Mike Johnson, Country Music's No.1 Black Yodeler

Mike Johnson is Country Music's No.1 Black Yodeler

Black Country Music Singers & Songwriters: Mike Johnson

   While Charley Pride is indisputably Country Music's First African-American Super Star, there have been many Black Country Artists before and after him who have been ignored, passed over, and overlooked by the Nashville clique. Back in 1983, Mike Johnson's friend, Jim Stanton, founder of Rich-R-Tone Records, bluntly told him that "Nashville isn't looking for another Charley Pride. They're still mad at Jack Clements and Chet Atkins over that!" Stanton's reflection of the Nashville elite's typical resistance to Black Country performers as opposed to the general public's acceptance of a good performer regardless of racial and ethnic background. Charley Pride was inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame in 2000.

   Up until 1997, with the exception of Charles K. Wolfe's sketches in his broad-based writings, there has never been any deliberate works that specifically and totally focused on the actual involvement of African-Americans in Country Music. Enter PAMELA E. FOSTER, an award winning journalist and researcher, and her enlightening 1998 book, "My Country, The African Diaspora's Country Music Heritage."

   Pamela E. Foster is a native daughter of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, and grew up listening to and enjoying country music. She began writing about social and economic issues in 1988 and moved to Nashville in 1993 to write about Black Country Music contributions. Armed with an Undergraduate Degree in Economics, a Master's Degree in Journalism, she earned numerous awards, including a Pulitzer Prize Nomination. Along with the New Pittsburgh Courier and the Business First of Columbus, she has also written for the Nashville Banner, The Tennessean, The Nashville Business Journal, The Nashville Scene, Country Song Roundup, and Country Weekly. Since 2007, Pamela has been researching and compiling information for a book about her family's southern roots and northern migration after the Civil War.

TELLING THE REST OF THE STORY:

   “My Country, The African Diaspora's Country Music Heritage” is a most definitive study. Its detailed discography blew away the longstanding myth that African-Americans "did not like, did not perform, and did not want to perform country music." Ms. Foster shows that African American contributions went far beyond being that of being mere musical "influences," as is often presented in other works in which they were given minimum mention. This 350-plus page book provides substantiated information that African-Americans were in fact involved in Country Music from the beginning as musicians, singers, songwriters, and later as Producers, Radio DJs, Music Publishers and Executives. Her follow-up book, "My Country Too, The Other Black Music!" hit the shelves as a paperback in 2000. Both of these books are very informative, musically and historically important, and available from Borders Books and other outlets.


My Country, The African Diaspora's Country Music Heritage [ISBN-0-9662680-1-6 hardbound]
My Country Too, The Other Black Music [ISBN-0-9662680-2-4 * paperback]

Highlights of some of the folks featured in Pamela's two books, used by permission of Pamela E. Foster.

DeFord Bailey is Country Music's First African-American Star. Known as "The Harmonica Wizard" he performed on the Grand Ole Opry from 1926 to 1941 and was also on the very first recording sessions held in Nashville in 1928. He toured with Roy Acuff, The Delmore Brothers, Uncle Dave Macon, and The McGhee Brothers. His dismissal from the Grand Ole Opry Cast by George D. Hay who cites him as "their mascot" and "lazy like other members of his race..." strongly contradicts recorded documentation stating that Bailey was the Opry's main draw during his membership! Many first-hand accounts indicate that it was more about the eventual royalties they were going to have to pay him for his recordings. Bailey opened a Shoe Shine Parlor and only made scattered public performances afterwards. In 2005 DeFord Bailey, the last member of the original Grand Ole Opry Cast was finally Inducted into the Country Music Hall Of Fame.

Herb Jeffries sang and yodeled his way across the Silver Screen as the first and only Black Singing Movie Cowboy, starring in four feature length All-Black Cast Westerns in the 1930s. His self-penned song I'M A HAPPY COWBOY was his movie theme song. Later on, this Pinkney, Michigan native made a name for himself on the Duke Ellington recording "Flamingo" on which he sang lead, and with the Mercer Ellington Orchestra, The Mills Brothers and his own band. In 1995 Warner Western, released a Jeffries Country Album entitled "The Bronze Buckaroo" featuring guest appearances by the likes of Take-6, Cleve Francis, Little Texas, and Michael Martin Murphy. Jeffries was 85 years old at the time.

