Johnny Bush
Johnny Bush

“Whiskey River” Songwriter Johnny Bush Dead At 85

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SAN ANTONIO (CelebrityAccess) — Johnny Bush, a country music singer-songwriter who was known for his distinctive voice, and for writing the Willie Nelson hit “Whiskey River” died on October 16th. He was 85.

His manager confirmed his passing in a statement to Rolling Stone. While he did not provide a cause of death, the Houston Chronicle reported that Bush died of pneumonia.

Born Johnny Bush Shinn III, he adopted the Johnny Bush name when he was seventeen due to an error by a television announcer, according to a biography posted to his website.

In 1952, Bush relocated to San Antonio, and launched career as a solo artist before he switched to drums and began to perform with local western groups such as the Texas Plainsman and the Texas Top Hands.

A decade later, Bush joined Ray Price’s band The Cherokee Cowboys where he played with a young Willie Nelson, before he later joined Nelson’s own band, the Record Men.

He also scored hits on his own band, including “You Gave Me a Mountain”, “What A Way To Live”, and “Whiskey River.”

However, after signing with RCA in 1972, he began to suffer from vocal issues and was eventually dropped from the label before he was diagnosed with the rare neurological disorder spasmodic dysphonia in 1978.

In the mid 1980s, Bush partnered with Darrell McCall to record the honky-tonk album Hot Texas Country and began putting together a large touring band focused on the honky-tonk sound.

In 2003, both Bush and Willie Nelson were inducted into the Texas Country Music Hall and four years later, he released his autobiography “Whiskey River (Take My Mind): The True Story of Texas Honky-Tonk” with co-author Rick Mitchell.


His final album came in 2017 when he self-released “The Absolute Johnny Bush” which featured collaborations with Dale Watson and Reckless Kelly.

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