Johnny Horton Tribute Friday
Temple Daily Telegram - October 31, 2010
MILANO — A tribute to country music great Johnny Horton, who died 50 years ago on Nov.
5, will be from 7 p.m. to 11 p.m. Friday, in the Milano High School cafeteria.
Members of Horton’s family will be traveling to Milano on Friday for the tribute.
Johnny Horton’s brother Frank Horton, 92, of Crockett, is delighted that his brother
will be remembered in Milano.
“After he has been dead 50 years, people still like him and still like his music enough
to do something like this,” Frank Horton said. “I think it’s wonderful.”
Performers will be Steve Raby and The Can’t Hardly Play Boys, the Brazos Valley Boys,
with Johnny Horton’s son, Tommy Horton headlining the event with selections of his
father’s hits. Family members say Tommy Horton not only favors his dad, but sings in an
identical style. Admission is free. Patrons may donate money for the Johnny Horton
Memorial to be set up in about two years, near the railroad bridge where Horton died.
The monument will tell the story of Horton’s country music career and his untimely
A month ago Milano City Secretary Carolyn Vinton was contacted by Steve Raby of
Granger, who approached the city with plans to remember Horton with a memorial program
and ultimately a commemorative marker near the crash site. The Johnny Horton Memorial
Association has been established and is accepting donations at the Citizens National
Bank in Rockdale. The association invited Horton’s relatives to be special guests at
the Friday night tribute.
Since Nov. 5, 1960, Johnny Horton’s kin have been troubled by “a bad feeling” when they
traveled over the narrow, twolane railroad overpass in Milano where the country music
great perished in a car crash.
Frank Horton remembers decades ago when he journeyed through Central Texas delivering
materials to a customer and came upon the bridge “where Johnny was killed. I got a bad
“Seems incredible that he has been dead 50 years,” Horton said. “We were very close. I
practically raised him. It’s ironic, that Johnny was killed on a railroad overpass by a
drunk driver. Johnny had a premonition, a certainty he was going to be killed by a
train. He rode on a train for his last appearance on ‘The Ed Sullivan Show,’ and he
never rode another one. He also thought he was going to be killed by a drunk. Then he
was killed by a drunk on a railroad overpass with no place to go, he couldn’t escape.
The Cadillac was just flattened.”
Horton’s son Tommy Horton, 62, of Brownwood, has avoided the bridge.
“The times I have been over it, I have had to go over it,” Tommy Horton said. “I get a
funny feeling every time I get over there.” Horton’s son, who was raised in Brownwood
with his mother and stepfather, said he heard conflicting stories about where his dad
was headed that Saturday night.
“Some people say he was trying to get back home; some said he wanted to go duck hunting
with Claude King early the next morning,” Tommy Horton said. Norma Dell Jones of
Lovelady, a cousin-in-law to Johnny Horton, keeps a photograph of the fatal car crash,
and remembers the overpass as a dreaded landmark to the Horton family. The family is
thrilled Johnny Horton is being remembered in Milano, she said.
Johnny Horton, 35, famed for the hit tunes “The Battle of New Orleans,” “Johnny Reb,”
“North to Alaska,” “Sink the Bismark” and “Honky Tonk Man,” reportedly was headed home
to Shreveport, La., from a Saturday night gig at Austin’s Skyline Club, when his car
was struck head-on midway on the 320-foot-long overpass bridge, according to a story by
Rockdale Reporter editor Bill Cooke.
A 1958 Ford Ranchero, driven by drunken Texas A&M University student James Evan Davis,
19, of Brady, weaved across the roadway striking both guard rails before it collided
head on into Horton’s Cadillac, Cooke’s story said. Some Milano residents living near
the railroad bridge helped emergency responders remove the injured from the
automobiles, which were knocked about 300 feet backwards upon impact.
Horton was alive when the ambulance left the scene but was dead on arrival at St.
Edward Hospital in Cameron. Surviving the crash were Horton’s passengers, manager
Tillman Franks and guitarist Jerald Tomlinson, and Davis, who was alone in his car-
pickup, the news story stated.
Since Horton’s death, the concrete railroad overpass was widened and later replaced in
the late 1980s with a more streamlined and spacious structure.
Aside from a few Milano residents who remembered the crash, the location of Johnny
Horton’s sad demise has faded into highway history.
Horton, son of sharecropping parents, worked his way into country music through
competitions in talent contests. He later performed on the radio including the popular
“Louisiana Hayride” in Shreveport, La. When Franks became his manager, Horton’s career
soared, with numerous songs hitting the top of the charts.
One of Tommy Horton’s most treasured souvenirs of his famous dad’s career is a
commemorative gold record presented to him by Sony Records of Horton’s popular tune
“The Battle of New Orleans.”
Event to Mark 50 years since singer Johnny Horton’s death
Rockdale Reporter - October 28, 2010
Group planning marker at wreck site
MILANO — A “Johnny Horton 50th Anniversary Memorial Concert” has been set for 7-11 p.m.
Friday, Nov. 5 at the Milano High School cafetorium, according to Carolyn Vinton,
Milano city secretary. Vinton, mayor Billy Barnett and musician Steven Raby of Granger
make up the board of directors of the organization Johnny Horton Memorial, Inc.
They hope to raise funds to construct a monument in honor of the late singer at the
sight of the November 1960 crash that killed the 35-year-old in his musical prime.
“Just visualizing we estimate the monument to be between $75,000 and $100,000 by the
time the grounds are prepared and the monument is designed and ready to set,” Vinton
said. “Of course, money must be raised to do this. We hope to have the money given
through donations. But we won’t know that until a little more time has passed.”
Horton was a country singer who top charts with hits like “North to Alaska,” “Battle of
New Orleans,” and “A White Sports coat and a Pink Carnation.” He was also k nown as a
pioneer of rockabilly music and notable for “historical saga” songs “Johnny Reb” and
“Sink the Bismarck.”
The Nov. 5 event will mark the 50th anniversary of the well-known singer’s death on the
US 79 overpass in Milano. He was killed in a head-on collision by a drunk driver.
Horton had just performed at the Skyline Club outside of Austin. There is no charge for
the Nov. 5 concert. There will be concessions of sandwiches, chips, cold drinks and
pies. Entertainment will feature, but is not limited to Steven Raby and the Can’t
Hardly Play Boys, Tommy Horton and The Brazos Valley Boys.
For more information, or to donate to the marker’s construction, contact Barnett,