Texas Singer/Songwriter Johnny Bush Dies at Age 85

Johnny Bush, the man known as Country Caruso, and a Texas Country Music Hall of Famer died Friday.

His official Facebook page confirmed the news Friday afternoon.

Bush reportedly passed away from pneumonia, but the circumstances and whereabouts of his death are unclear, according to the Houston Chronicle. Although the Facebook post said he was surrounded by family and some of his closest friends when he died.

Bush got one of his big breaks when his friend Nelson helped him land a job playing in Ray Price’s band with him. He later played in Nelson’s band, which led to him landing a recording deal and scoring regional and national hits in 1968 and 1969 with “The Sound of a Heartache,” “Undo the Right” and “You Gave Me a Mountain,” all of which were released on the Stop label.

Bush got one of his big breaks when his friend Nelson helped him land a job playing in Ray Price’s band with him. He later played in Nelson’s band, which led to him landing a recording deal and scoring regional and national hits in 1968 and 1969 with “The Sound of a Heartache,” “Undo the Right” and “You Gave Me a Mountain,” all of which were released on the Stop label.

He signed to RCA in 1972 and released “Whiskey River” as his first single for the label. The song scored him his biggest hit, reaching No. 7 in Canada and No. 14 in the U.S., but vocal problems struck Bush soon after, causing him to lose much of his voice. RCA dropped Bush in 1974, and he struggled for years, sometimes unable to perform at all.

Bush scored his biggest success when Nelson recorded “Whiskey River,” which Bush co-wrote with Paul Stroud, for his classic Shotgun Willie album in 1973. A subsequent live recording of the song from Nelson’s 1978 album Willie and Family Live would reach No. 12 on Billboard‘s Hot Country Songs chart, and the song has gone on to become one of the most iconic hits of Nelson’s career, serving as his show opener for decades.

Bush was ultimately diagnosed with a rare vocal condition called spasmodic dysphonia, and he regained much of his voice after working with a vocal coach and was able to resume his career, emerging in his later years as a mentor figure to younger Texas musicians and a regional success in his own right once again. He recorded and toured regularly up until nearly the end of his life, remaining friends with Nelson and often playing at his annual Fourth of July Picnics. According to Austin 360, he most recently performed at Riley’s Tavern in New Braunfels, Texas, on Sept. 25, and had a show scheduled in Fort Worth in November.

Information from Taste of Country: ‘Whiskey River’ Songwriter Johnny Bush Dead at 85: ‘A Jewel of a Man We Have Lost’

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