1957 Johnnie & Joe – Over The Mountain, Across The Sea
Zell Sanders became one of the earliest females to own her own record label when she formed J&S Records in New York City in 1956. She had begun managing The Hearts in the early fifties; Rex Garvin had been the music director and piano player for the group.
Joe Rivers was a singer from South Carolina. He became paired with Zell’s daughter Johnnie, and the two began recording singles for the J&S label in 1956. Chess Records licensed their recordings and even began pressing the singles.
Rex wrote the duo’s second single and sang backup vocals on their recording of Over The Mountain, Cross The Sea in 1957. When Chess picked up the single, they changed the name slightly, and it became Over the Mountain, Across The Sea.
The single reached the Billboard Hot 100 on May 13, 1957. The pair appeared and lip-synced their song on Milt Grant’s Record Hop on WTTG-TV in Washington, DC, two weeks later.
The single peaked at #8 in July and they appeared with their hit on Dick Clark’s Saturday Night Beechnut Show.
The pair continued recording songs, and two of their releases reached the R&B top forty chart. The only other time they reached the Hot 100 came in 1960 when Chess Records reissued their hit single; it only reached #89 the second time around.
When no additional hits showed up, the duo broke up. Johnnie briefly joined and toured with The Jaynettes. She sang backup vocals on the song Sally Go ‘Round The Roses, which reached #2 on the Hot 100 in 1963.
Also in 1963, Bobby Vinton recorded a cover version of Over The Mountain, Across The Sea that peaked at #21 on the Hot 100.
Johnnie and Joe reunited in the later sixties and toured together on the oldies circuit for the next twenty years. They also recorded an album together in 1982.
Johnnie suffered a stroke and died in 1988.
Barbara Parrett Toomer (a former member of the Toys who sang on A Lover’s Concerto in 1965) became Joe’s new partner for public appearances.
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