Born Cyrus Whitfield Bond, 1 June 1915, Enville, Oklahoma
Died 12 June 1978, Burbank, California

Singer / songwriter / actor / author. For thirty years, Johnny Bond was primarily associated with singing cowboys and their music, first with Jimmy Wakely, then as Gene Autry's sidekick, and later as business partner and associate of Tex Ritter. Yet he managed to carve out an identity of his own as a singer, comedian and recording artist.

Born into a poor, non-musical farming family, Bond's first instrument was the trumpet. He also learned to play the guitar and the ukelele. Jimmie Rodgers was his idol and from his high school days on there was never any doubt what he wanted to be : a country singer. In 1937, Bond moved to Oklahoma City, where he formed a trio with Jimmy Wakely and Scotty Harrell, first known as the Bell Boys, then the Jimmy Wakely Trio. Around that time, Bond started writing cowboy songs and in 1938 he wrote his first classic, "Cimarron", which has been recorded in many versions, both vocal and instrumental. The biggest-selling version was by Billy Vaughn and his orchestra (1958). The Jimmy Wakely Trio landed a spot on Gene Autry's CBS "Melody Ranch" radio show in 1940. Bond would continue to play on the show until 1956. The association with Autry was Bond's springboard for a movie career. Until 1947, he appeared in some 35 movies (all small parts). In 1941, Bond was signed as a solo artist by Columbia Records. The years 1947-1951 were his most successful years as a country recording artist, with eight records hitting the Top 12 on Billboard's country charts, including "Divorce Me C.O.D." (# 4), "So Round, So Firm, So Fully Packed" (# 3) and "Sick, Sober and Sorry" (# 7). By this time, Bond's songwriting had moved away from the cowboy genre and nearly all his recording sessions (until 1956 in Hollywood, later in Nashville) produced at least one up-tempo boogie woogie or honky tonk song. Humour was often an important ingredient of his lyrics. Bond was never afraid to adjust to new trends and by the mid-1950s he began experimenting with the emerging rockabilly and rock 'n' roll genre.

Bond seldom toured to promote his records. Instead, he started to focus his career on television. He joined the Los Angeles TV show "Town Hall Party" in 1953 as a regular performer, backing guitarist and writer and stayed with the show until its demise in early 1961. Other regulars on THP included guitarist Joe Maphis and pianist Jimmy Pruett. Fortunately, Bear Family has reissued many kinescope recordings of this show and one DVD has has been devoted especially to Johnny Bond. By the end of 1957, Bond had written 123 songs, many of which are now considered as country standards. But it had been six years since Johnny had a song on the charts and Columbia decided not to resign him, after a 16-year association. Johnny then started label-hopping. In 1960 he was contracted to Gene Autry's Republic label and scored a # 26 pop hit with "Hot Rod Lincoln", which was a rewrite (by Charlie Ryan) of Arkie Shibley's "Hot Rod Race" from 1951. This became the first Johnny Bond record to be released in the UK (London HLU 9189), though the title and lyrics were changed to "Hot Rod Jalopy" for British consumption. The flip, "Five-Minute Love Affair", had one of those clever lyrics where the last sentence (in this case even the last word!) changes the whole meaning of the song. This was followed up by the equally strong "That's the Way A Star Is Born"/"X-15" (Republic 2008), which was only a minor country hit. Towards the end of 1960, Bond started an 11-year relationship with Starday Records (only interrupted by a short spell at Capitol), where he recorded several albums and not without success. The label would give him another major hit, the drinking song "Ten Little Bottles" (Starday 704, 1965), which Bond had originally recorded for Columbia in 1954. It peaked at # 2 on the country charts, # 43 pop, and got a UK release on London HLB 9957.

After Starday, Johnny recorded for various small labels, ending his career with two albums of cowboy songs from CMH Records in 1976. During the 1970s, he started writing books, a biography of Tex Ritter, a short auto- biography and "Thirty Years On the Road With Gene Autry", which was posthumously published in 2007. Bond died of a heart attack in 1978, at the age of 63. He was elected to the Country Music Hall of Fame in 1999.

Acknowledgements : Bruce Eder (All Music Guide), Packy Smith (liner notes for the Bear Family CD).

More info: (with discography)

CD recommendations : - Johnny Bond, Put Me To Bed (Bear Family BCD 16810). Released in 2007.
30 Columbia recordings 1941-1957, including many of his more "rocking"
recordings. Annotated by Packy Smith.
- Johnny Bond, The Little Rock & Roll. Encore CD 2302. 28 tracks.
The first half of this CD overlaps with the previous CD. It also contains
post-Columbia recordings, like "Five-Minute Love Affair", "That's the Way
A Star Is Born", "X-15" and "Tijuana Jail". Probably not a legal release, though.
- Johnny Bond and his Red River Valley Boys (ASV / Living Era AJA 5360).
25 Columbia recordings from 1947-50, more traditional country

DVD : Johnny Bond At Town Hall Party (Bear Family BVD 20009 AT).


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