by Betty Johnson
When I was very young I learned three things: How to sing solo and how to sing in a group of singers. Having been born in a heavenly choir (Mother, Daddy, Kenneth, Bob and Jim) I knew that my gift came from God and I was to share it with others. Without any idea of where the journey would take me, I committed myself to singing.
My family sang at home (with Daddy playing the guitar) and then on the porch of our log cabin in Burlington N.C. where quartets came from around the countryside to learn from Daddy's shape notes music charts.
Our big break came when we won a singing contest in Charlotte, N.C. We signed a contract with WBT, a 50,000-watt CBS affiliate radio station. We had steady employment from 1938 till 1951. During these years I sang on several programs other than the family. I had a regular spot on "Briarhopper Time" which aired before the regular afternoon family show. As a freshman at Queens College I had my own program five mornings a week.
We were busy, especially Mother who had to raise a familly as well as sing. In addition to our radio work, we were signed to Columbia Records. My parents wrote many of the songs that we recorded. One, "The Death Of Ellington", is in the Library of Congress Folk Music of America Collection.
So much for my musical birth that launched my solo singing career.
While still in my teens, I recorded for Columbia Records as a solo artist. Eddy Arnold and I teamed for an album series "Fun For Everybody With Little Johnny Everything And His Sister Judy." I was back in a family and had added the childrens audience. That effort was a Simon and Shuster venture and after that success, they asked me to cover current hits on their Bell label. RCA-Victor then signed me and that put me on the international map.
Management then sent me to Chicago where I did a TV Film Series with Eddy Arnold. The back-up singers were the Jordanires, a singing group that had worked with my family on The Grand Ole Opry. They would later becoe the back-up singers for Elvis Presley.
Don McNeill's Breakfast Club came along next with a Bally Recording contract. I recorded a favorite of my father's "Please Tell Me Why". Next came the big hit "I Dreamed." After airing the morning show, I raced to the Wrigley Building and co-starrd with Mike Douglas on the NBC Noon Show.
A call from New York and Jack Paar landed me on the Tonight Show for four great years. It also gave me a rocord contract with Atlantic Records where I had several hits. Among them "The Little Blue Man" is still popular today.
Jack gave me time off to pursue my theatre engagements. I had starring roles in:
- THE KING AND I
- SOUTH PACIFIC
- THE SOUND OF MUSIC
Seventeen State Fairs were sneaked in and they fulfilled my love of knowing our United States.
- TV LONDON PALLADIUM
- TV IN SWEDEN AND DENMARK
- PORTUGAL AND SPAIN
Personal apppearances in America:
- NEW ORLEANS-ROOSEVELT HOTEL -BLUE ROOM
- SAN FRANCISCO-FAIRMONT HOTEL-VENETIAN ROOM
- CHICAGO-DRAKE HOTEL
- NEW YORK-PLAZA HOTEL
- LAS VEGAS-SANDS HOTEL
- LOS ANGLES-AMBASSADOR HOTEL
My second appearance at the Coconut Grove changed my life. I met the man of my life. We married in '64 and settled with family life raising two daughters and nurturing son Dick. By 1993, family raised, educated and a college degree of my own, I resumed my career in singing and acting which I co-starred:
- SHEAR MADNESS-BOSTON
- TAKE ME ALONG-BROADWAY AND KENNEDY CENTER GOODSPEED OPERA HOUSE
- FILMS: REVERSAL OF FORTUNE and GOODFELLAS(small roles)
What a life-- I am grateful to my parents, my brothers, and my loving family for support. One of my greatest joys is to get to my computer and read what people write in my guest book. How lucky I am to share life, love, and friendship with the world at large.
If you would like to know more about Betty, why not
take a listen to "In Her Own Words"
the audiobook autobiography read by Betty herself, featuring excerpts from
40 of her favorite songs.
Another biography of Betty is available here.