Ivory Joe Hunter has often been described as a Blues artist but his country roots go back to the early 1930s when he played Texas Honky Tonks. He recorded his first country songs GUESS WHO? and JEALOUS HEART on King Records in 1949.  Many of his songs like SINCE I MET YOU BABY and EMPTY ARMS were recorded by artists like Charlie Rich, Conway Twitty, and Sonny James.

Henry Glover was born on 21 May 1921 in Hot Springs, Arkansas. Between 1948 & 1959 he produced hundreds of Country artists, including Moon Mullican, Grandpa Jones, Cowboy Copas, Hawkshaw Hawkins, The Delmore Brothers and Jimmie Osborne on King Record Label  in Cincinnati, Ohio. He passed away on 7 April 1991 after a long successful career as a producer and songwriter.

In 1969 Linda Martell became the first Black Female Country performer to appear on the Grand Ole Opry. She was signed by Plantation Records' Shelby Singleton, made 12 Opry appearances, appeared on "Hee Haw" and charted 3 Billboard Singles before Jim Crow's interference with her touring caused her to quit in 1974.

Oklahoma's native son, Stoney Edwards, also part Seminole Indian, born 24 December 1929, is one of the best Country voices ever. His career finally began to take hold when he opened for Bob Wills at a 1970 concert in Oakland, California. He played in Wills band briefly and went on to release 8 albums on Capitol Records and chart 15 Billboard Singles between 1971 and 1977. He wrote many of his hits, including A TWO DOLLAR TOY, THE FISHING SONG, and I BOUGHT THE SHOES THAT JUST WALKED OUT ON ME. He toured the Southwest with his then unknown band, "Asleep At The Wheel" and passed away on 6 April 1997.

Ruby Falls charted 9 Billboard Singles between 1974 and 1979 on the 50 States Records label. She was voted as Country's Most Promising Female Vocalist in 1975 by country industry trade media. She toured with Justin Tubb and performed with Faron Young, Del Reeves, Narvel Felts, and Jeanne Pruett, to mention a few. She was born Bertha Dorsey in January 1946 and passed away in June 1986.

Between 1972 and 1987 O.B. McClinton recorded for both Mercury and Epic Records, appeared on the Grand Ole Opry, and charted 15 Billboard Singles, the biggest of these, MY WHOLE WORLD IS FALLING DOWN, and DON'T LET THE GREEN GRASS FOOL YOU.

Berry "Motown" Gordy also owned five country labels. Miracle, Melody, Melodyland, Hitsville, and M.C. Records. He launched the Country Music career of T.G. Sheppard with DEVIL IN THE BOTTLE, on Melodyland Records in 1974 and the top of the Billboard Country Chart in February 1975. This was followed by antother chart topper, TRYIN’ TO BEAT THE DEVIL HOME four months later, and two more top 10 hits; MOTELS AND MEMORIES and SHOW ME A MAN. What is not often mentioned is that Mike Curb was hired to run Gordy’s 4th label, M.C. Records. It would put out 15 singles and 3 albums between September 1977 and August 1978 but didn’t fare too well. The three recorded albums were never released and Curb would go on to found Curb Records. He has also refused to talk about his experience with Gordy’s label.

In 1984, songwriter & music publisher, Thomas Cain went to work for BMI and later became their Vice President & Senior Director of Writer Publisher relations. His own songs have been recorded by Hank Jr., George Strait, The Forester Sisters, and Ronnie Milsap. Cain's Publishing Company, Candy Cane Music's catalog also contains the songs WILD AND BLUE, SOME FOOLS NEVER LEARN, and CRY, CRY, CRY.

Lionel Richie wrote and produced many country songs for Kenny Rogers, including GOIN' BACK TO ALABAMA, SO IN LOVE WITH YOU, SHARE YOUR LOVE WITH ME, GREY BEARD, and BLAZE OF GLORY. He was sought after by numerous country artists and the group Alabama provided backup vocals for his song DEEP RIVER WOMAN on his 1986 album "Dancing On The Ceiling."

