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Johnny Dollar

Country and rockabilly vocalist Johnny Dollar was born in Kilgore, TX, on March 8, 1922. Arriving in Dallas in the early '50s, Dollar worked a series of odd jobs, including roughneck, truck driver, and lumber-yard foreman. He cut a record with Shelby Singleton's D Records around 1952, but it went nowhere fast. Dollar then became a DJ in Louisiana and New Mexico, while also leading the Texas Sons, who played regularly on Louisiana Hayride, the Shreveport-based variety show broadcast on KWKH. He then left the Sons to join Martin McCullough's Light Crust Doughboys, but by the late '50s was back in Dallas, feeling out the new rockabilly sounds made famous by Elvis Presley. Dollar fell in with promoter Ed McLemore and songwriter Jack Rhodes. The combination yielded some fiery rockabilly gems like "Action Packed," later popularized by Ronnie Dawson and an eventual standard of the rockabilly genre. However, despite his fiery performances, darkly handsome looks, and powerful voice, Dollar's rockabilly sides were never released. Disenfranchised once again, a disgusted Dollar left the music industry and sold insurance in Oklahoma. There, a chance run-in with country star Ray Price led Dollar to a contract with Columbia, who signed him in 1964. Dollar -- now occasionally billed as Johnny $ Dollar or "Mr. Personality" -- scored a Top 50 hit with 1966's "Tear-Talk," and cracked the Top 15 with "Stop the Start (Of Tears in My Heart)" a year later. He moved from Dot Records to Date Records, and finally to Chart Records, where he landed in 1968. There he scored again with the truck driving country hits "Big Big Rollin' Man" and "Big Wheels Sing for Me." In 1970, he returned to the Johnny Dollar moniker and scored his final hit for Chart with "Truck Driver's Lament."

This was the apex of Dollar's chart success, and for the rest of the decade he focused on producing. Based in Nashville, Dollar worked with the New Coon Creek Girls, Jimmy Dickens, and Teddy Nelson. But Dollar's personal life was a shambles. After the divorce of his fourth wife, Dollar battled alcoholism and depression. He was diagnosed with throat cancer, and a subsequent operation caused him to lose his voice. This plunged the singer into further depths of depression, and on April 13th, 1986, he took his own life. ~ Johnny Loftus, Rovi
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