Forty-eight years ago today, on November 5, 1960, country singer Johnny Horton died in a car crash near Milano, Texas on Highway 79. Horton, who was married to Hank Williams' ex-wife Billie Jean, played his last show a few hours earlier at the Skyline Club in Austin, which, by weird coincidence, is the same place that hosted Hank Williams' final live performance.
Horton's greatest commercial successes came in the form of saga songs, history-themed tunes that combined elements of country, folk and pop music. Music fans of many persuasions swarmed the record stores to make huge crossover hits out of songs like The Battle Of New Orleans, Sink The Bismarck and North To Alaska. Despite the chart-busting nature of such songs, Horton probably hit his artistic high water mark a bit earlier in his career with an impressive string of rockabilly and honky-tonk numbers like Honky Tonk Man, Got The Bull By The Horns, I'm Coming Home, and I'm A One Woman Man, all of which feature the killer guitar work of studio whiz Grady Martin.
Several years after his death, Horton was memorialized by Jerry Dee with The Ballad Of Johnny Horton (misspelled on the label as The Ballard Of Johnny Horton), a song-poem recording that was released on the Brosh label, headquartered in Carpentersville, Illinois. Strangely, the song itself lacks any trace of stylistic compatibility with the records of Johnny Horton and is instead characterized by a sort of low-budget big band pop vocal sound.