Huddie "Leadbelly" Ledbetter wrote GOOD NIGHT IRENE, ROCK ISLAND LINE, COTTON FIELDS, MIDNIGHT SPECIAL, and many other country songs. However, the commercial music industry's perpetuation of the Jim Crow attitudes [not the Black and White musicians] during that era caused the racial separation of the music irregardless of the fact that most of these rural people mutually shared the same environmental and life experiences from which their songs sprang! Leadbelly had more than 200 releases on early labels like Capitol Records [with the help of Tex Ritter] Bluebird, Disc, Asch, and Stinson, along with an Award of Merit from the Oklahoma Folklore Society. He passed away in his sixties from Lou Gehrig's disease in 1949.

Howdy Glenn was born in the early 1950s and raised in Detroit, Michigan. He made his mark on the Southern California club circuit during the 1970s. This led to a record deal with Warner Bros. Records, from which came two singles, TOUCH ME in 1977, and YOU MEAN THE WORLD TO ME, both of which peaked on the Billboard Country Chart at No.62 & No.72 respectively. The song I CAN ALMOST SEE HOUSTON, released on an independent label became a hit in California and the California Country & Western Music Association awarded him their Most Promising Male Vocalist Award and named him a finalist in its Entertainer of the Year category. Though he was very popular, he kept his "day job" as a firefighter at the Inglewood Fire Department.

Mike Johnson is a country singer, songwriter and guitarist who regularly performs on the national club circuit and records on the independent label Roughshod Records. His specialty is yodeling, and according to Bob Everhart, writing for the National Traditional Country Music Association, “This guy not only yodels, he double yodels and triple yodel. Everhart adds about the collection of songs Johnson wrote for his 1994 album Black Yodel No.1, that ”mostly they are terrific compositions that incorporate his fine yodeling really well…”
Reverend Thomas A. Dorsey, 1979; Huddie "Leadbelly" Ledbetter, 1980; Chuck Berry, 1982, W.C. Handy, 1983; and Otis Blackwell, 1986, are the only African Americans in The Nashville Songwriters Hall Of Fame. Blackwell also wrote numerous Elvis Presley hits, including DON'T BE CRUEL, ALL SHOOK UP! RETURN TO SENDER and GREAT BALLS OF FIRE and others for Jerry Lee Lewis!
Mike Johnson’s Black Country Music Friends: Joe Arnold

McDonald Craig 1999 Old Time Country Music Festival, Avoca, Iowa.

McDonald Craig

   McDonald Craig of Linden, Tennessee is a first-rate Jimmie Rodgers Yodeler. He was born in the early Depression Years of 1932 into a Country-Traditional music household when 78rpm spring-wound RCA Victrolas ruled the day. He performed throughout Perry and Harvard counties with his parents and four siblings during the 1940s and early 1950s.  He is the second oldest of seven children. His father Newt Craig was a fiddler who played mountain square dance music and his mother Conna McDonald Craig was a piano player who played everything from popular to mountain music. While the Craig children played music as a family band, McDonald and his older brother Newt Jr. played the least while growing up. Being the eldest, they worked to help the family meet its financial obligations.


   At the age of 20 McDonald left Linden to join the U.S. Army and was assigned to a Gunnery Unit in Korea where he earned the Bronze Star. When he returned from Korea Mac stayed with his parents and continued to work the farm. He also returned to his music, brushing up on the old standards and particularly the songs of his favorites, Jimmie Rodgers and Ernest Tubb.

   Sometime during the mid-1960s McDonald landed a spot on Nashville's Gold Standard Records and had four singles released by them; I WANT TO TELL YOU, BUCKEYE OHIO, YOU AND MY GUITAR, and I'LL NEVER GO TO SLEEP ALONE.

   In 1978 McDonald went to Meridian, Mississippi for the Annual Jimmie Rodgers Yodeling Championship. He beat out 72 contestants for First Place, making him the first and only African-American Yodeler to ever win that honor. According to his wife, Rosetta Craig, the Musuem curators did not want to award him, but the Judges, music business officials whom they had commissioned from California, insisted. The Museum reluctantly awarded him 1st. Place but denied McDonald the full honors [a photo and plaque placed in the Museum] that were normally bestowed on prior winners. Undaunted by the incident, McDonald humbly accepted his win and moved on. The notoriety from his win further enhanced his appeal and requests to perform at different festivals across the country kept him pretty busy.

