Johnny Bush, Songwriter Of Willie Nelson's 'Whiskey River,' Dead At 85


Johnny Bush, Songwriter Of Willie Nelson's 'Whiskey River,' Dead At 85

Johnny Bush, Songwriter Of Willie Nelson's 'Whiskey River,' Dead At 85

Johnny Bush, the Texas country singer-songwriter best known for writing Willie Nelson's hit, "Whiskey River," has died at 85. Bush's manager confirmed the singer's death to Rolling Stone on Friday October 16.

Born John Bush Shinn III on February 17, 1935 in Houston, the entertainer got his start in the music industry thanks to Nelson, who helped land him a job as drummer in Ray Price's band. In 1967, Bush released his debut single, "Sound of a Heartache," and was praised by Nelson, who described him at the time as a "great singing talent."

Several years later in 1972, Bush penned "Whiskey River," which became a massive hit on Nelson's 1973 album, Shotgun Willie. Additionally, Bush scored a Top 30 with Nelson on "What A Way To Live," a Top 10 single with Marty Robbins' "You Gave Me Mountain," and a Top 40 single with "There Stands the Glass," originally a Webb Pierce hit in 1953.

Bush's singing career was briefly halted by vocal issues which were a result of a neurological disorder. This led him to receive vocal and speech therapy, according to Rolling Stone, and in 2002 received Botox injections to restore his voice.

In 2001, the National Council of Communicative Disorders and the American Speech-Language-Hearing Associated honored Bush with their Annie Glenn Award. He was inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame in 2003 with Kris Kristofferson and Lefty Frizzell. Most recently, Bush was the first recipient of the Ameripolitan Founder of the Year Award in 2014.

Tanya Tucker once called Bush one of "Texas' best honky-tonk heroes." She told Rolling Stone, "When I was 14, 15, I did many shows with Johnny Bush. I always loved his singing and he was always so kind to me. I surprised him in Fort Worth and celebrated his 60th year in the business not too long ago. We sang ‘Big Big Love’ together. Truly a special night."

In 1968, Nelson spoke to his special bond with Bush. "It seemed that one day I had never heard of Johnny Bush and then on the next day I had always known him," he wrote. "We’re that good of friends."

Photo: Getty Images