Johnny Russell sold his first song to Gentleman Jim Reeves when he was twenty years old. The year was 1960 and Reeves and Chet Atkins placed it on the B-side of He’ll Have To Go. In A Mansion Stands My Love was a good song, but it got a very lucky break.
In A Mansion Stands My Love, Jim Reeves
His biggest song though would come a few years later. It was inspired by breaking a date with his girlfriend. He was headed to L.A. with some friends for a recording session and when asked why he was going he told her “they’re gonna put me in the movies and make a big star out of me.” They laughed and then he sat down and wrote Act Naturally.
The big man shopped it around, but no one liked it until he played if for a writing partner Voni Morrison. She took it to Buck Owens who, as the story goes, didn’t like it either. His guitarist and right hand, Don Rich, liked it though and talked Buck into singing it.
On February 12th, 1963 Buck called up Johnny Russell and asked if they could have the song. It’s a good thing Russell said yes, since Buck and the Buckaroos had recorded it earlier that day.
The song spent twenty-eight weeks on the country charts, four of them at number one. And, from what I understand, some band out of Liverpool also covered it two years later. A pretty good joke.
Russell went on to write Ain’t You Even Gonna Cry, Beautiful Unhappy Home, Have I Told You Lately That I Love You, and the quintessential blue collar country stomper Rednecks, White Socks and Blue Ribbon Beer.
Russell passed away in 2001 of complications from diabetes.
Act Naturally, Johnny Russell
Rednecks, White Socks and Blue Ribbon Beer, Johnny Russell