    At the 1999 Avoca Old Time Country Music Festival, McDonald gave his new friend, Mike Johnson, an autographed copy of  his Cassette Album "McDonald Craig Sings My Home In Tennessee and Other Old Time Country Favorites." MY HOME IN TENNESSE was written by Mac.

Johnson really felt honored by the gift though he was troubled by the fact that like so many other genuine older independent country artists Mac never received the full recognition he deserved. Craig was also featured in Cactus Moon Video’s "1999 Sonny Rodgers Yodelers Paradise Show" Video filmed at the 1999 Avoca, Iowa Old Time Country Music Festival by Mike Johnson.

    The following year Mike made a bold decision and asked Mac if he could produce the “Home In Tennessee” cassette on CD. Released in 2001 as "Yodeling McDonald Craig" thus was born the first of Roughshod Records' Special Projects Promotional releases. 

This was followed up in 2002 by a Roughshod Records Special Project CD, "Three Country Music Yodelers, Who Just Happen To Be Black," featuring two cuts each by McDonald Craig, Stoney Edwards, and Mike Johnson. Roughshod Records sent CDs to their DJ contacts, gave them away as bonuses for purchasing Mike Johnson products, and included Craig's biography in their flyers and other promotional material whenever possible. When Roughshod Records finally gained access to the internet, McDonald Craig was no longer an obscure, forgotten voice.

   In 2002, the "McDonald Craig Sings Traditional Country Music" CD was released. This 26-song treasure chest includes all-time greats; KENTUCKY, GEORGIANA MOON, I CAN'T STOP LOVING YOU, LOVESICK BLUES, GREAT SPECKLED BIRD, I'LL SAIL MY SHIP ALONE, HOW GREAT THOU ART, and his own song, CHILDHOOD MEMORIES.

   A crowd favorite with traditionalists wherever he performed McDonald is as pure Country as you can get, performing from Texas to Tennessee, Iowa, and Nebraska, at numerous State Fairs, Folk-life Festivals, and radio stations. He has been a longstanding member of the National Traditional Country Music Association based in Anita, Iowa and he is also an  Old Time Country Music Hall of Fame inductee
   In 2005, the State of Tennessee's Century Farms Program certified the 73-year old McDonald Craig's 110-acre farm as an
Official Century Farm for having been in the same family for more than 100 years. It was purchased for $400 with a yoke of oxen as a down payment by his ex-slave great-grandparents, Tapp and Amy Craig on Christmas Day in 1871. They paid off the debt in two years.

   At age 76 [2008] McDonald and wife Rosetta, of 52 years, still reside on the historic property. Though he still picks and sings, McDonald doesn't do much out of state performing anymore.  

Joe Country, the Caribbean American Country Boy

   Yep! Country Music with a Caribbean accent! He’ll have your toes a tappin’ and your heart a thumpin’. Born Joseph Greenidge, on 28 October 1949 in Grenada, Joe Country is living proof that Country Music knows no boundaries. Far from your typical country artist, Joe grew up in the rural hills and villages of Grenada, popularly known as the Spice of the Caribbean. His path to Country Music mirrors many aspects of his life. As a young man he first began singing Calypso music, but that idea was short-lived and he shifted his talent to singing Country Gospel and positive Country.

   During his initial years Joe was listening to Country icons like Charlie Pride, George Jones, Merle Haggard, and a host of others. For about two hours every day the local radio station used to have a Country Jamboree by which Joe's singing was also influenced by a singer named Cowboy Jack from Trinidad and Tobago who used to sing a song called “Tobago Country Boy” on 610 Radio. You can rightly say that behind Joe's singing there was both a Caribbean and American influence.

   It was also back then that Joe discovered that the ideas and feelings expressed by these artists resonated with his own way of life.  Soon, Joe hit the road with his own unique style of Country and Gospel Music. With wide radio and television exposure, combined with personal appearances he quickly established the alias of "Country Joe" and a reputation as a Caribbean country legend was born. 

