Born 23 June 1935, Weldon, North Carolina
Johnnie Strickland continues to elude the rock 'n' roll researchers. According to Adam Komorowski he recorded at least three sessions in Nashville, but he remains a figure of mystery. Bill Millar, in his liner notes for the CD "Rockin' in the Farmhouse", Hollowbody HC 12002), tells us that Strickland hails from North Carolina. Since biographical information on Johnnie is almost non-existent, we will have to concentrate on his records. The first one of these, "She's Mine"/"You've Got What It Takes" (Roulette 4119) is easily his best and a must for any serious R&R collector. In the USA it came out in November 1958. Probably due to modest American sales, the record was released in very few European countries. My own native Holland was among them, but this must have been a very limited edition. Anyway, it was not until 1970 that I first heard both sides. My good friend Henk Gorter had obtained a copy from the US and modestly introduced his new acquisition as "kinda nice" ("wel aardig"). An understatement. "She's Mine" grabbed me right from the start. Great guitar intro (Grady Martin, probably), fast moving song, with brilliant wild piano work (by either Hargus "Pig" Robbins or Floyd Cramer) and a stunning, almost over the top guitar break by - as I learned later - Hank Garland. The B-side is much slower, but also quite good, with more first-rate piano accompaniment.
Unfortunately, the second Roulette single, "Don't Leave Me Lonely"/ "I've Heard That Line Before" (Roulette 4147, April 1959) is not up to the same standard, with Strickland trying a little too hard to sound like Elvis. But the anonymous Billboard reviewer was rather positive, rating both sides with three stars ("Lad can sell a song."). Writing credit on both sides (and also for "She's Mine") goes to "Strickland- Lawrence". Thomas Lawrence was probably a friend of Johnnie's. The pair also wrote "Born To Rock" for John Ashley (Dot 15775), a good rocker.
A third single followed in February 1960, "Sweet Talkin' Baby"/"My Truly True Love" (Roulette 4221). I'm not familiar with the B-side, but the A-side is quite acceptable, in spite of a poppy chorus. It was characteristic for the direction rock 'n' roll was taking as the 1950's started drawing to a close.
The fourth Roulette single is "That's Baby"/"Fool's Hall of Fame" (4335), released in February 1961, but, judging by the matrix number, "That's Baby" comes from the same 1959 session as "Don't Leave Me Lonely" and "I've Heard That Line Before". The A-side is a nice up-tempo bopper, with a (male) chorus that actually works. "Fool's Hall Of Fame" is not the song that Roy Orbison and Jerry Wallace recorded (written by Wolf Freeman), nor the Paul Anka composition. A pleasant pop tune.
After this 45, Strickland had no further releases, not on Roulette nor on any other label. If it is true what Bill Millar claims in the sleeve notes of the "Roulette Rock 'n' Roll Collection" LP from 1978, that "he cut at least ten sides for Roulette", there must be some unissued material left. His legacy is small but not to be overlooked.
The best four tracks by Johnnie Strickland (She's Mine, You've Got What It Takes, Sweet Talkin' Baby, That's Baby) have been included on the CD "Roulette Rock 'n' Roll Collection" (Sequel NEM CD 619) in 1992, now probably out of print. A further three tracks (Don't Leave Me Lonely, I've Heard That Line Before, Fool's Hall of Fame) were also reissued by Sequel, on the CD "Lotta Boppin' (And Plenty Screamin' Too!), Roulette Rock 'n' Roll, Vol. 4" (NEM CD 921) in 1997. Furthermore, all eight released tracks were included on a bootleg LP called "Carry On - Jimmy Newman & Johnnie Strickland" (Revival LP 4004, circa 1988), with one side (8 tracks) by Newman and one side by Strickland.
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