Johnny Duncan (1938-2006) went from deep West Texas roots to the heights of the 1970s Nashville country scene... Although best known for his chart-topping duets with Janie Fricke, Duncan also recorded a number of robust, rootsy country numbers, and also wrote several songs covered by other country stars. An interesting side note about his family: Duncan's cousins include pop singers Jimmy Seals (of Seals & Crofts fame), Dan Seals (aka "England Dan," and later a country artist) and songwriter Troy Seals... There's more to the family tree, but suffice it to say that Johnny Duncan comes from an interesting background, and that mixing pop and roots music is a big part of his heritage. Here's a quick look at his work...
Johnny Duncan "It Couldn't Have Been Any Better: 22 Original Hits" (Collector's Choice, 2003)
A great best-of set of that really presents Duncan at his best, particularly for folks who love "hard" country music... It includes a bunch of big hits, but also some good, strong, solid honky tonk singing. Hard to find a better introduction to his work!
Johnny Duncan "The Best Of Johnny Duncan" (Columbia, 1976) (LP)
Johnny Duncan "Greatest Hits" (Columbia, 1978) (LP)
Johnny Duncan "Pure Country" (Columbia, 1998)
A modest, 10-song best-of set... Probably good for folks on a budget, but the longer Collector's Choice CD is really a better bargain.
Johnny Duncan "Classic Country" (Simitar, 1998)
Johnny Duncan "Johnny One Time" (Columbia, 1968)
Johnny Duncan & June Stearns "Back To Back" (Columbia, 1968) (LP)
What an odd couple! I'm not sure why these two were paired up to begin with, but it probably had something to do with the label figuring, what the heck -- nobody's heard of either of these two, why not throw 'em both in and see if they can swim. Since Johnny Duncan's career was the one that really took off, and because he had a certain "outlaw" sheen during much of the 1970s, most folks would probably assume that the beehived young Ms. Stearns was the one holding him back, and making this disc more mellow. Think again! Check out her followup album (her only other record), and you'll find that she was anything but wimpy or demure! On this disc, though, nothing ever really catches fire -- both singers seems to be playing by the rules, and the arrangements are pretty rinky-dink. Not cloying, but not great.
Johnny Duncan "There's Something About A Lady" (Columbia, 1971)
Johnny Duncan "Sweet Country Woman" (Columbia, 1973) (LP)
Johnny Duncan "You're Gonna Need A Man" (Columbia, 1973)
Johnny Duncan "Johnny Duncan" (Columbia, 1977) (LP)
Johnny Duncan "Come A Little Bit Closer" (Columbia, 1977) (LP)
Johnny Duncan "The Best Is Yet To Come" (Columbia, 1978) (LP)
Johnny Duncan "See You When The Sun Goes Down" (Columbia, 1979) (LP)
Johnny Duncan "Straight From Texas" (Columbia, 1979) (LP)
(Produced by Billy Sherrill)
This disc starts out promisingly enough, with a rock-solid barroom weeper, "Play Another Slow Song," a lesser-known tune that does right by Duncan's reputation as a fine hard country balladeer. Then he goes wa-a-a-a-ayy off track with the horrendously syrupy "My Woman's Good To Me" and "I'd Be Fool Enough," which almost sounds like a Jim Reeves outtake. Bleah. The crooner approach dominates this disc, and I gotta say, it's kinda sucky. I mean, if you go for the whole romantic baritone thing, Duncan's doing a good job on the technical side of things, but I by far prefer him when he's keeping things gritty and lowdown. Blame Billy Sherrill if you want to: he was sleepwalking his way through the booth when they cut these sessions.
Johnny Duncan "In My Dreams" (Columbia, 1980) (LP)
Johnny Duncan & Janie Fricke "Nice 'N' Easy" (Columbia, 1980) (LP)
Sheer frickin' torture. These pop-drenched duets are simply awful, drenched in the worst, cheesiest disco-era AOR arrangements imaginable. This disc gathers tunes recorded and released as singles between 1976-80, and it's all just goopy crap. Duncan indulges himself in his most louche, cornball tendencies, as if he were some sort of hillbilly Barry White, and as for Janie Fricke, I remain to be yet convinced that she really had much to offer to the true country crowd. She's like a sad, sad, sad Toni Tennille wannabee.
Johnny Duncan "You're On My Mind" (Columbia, 1980)
Johnny Duncan "Faraway Hideaway" (Pharoah, 1986)
Hick Music Index