   In 1984, following President Ronald Reagan’s Grenada rescue mission, Joe eventually migrated to Brooklyn, New York, the melting pot of many cultures. For many years he plied his trade, singing and playing in churches, the South Beach Psychiatric Center for the patients, on Martin Luther King birthday festivities, and for Black History Month events. He was a staff member at the center and a member of CSEA Local 402. Joe also represented the New York’s 71st Precinct  in a concert at Boys & Girls High School and in Ecuador Park and sang in many community programs.

   As a country boy living in the concrete jungle of Brooklyn, he was invited to sing in a Country and Western Day Festival for less fortunate youths by the founder of the Timothy Children Ranch in River Head, Long Island. This was also his first opportunity to sing and play with a live country band.
   Ultimately this led to an invitation to visit Nashville, Tennessee, the home of Country Music, an offer that Joe couldn’t turn down. He subsequently relocated to Nashville and worked at the Opryland Hotel for three and a half years. After relocating Joe learned of a group going by the name "Country Joe and the Fish" so he changed his alias to “Joe Country, the Caribbean Country Boy” for legal purposes.

   As the tides changed Joe adapted. Almost immediately after becoming an American citizen Joe adopted the colors of red, white, and blue as his coat of many colors, thereby in his mind making him the official “Caribbean American Country Boy.”  However, as an aspiring singer/songwriter it was a tough and costly choice to move to a city without a job, friends, or any business connections. Undaunted, these obstacles proved to be no match for Joe's optimism, sense of humor, and his positive outlook on life. His enthusiasm is infectious. Expressions like "lovely,” "bless your heart," and "that's beautiful" naturally flow from his tongue. A five-minute talk with him can boost your spirit for weeks on end, and even months. He believes that taking an inward and honest look at our (inner) self enables us to cultivate a positive outlook on life and our place in it.
   Joe is fueled by a burning desire to take Country Gospel and positive Country music to higher and broader levels of popularity, while erasing the stereotypes it has suffered in the past. He also is of the strong conviction that putting a limitation tag on any form of music is confining it to a box.  

   Further evidence of his effort to break the stereotype of Country Music was demonstrated when Joe had the nerve to take Country Music to the most difficult audience ever when he appeared on the popular New York TV program "It's Show Time at the Apollo" in Harlem, New York. It takes a lot of nerve to even entertain the thought of taking Country Music to the  Apollo crowd, which has traditionally focused on Blues, Jazz, R&B, and Gospel music. In the words of show host  Steve Harvey, "I have never seen this one before, this is a 'monumentous' moment here. “You may never see this one on the Apollo stage again. I've never heard of a Country Man that’s come here before!"   

   For Joe, this was history in the making. He believed that his television appearance has helped to dispel many of the myths that have hung over Country Music. He is a prolific songwriter with a knack for penning commercials as well as Positive and Christian Country Lyrics. A longtime attendee at several Christian Country Music Convention (C.C.M.C) and Award Shows in Nashville Tennessee, he finally became a member of Christian Country Music Association (C.C.M.A.) where he had the privilege of additional exposure and showcasing of his songs. At one convention Joe did a live interview on WNAH with award winning radio personality Bobby Lynn, where his song "Lift up Your Hands” and “Praise the Lord" was featured. These songs were well accepted in the local churches.

   Joe can boast of a very close friendship with Mr. Vernon Winfrey, the father of the talk show TV celebrity, Ms. Oprah Winfrey. Mr. Winfrey, a professional barber and owner of his own shop, was Joe’s barber during his residency in Nashville.

In November 2007, Joe had the privilege of taking Mr. Winfrey, his wife Barbara, along with Mr. Ray Stephenson, a Nashville country singer, to Grenada. Following that, another major highlight that garnered him more success was in 2007 when he was contacted by the Jimmy Kimmel TV Show executives in Hollywood, California to participate in their “Search for America’s Greatest Black Yodeler.”

