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New CD Release: Justin Trevino Sings Johnny Bush
February 13, 2015
Johnny Bush often jokes with his audiences about the royalty checks he still gets from Willie Nelson for "Whiskey River," but he is a Texas legend for far more than that particular recording. He is widely revered for the innumerable times his many trademark songs have played on the air and in dance halls and honky tonks throughout Texas and beyond.
Any front man for a dance hall band who's worth his salt will sing Johnny Bush before the night is through, because both the bandleader and the dancers know that "Johnny Bush" and "dance hall" are practically synonymous. And, no matter how successful or respected the band is in its own right, you can't miss hearing the reverence in the lead vocalist's voice when he announces the song and speaks Johnny's name. Likewise, true country music fans will tell you it's not a real Texas honky tonk if Johnny Bush isn't on the jukebox. Moreover, for nearly half a century, the "brass ring" for many a musician has been to hold a spot as one of Bush's Bandoleros.
On February 17, 2015, Johnny Bush celebrated his 80th birthday. More than 60 years ago, Bush first took to the stages in Texas' dance halls and honky tonks (and he still packs the dance floors at his own shows today).
Twenty-five years ago, Johnny Bush himself asked Justin Trevino to "sing Johnny Bush" when they met for the first time at the Red Eye Saloon in San Antonio's Eisenhauer Road Flea Market. It was the start of a close relationship they still maintain. As Johnny often tells others, "Justin is like a son to me." So, it's only fitting for Justin to "sing Johnny" as a birthday gift to the man who has meant so much to him, both professionally and personally.
For Justin, the challenge was to select a limited number of songs for the album.
"John has been such an incredible influence to so many – and by way of so many songs over the years. When I first listed out the songs I wanted to do, there were 36 that I really felt were 'trademark' Johnny Bush songs in one way or another. The hardest part of recording this album was trying to narrow that initial list to a manageable number. It was a painstaking process - mostly of 'splitting hairs' to convince myself to exclude one song or another. I was only supposed to put 12 songs on the CD. I ended up with 14. It was the best I could do, when every one of those 36 deserved a spot on this album."
Besides 13 of Johnny Bush's trademark songs, the new album features a tribute song that Justin wrote himself, "One Night at a Johnny Bush Dance." Bush makes a cameo appearance at the end of the song, as it concludes with him singing the chorus of "Whiskey River." This cameo is not a studio pick-up of a prior recording. It is a new recording. Bush came into Justin's studio specifically to sing the chorus for this album.
The album also features some of the finest musicians in the business, two besides Justin who are former or current Bandoleros themselves, namely former Bandolero Jim Loessberg on pedal steel and current Bandolero T Jarrod Bonta on piano. Jade Jack played every fiddle part on the album. Charlie Walton is the lead guitarist. Recorded acoustically, the upright bass is played by Jake Hooker. Justin sang all harmony vocals as well as the lead vocals.
True Texas country music fans are already regarding the album as a top-notch "must-have" that is certainly a tribute worthy of the Texas legend to whom it's dedicated. Justin, however, is more reserved in his own opinion. "John was, is and always will be a legend and inspiration, not just to me, but to so many others who either play traditional country or enjoy hearing and dancing to it. This tribute album falls indescribably short of what I'd like to do to show my respect and appreciation for John. The incalculable positive force he's been in my life goes way, way beyond the gratitude I can express with an album. Having John as my musical mentor has made me a better musician, but having John as my friend has made me a better man."
For the past 60 years or so, country music itself has been better for knowing Johnny Bush. It may have taken a couple of decades before everyone began to realize it, but the birth of John Bush Shinn III in Houston, Texas, on February 17, 1935, was, indeed, a happy day for traditional country music. Eighty years later, those of us who understand the truth in Bush's slogan - a quote by Dallas Wayne of Willie's Roadhouse (Sirius XM radio), "A day without Johnny Bush is like a day without sunshine" - wish Johnny not only a happy 80th, but also a truly heartfelt wish for "many more."