A talented but tragic figure, Texas native John Washington Dollar, aka Johnny Dollar (1922-1986) was an ex-rockabilly rebel who "went country" in the 1960s, but despite several promising singles he never quite caught the big brass ring. Dollar recorded some singles and indie albums in the '70s, but his performing career was cut short when he developed cancer, and in 1986, he committed suicide. Although his rockabilly stuff has been reissued, so far his country work remains out of print, but is a treat for collectors to track down... Here's a quick look at his work...
Johnny Dollar "Mr. Action Packed" (Dragon Street, 1993)
Dollar's earlier, rockabilly-flavored stuff, including a lot of uptempo demos and some live tracks from the Big D Jamboree variety show.
Johnny Dollar "Mr. Action Packed" (Roller Coaster, 2008)
This is a later reissue of the collection above.
Johnny Dollar "Mr. Personality" (Dot Records, 1966)
Johnny Dollar "Johnny Dollar" (Columbia-Date, 1967) (LP)
(Produced by Stan Shulman & Dick Heard)
Fun stuff! This is great, once you get past the Johnny Cash-ish name on the cover (although they swear in the liner notes that "John Washington Dollar" was his real name...) This album collects several moderately successful singles that charted in '67-'68, stuff that didn't quite crack into the Top 40 but was apparently enough to merit them releasing a full album of his material. Dollar, an ex-rockabilly singer who'd been recording since the late 1950s, and released a couple of country singles in the early '60s, was a rollicking, good-natured throwback to a wilder, goofier hillbilly sound, evoking contemporaries like Roger Miller and Jerry Lee Lewis. This album was packed with fun songs, but also features vibrant, punchy musicianship, with a distinctive undercurrent of go-go flavored rock-pop electrification. (Side Two's "Forever Is Over" opens with a thudding, grungy guitar chord that's really surprise you!) Lots of energy, lots of twang, and lots of reasons to wish they'd reissue this stuff already. (And if they do, please Mr. Label Man, don't forget to include his singles from a few years before -- we'd like to hear those, too!)
Johnny Dollar "Big Rig Rollin' Man" (Chart, 1969)
Johnny $ Dollar "Mr. Personality" (1974-?) (LP)
(Produced by Dick Heard)
The liner notes identify Johnny Dollar as a "Dot recording artist," though that was a few years in the past by the time this uber-indie LP came out. By the time he recorded this early '70s record, we was in the orbit of country minor-leaguer Van Trevor and his songwriting partner and producer, Dick Heard. This disc is packed with original material by Dollar, Heard and Trevor and seems to have been a showcase for songs they were hoping to get recorded by current country stars.
Johnny Dollar "Down Life's Highway" (Brylen, 1982)
This was a reissue of his 1969 album, Big Rig Rollin' Man.
Johnny Dollar "Gold Colored Glasses" (Brylen, 1983)
Johnny Dollar "Volume Two" (Brylen, 1983)
Hick Music Index