   This offer came courtesy of his friend, Mike Johnson, Country Music’s No.1 Black Yodeler. The Kimmel Show staff had originally contacted Mike Johnson wanting him to participate in a yodeling sketch, which was to be a spoof of another TV Show's Great White Rapper contest. Johnson declined, not wanting to belittle his credentials or his craft, and when asked if he knew of any other Black Yodelers, he gave them the contact information for his friends, Joe Country, and McDonald Craig. Craig, a Korean War Veteran comes from a country/bluegrass household and is the only Black Yodeler to ever win First Place [1978] at the annual Jimmie Rodgers Yodeling Championship held by the Jimmie Rodgers Museum in Meridian, Mississippi. Mike called Joe to inform him that the phone call he might receive from Hollywood was legit and in January 2007 the Kimmel Show flew Joe out to Hollywood, and as they say, “the rest is history” as they say.

   It was also during his Nashville years, that Joe met and became friends with Mike Johnson’s friend Terry Smith, songwriter of “Far Side Banks of Jordan.” It was through Terry that Joe met following a gig at Nashville’s Ranch House Restaurant on Gallatin Road in the mid-1990s. A dreamer and previously a Calypsonian hjimself, Joe never dreamt of singing on the same stage with The Mighty Sparrow, the Calypso King of the world. But a recent fundraiser held in New York for President Barack Obama, provided this flattering opportunity for him to sing his Obama song "He is the One" on the same stage with him. A song that made its rounds on his Youtube sight and as a new CD Single on his CD Babysite.

   Some of the Nashville places that Joe has performed includes the Ranch House, the Blue Bird Café, the Gibson Guitar Café [hosted by Nashville renown Barbara Cloyd], the Broken Spoke, Legends Corner, Douglas Corner, Schonachie, the Irish Café on Broadway.

   He received a certificate for his participation at the Christian Country Music Revue annual Benefit Show held at The Texas Troubadour Theatre in December 10, 1995, and was an original member of Frankie Statons’ short-lived Black Country Music Association. In April 11, 2006 he received a commendable write-up in “Caribbean Life Brooklyn” for being a guest artist at a reception held by Air Jamaica in partnership with the Grenadian Consulate.

CD releases

1. 1997 “I WASN’T BORN IN TEXAS” with Storm Country Productions. 10-songs featuring four songs written and composed by Joe.


2. 2006 “BUILDING BACK OUR COUNTRY” with Storm Country Productions. A 2-song CD Single.

Like his friend, Mike Johnson, Joe Country is a busy multi-tasker. He always has something cooking on the front burners, like his unique Tee-shirts, a colorful line of custom clothing, or a witty book or two. Don’t count him out folks ‘cause just when you think he’s gone to pasture, he’ll pop back into the limelight with something new! Like his 2014 Pizza franchise he's currently promoting!

Oliver Fenceroy: National Traditional Country Music Association's 2009 "A Rising Legend" recipient.

   Oliver Fenceroy was born in the small town of Wilmot, in South East Arkansas. The fourth son of eight brothers and four sisters, the Fenceroy siblings grew up on a 200-acre working farm where they grew cotton, corn, beans, and raised a few head of livestock. As with any farm boy, Oliver had chores. Picking cotton, baling hay, gathering eggs, and fence mending, among other things.

   Oliver loved to sing and grew up singing Gospel songs in a Southern Church. But when he was offered free piano lessons so that he could play for the church congregation, he respectfully declined. Probably because he had also taken a liking to R&B music which was forbidden in his household. In retrospect, he chuckles, he wished he had at least learned to pick the guitar instead of picking cotton.

   

   Oliver did a tour in Vietnam with the 25th Infantry Division. Some of the emotion and grit in the songs that he's written most likely sprang from this experience. And being an Arkansas farm boy, it probably goes without saying that country music is also ground as deep within him as the soil he was raised on. He's been writing songs for about 15 years and though his family aren't country music fans, per se, they do enjoy listening to him sing. His natural, unpretentious voice seeps deep down inside you while his down-to-earth lyrics take you on journeys down memory lane. Oliver says he tries to write clean songs that everyone can relate to and enjoy. A very refreshing approach today, given how some of our old-fashion ethics and morals are steadfastly being trampled into the ground.

