1960 Johnny Burnett – Dreamin’
Johnny Burnett grew up in government housing in Memphis, near to where Elvis lived. He and his brother Dorsey were briefly amateur boxers and then worked on barges on the Mississippi river. They began playing in clubs in Memphis and became The Rhythm Rangers when Paul Burlison joined them.
The three moved to New York in 1956 and competed and won on Ted Mack’s Original Amateur Hour three times. They renamed themselves the Rock and Roll Trio and began recording and making appearances on television. None of their records generated any money, and they had to appear in clubs in one night stands. Dorsey left the group in late 1956 and the group disbanded complete the next year.
Dorsey and Johnny moved to California and convinced Ricky Nelson to record three songs they wrote in 1958: Believe What You Say, It’s Late, and Waitin’ in School. They recorded some instrumentals themselves, but couldn’t get much traction.
Johnny signed a solo recording contract with Freedom Records late that year and began recording singles he had written. None of them charted.
Liberty Records shut down the Freedom record label and moved Johnny to their main label. Snuff Garrett became Johnny’s new producer. The first two singles they worked on together only did well regionally.
Their third single, Dreamin’, became Johnny’s first national hit. Ted Ellis and Barry De Vorzon wrote the song and Snuff produced Johnny’s recording. The single peaked at #11 on the Hot 100 in the US and reached #5 in the UK in 1960.
Johnny received a gold record when sales of the single reached one million copies.
Johnny scored three more top forty singles by the end of 1961, but never even reached the Hot 100 again after that. Six different record labels released his records over the next three years, but none helped him find another hit.
Tragically, Johnny died in a boating accident in 1964. He was only thirty years old.
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