hauntingly—perhaps damningly—reminiscent of Ray Price, Bush enjoyed minor chart success between 1969 and 1981 on Stop Records and RCA Records, as well as various independent labels. But his career was
more than once hampered by a severe neurological condition that affected his voice . . .
The entry, written by veteran country music critic Bob Allen, goes on to mention Bush's early years playing nightclubs around Houston and San Antonio, his apprenticeships in nationally touring bands led by Nelson and Price, his Top 10 solo hits "Undo the Right" and "You Gave Me a Mountain," and Nelson's subsequent adoption of "Whiskey River" as an in-concert theme song. The brief entry concludes by noting Bush's 1998 "comeback"
album, Talk to My Heart.
All true, and fair enough as far as it goes. So why is a "minor figure" in country music such as Johnny Bush writing his own book?
The first response to that question is for me to suggest that you read the book. As told in Bush's colorful—at times, extremely colorful—first-person narrative, the work provides its own best artistic justification. Bush proves himself to be as masterful at telling a story as he is at singing and songwriting.