   Oliver has been a resident of Sioux City, Iowa for quite some time. Sometime in late 2008 he chanced upon Mike Johnson's Youtube video site and the two struck up a conversation and eventual friendship. Mike viewed Oliver's videos and responded favorably. Oliver then sent him a copy of his debut CD “DREAMER.” Mike enjoyed it so much that he prompted him to send a copy to the National Traditional Country Music Association's Tradition Magazine for a music review. He also told Oliver about the annual week long festivals and suggested that he should consider attending a future one.

Bob Everhart was just as impressed with Oliver's CD and wrote the following review in the 2009 Spring Edition of Tradition Magazine.

“OLIVER L. FENCEROY * Dreamer * $12..0

1. The Dreamer - 3:11

2. She Ain't Out There - 3:23

3. When I Said I Do, I Did - 3:06

4. Getting Tired - 2:38


Oliver Fenceroy c/o Kountry My Way Music

P.O. Box 947, North Sioux, City Iowa 57049

Oliver on YouTube

  “Reviewing CD's never ceases to amaze me. Oliver Fenceroy is a good friend of my good friend Mike Johnson. Both guys are black. Does that make a difference? Yes it does. For me at least, it's an opportunity to hear some 'country' music with 'different' roots. Oliver's song “The Dreamer” is a killer. What I like about it is the great 'country' backing in it, but also I like it because it has some little bits of Jamaica in it, and little bits of 'modern' in it, and little bits of rhythm & blues sprinkled just right. My how I wish country music could have taken this direction rather than the failing 50's rock direction it took.

   “Oliver, you don't need to be 'pushed' into making a cd just because your co-workers say you can't. Do it because you're on the road our good Lord Jesus has placed you on. Make cd's because they're good. Make cd's because you're good at it. Make cd's to show off your fine songwriting abilities. Make cd's because YOU want to.
   “I'm not going to tell you that you'll get rich and famous from making cd's, because even the 'big' boys can't do that these days, but you sure will get a lot of enjoyment using your talent in making people feel good about music, about themselves, about you. Our festival is Aug 31-Sept 6, in LeMars, Iowa (I'll bet you know where that's at), and I'd sure like to see you get one of our “Rising Legend” awards. The festival is old-timey and acoustic, but I'll bet you could do a song or two with an acoustic guitar, and I'll also bet Mike Johnson would be willing to help out. He promises to be there too. Come be with us Oliver, and stop dreaming........ just do it!”

   Bob urged Mike Johnson to try and get Oliver to the festival, and after some coaxing and persistence, Johnson succeeded in getting Oliver to commit. When they met they hit it off immediately and began rehearsing for Oliver's two performances. So impressed by Oliver's rehearsing were Sue and Dawn, two of the Kramer Sisters Group, and a guitarist name Kirk, that they joined in. Noticing that they greatly contributed to calming Oliver's [quote] “chickens flappin in his stomach” Mike invited them to help back him up on the Main Stage. Though he admits he was quite nervous, Oliver's performance of “Hang Down Your Head Tom Dooley” and “Kiss An Angel Good Morning” was enthusiastically received as was noted by the applause. It was also this stage that he was presented with the Rising Legend Award by Bob Everhart, president of the National Traditional Country Music Association.

   Oliver also performed on the One On The Mountain Stage, this time including two of his own songs, “When I Said I Do, I Did” and “Getting Tired.” Mike Johnson admits that he was a bit nervous because it sometimes takes him awhile to learn a new song, but he fell back on some of the same advice that he had given Oliver and got through it just fine.

   Says Oliver of his first festival experience, “I am forever grateful to my friend Mike Johnson, the famous No.1 Black Yodeler who helped me out and led me by the hand. I appreciate all that he had done, and advice he still gives me from time to time via email...”

   We can only say that Mike thoroughly enjoyed meeting Oliver and getting the opportunity to assist a truly unique individual and wonderfully nice guy take his wonderful talent a step further.
   Oliver wishes that he could spend a lot more time writing and recording songs, but as he says, he has a wife and family to support. His day job keeps him busy and he divides his off time between his family and music. Hopefully the future will allow him some additional time to do just that. I know the folks at the LeMars Festival will be looking forward to seeing him in 2010.