Howdy Top-Rail Bunch! Hope everyone is well, or as well as one can be under our current weather conditions and political climate. Not going there!
In our last Top-Rail News Flash we provided a brief update on our doings, with a promise of details to come. So, here goes. Seventy-three years ago on Thursday, 13 June 1946, Mike Johnson came into the world. Thirty-eight years ago in April 1981, he went to Nashville for his first professional recording session at Jim Maxwell’s Globe Recording Studio! Thirty-two years ago, on 13 June 1987, he created Roughshod Records for his country songs, You and Me Records, and You and Me Music Publishing for his non-country songs. And today, 13 June 2019, for its 32nd label anniversary, he released a You and Me Records 2-song CD Single featuring him singing two of his “Roger Miller” style songs; “Cockco Doodle Doo!” on track 1, and “Preposterous” on track 2. Miller’s release of “King of the Road” back in 1965 while he was in high school was the spark that inspired him to try his hand at songwriting. It’s now available at our Roughshod Records Web Store and you can hear, [but not download] both songs on our You and Me Records Website! Incidentally, we pay the postage on single-item orders in the United States. That is, if you only purchase one item, we’ll cover the postage.
Yep, that’s Mike on the CD Cover in 1972 on his 1968 Kawasaki A7SS Avenger that he bought brand new in Yokosuka, Japan while he was in the Navy. Some of you may remember that bike and a few others that he had back then. Following his active duty discharge from the USS Constellation CVA-64 in February 1969, Mike packed his saddle bags and his Winchester Model 94 Carbine, and headed out from San Diego, California in March 1969 on a grueling 6-day winter trip home, fighting freezing cold and rain in Southern California, snows in Arizona and New Mexico, and fierce cross-winds in West and Central Texas! The weather eased up around Dallas with mainly blistering cold to contend with for the remainder of his trip, with one mishap in Macon, Georgia, before he arrived in Washington DC. He over-shot his turn and tried to make it anyway and the bike slide off the shoulder and into a ditch. He landed on his head and saw the bike bounce out of the ditch and fall. Fortunately he was wearing a helmet. Several cars slowed down to view him but kept going. One car stopped and an elderly lady rolled her window down, shook her finger at him and rolled the window back up and drove off. The bike wasn’t seriously damaged and after resting he continued his journey. Mike left his 1958 Oldsmobile in the care of a Navy buddy back in San Diego, who in turn, loaned it to another Navy buddy who went AWOL. The car was never recovered!
“Mike Johnson Celebrates 38 Years of Music Productions! 1981 to 2019”
Our DVD “Mike Johnson Celebrates 38 Years of Music Productions!” is done and is also available from our Roughshod Records Web Store. This is an audio/visual production that features a photograph and a song excerpt from all 73 releases Mike has produced from May 1981 to June 2019. It contains seven chapters that you can switch to and from, with a brief commentary providing a little insight on each chapter. Chapter 1-Introduction; Chapter 2-Pre-Roughshod Releases; Chapter 3-Roughshod Cassettes; Chapter 4-Roughshod CDs 1-40; Chapter 5-Roughshod CDs 41-54; Chapter 6-You and Me CDs 1-6; and Chapter 7-Dedication. A word of CAUTION for customers: This DVD is NTSC [US] formatted and burned on 8.5GB Double Layer discs and might not play on DVD Players and Computers manufactured more than 5 years ago. It will definitely play on Windows 7 machines. A Youtube version of the DVD is currently on our YouTube Channel. Though Mike has been very busy musically, he always had a full-time job and set aside portions of his salary to fund everything.
Roughshod Records Web Store
Bill Gibson, a noted local musician and friend had his 1966 custom built Batmobile damaged while on his way to a local benefit show in which the vehicle would be featured back in May 2019. Bill is a metal worker and built the car himself, and it even has its own Batcave. He also enjoys traveling on his several Harleys, a particular favorite being his “Then Came Bronson” Harley Sportster.” Mike was also a fan of that TV show starring Michael Parks, and put on just as much mileage as they did when he was biking.
Mike’s long time best friend and old trucking buddy, Jimmy Rae, is back home in Virginia. He’d spent the past month traveling back and forth to Florida to tend to his terminally ill mother who was on her last leg. He was with her when she passed on the night of the 30th of May 2019. Jim was also a Roughshod Records staff member back in the late 1980s.
We recently received a notice from Paul Lawrence that they buried his brother Ted on 1 June 2019 after a long bout of illness and chemotherapy. Paul and Ted are two of three sons of Jack and Ida Lawrence, founders of Lawrence Record Shop on Lower Broadway in Nashville. It was just a couple doors down from Ernest Tubb’s Record Shop. When Mike finished his 1981 recording session in Nashville, he made his rounds armed with demos of his upcoming new 45rpm “King of the Fish.” Impressed, Jack Lawrence became the first retailer to order and stock the new single, and they continued to carry each of Mike’s releases, right up until the store was closed a few years ago. Ted and Mike were drinking buddies during the 1980s. When Mike wasn’t performing in one of the local haunts the two of them were bar-hopping up and down Lower Broadway. Sometime during Mike’s long trucking hiatus, Ted sustained a serious injury that got progressively worse. Paul had lost his childhood sweetheart and wife of 45 years back in 2013, I believe, and that took a great toll on him. Around 2016, his mother Ida Lawrence instructed Paul to close the store and Johnny Cash museum founder Bill Miller acquired the building. We sure had a lot of good times back then!
