Betty Johnson, Charlotte native who became a pop music icon, dies at 93

Betty Johnson, Charlotte native who became a pop music icon, dies at 93 - Похоронный портал

                                        BETTY JOHNSON |     BETTY JOHNSONBETTY JOHNSON

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                                  Betty Johnson Biography | Country Music | Ken Burns | PBS

                                           PBS :
Betty Johnson Biography | Country Music | Ken Burns | PBS



Betty Johnson Gray, the last surviving member of The Johnson Family Singers and popular girl-singer of the 1950s, died of natural causes at her home in South Carolina on Sunday, November 6, 2022. She was 93.

Betty Johnson Gray was lead singer of the renowned American performers The Johnson Family Singers of Charlotte, NC. From the late 1930s, the popular gospel group toured, performed, and ultimately recorded over 50 songs for Columbia Records (1946-1953) and a similar number of songs on the RCA-Victor label (1954-1959). After winning a singing contest, they were signed for regular broadcasts by WBT, "the radio voice of the South", in Charlotte, N.C., from 1938 to 1951. She attended Paw Creek High School before graduating from Harry P. Harding High School in 1947. After graduating high school, she attended Queens College (University). While enjoying her college experience, she also had her own 15-minute radio program on WBT in 1948. Her solo career really took off after she won the star-making top TV show, Arthur Godfrey's Talent Scouts, and transitioned from religious music to jazz standards and pop music.

Originally contracted with Columbia Records as a teenager and then with Bell Records in 1954 after recording a children's album with Eddy Arnold, she signed with RCA Victor in 1955. They sent her to Chicago, Illinois where she was a regular on the syndicated television series Eddy Arnold Time and the daily network radio show, Don McNeill's Breakfast Club. Signing with Bally Records, in 1956, Betty's hit, "I Dreamed" reached number 9 on the Billboard charts. That same year, Cash Box magazine, a music industry bible, voted her the #1 new girl vocalist, ahead of Patsy Cline and Brenda Lee. From 1957 to 1962 Johnson was a regular performer on The Tonight Show starring Jack Paar. This led to a record contract with Atlantic Records in 1957, for which she had her next big hit, "Little Blue Man" followed by "Dream". Johnson continued on The Tonight Show until Paar was replaced by Johnny Carson, while also making appearances on a number of other television shows and headlining at The Persian Room and The Blue Angel in New York. She also played the lead role in the The King and I and South Pacific with Robert Goulet at Ovens Auditorium in Charlotte.

In his soon to be published book, Ducktails, Drive-Ins and Broken Hearts: An Unsweetened Look at 50´s Music, Hank Davis dedicates a chapter to Johnson, stating: "If I were being interviewed by someone who thought they had a pretty good knowledge of 1950s pop culture, I might ask them to name somebody who had ten records on the Billboard Top Pop Singles, had appeared on the Jack Benny show, the Jack Paar Tonight show, the Bob Newhart show, Howdy Doody, Kukla Fran and Ollie, the Ed Sullivan show, the Grand Ole Opry, and also appeared at the Copacabana in N.Y., The Cocoanut Grove in L.A., and the Sands in Las Vegas…the correct answer is Betty Johnson".

After a hiatus to raise two daughters and complete her college education, Betty Johnson returned to show business in the 90's, performing at New York venues such as The Oak Room at the Algonquin and The Cafe Pierre. She also digitally restored and published a catalog of her earlier work, founding her own music label (Bliss Tavern Music) in the process. An interview with Terry Gross on NPR's Fresh Air, renewed interest in her work and life story. This led to the publishing of her autobiographic audio book, "In Her Own Words" in 2007 as well as the use of her music in TV, film and advertisements. In 2017, at age 88, she recorded and released her last album, "Four Shades of Gray" accompanied by her daughters and granddaughter.

The Johnson Family Singers and Betty Johnson are included and interviewed in the 2019 Ken Burns documentary, Country Music.

In addition, she was a woman of faith. In her early years, the family "sang for their supper" at revivals and churches throughout the South. In adulthood, she was a Ruling Elder and sang in the choir at Fifth Avenue Presbyterian Church in New York. After moving to New Hampshire, she was an active member of the Congregational Church in Haverhill, N.H. For the last three years, while living in Bluffton, S.C., she adopted Westminster Presbyterian of Charlottesville, her church home, tuning in weekly for the livestream service. She cherished the services and looked forward to them each week.

Mom was a Master Gardener and she enjoyed her judging responsibilities as well as tending her own flower garden wherever she lived. She loved to host dinner parties and her home and dining table were always beautiful. Having an inquisitive mind, she enjoyed reading, C-Span Book Notes, and documentaries. She also loved Coach K and Duke basketball.

Betty was predeceased by her loving husband, Arthur Gray Jr. as well as her mother, Lydia Craven Johnson, father, Jesse Devrin Johnson, brothers, Kenneth, Bob, and Jim Johnson.

Betty is survived by her son, H. Richard "Dick" Redding II (Kathy) of Charlottesville, Va.; her daughters, Lydia Gray Bartholow (Stephen) of Bluffton, S.C., and Elisabeth C. Gray (Carlos Gonzalez) of Madrid, Spain, six grandchildren, five great-grandchildren and ten nieces and nephews.

A Memorial Service will be held in Bluffton, S.C. in March 2023 and a Celebration of Life in Spain.

Published by Daily Progress on Dec. 4, 2022. | Where Life Stories Live | Where Life Stories Live On | Your Largest Source for US Obituaries Onlin

Betty Johnson

Betty Johnson

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