Rocky Guttmann, another best friend, informed us that Fiona’s Irish Pub in Alexandria, Virginia suddenly closed its doors this month. Mike had been there for Rocky’s show last weekend on the 8th of June and everything seemed fine. Rocky has been one of their featured headliners for many years. Martin, the owner, had just opened another Fiona’s in Crystal City, Virginia back in April 2019. Now both are closed with no explanation as yet. Bummer, it was a really nice place. No worries though, cause Rocky is a well respected and sought after musician, and will have no trouble picking up another venue. Some of you might remember that a few months back Mike re-mastered Rocky’s 1993 Cassette and produced it on CD. Well we finally managed to wade through all the hoop-la, medical issues, and drama, and posted a promotion video on our YouTube Channel, featuring song a excerpt of each song.
“Long Way Home… from Cassette to CD!” Rocky & Harry
For some time now Bob Everhart, president of the National Traditional Country Music Association based in Anita, Iowa, has been informing and reminding all NTCMA members that the Old-Time Country Music Festival will NOT be held in LeMars, Iowa this year. This is about the fourth time in its 44-year history that the week-long event was hit with an outrageous fee hike. It appears that the fair board demanded this year and next year’s rental fee up front! So this year the 44th Annual Old Time Country Music Festival will be held at the Christensen Field House in Fremont, Nebraska on the 3rd, 4th, 5th, and 6th of October 2019. So mark your calendars if you’re planning on attending. Prior festivals were a week long and had 10 music stages, whereas this one will have no more than 4 stages! Attendance has been slowly declining because the members, some of whom have been coming since the first one in 1976, are dead or dying off. Mike has performed at 9 of those festivals over the years. It’s a truly sad thing, as we remember when Bob started this festival back in 1976. It was attended by musicians and fans literally from around the globe who shared Everhart’s love and desire to preserve and promote traditional country, bluegrass, gospel, and American roots music. The naysayers said it wouldn’t last, that the event would eventually turn to modern music! Well Bob has had the last laugh! No modern music here! Good thing those doubters didn’t try holding their breaths or go on a hunger strike!
Mike talked with Terry Smith a few months ago and was stunned to see that he was home and was enjoying some extended down time from his music touring. We were glad to hear that because ever since he retired from his teaching job around 1994 he had been going almost non-stop on the music circuit, putting in hours and miles similar to Mike’s when he was trucking! Terry songs have been very good to him over the years, with numerous known and unknown artists covering them, starting with Johnny Cash recording “Far Side Banks of Jordan” back in 1976. He’s back on the road again, and working on a new release.
When Mike Johnson was publishing his quarterly Top-Rail Chatter Magazine, he made friends with a number of other publishers around the country. With some of them, like Allen Foster’s “Songwriters Monthly” and Ralph Compton’s “Hard Country Beat” they even swapped subscriptions. Allen folded his long running publication and tried to retire, but he just couldn’t get away from writing. He did some free lancing, and lately informed us that “Most of my writing is for BestReviews, part of the Tribune family. It’s not entertainment, but they treat me right, so I’m happy. And I get to write every day. How have you been?”
The Jacob Austin Band out of Texas is pretty well known on the bluegrass-gospel circuit. His dad, a member of the band, has been home from hospitalization since the 23rd of May 2019. He had succumbed to some type of stomach disorder that drained his energy and kept him from eating. Last report is that he’s doing well on a careful diet and medication. We wish him well. James Adelsberger met and performed with him at the 2015 Old-Time Country Music Festival in LeMars, Iowa. At the 2016 LeMars Festival, the fantastic mandolin player performed with Mike and James a number of times, and again with Mike when he returned for the 2017 festival. You’ll see a number of videos of us performing together on our YouTube Channel.
Do you ever get distracted when you’re searching for something for an immediate project you’re working on and you come across something that you’d forgotten about and find yourself going down memory lane? Well had a lot of that going on this past year or so. While searching our video archives for some specific footage, Mike came across some of the Eastern Shore Opry shows he had filmed back in the 1990s. Home based in Crisfield, Maryland, the Eastern Shore Opry was founded by Pat, Trudy, and Patrick Costello, also known as the “God Knows We Tried String Band.” Mike was a member of their Opry cast for a couple of years and met and interacted with a number of known and unknown musicians. The following clip is the opening of a September 1996 show that occurred just after the sudden passing of Bill Monroe, better known as the Father of Bluegrass. Charlie Sizemore, a gracious person, who mentored under Monroe, was the headliner that and Mike was the show’s M/C that night.
Charlie Sizemore remembers Bill Monroe 14 September 1996
Our friend Aharon is enjoying his retirement from his dry cleaning business, though he goes there a couple of times a week to do shoe repairs. Mike is doing well and still undergoing post-stroke follow-up treatments. I reckon I’ve said a Texas mouthful in this issue and should wrap it up. We wish all of you good health, and continued good health and happiness. And for you music road warriors still out there plying your trade, safe journeys and keep it between the ditches. We might even cross trails along the way.
Once again, our YouTube Channel contains over 940 videos of various lengths with over 15 Playlists to simplify some of your viewing experience. No click-bait, no blogs, and definitely no go-fund-me-money-begging requests! Our Roughshod Records Website has about 10 pages chocked full of music, label history, a detailed discography, web store, and tons of photographs! Check it out!
Adios amigos, from myself and birthday boy, Mike Johnson!
Joe Arnold, manager Roughshod Records