Johnnie White and the Sons of the West were making quite a name for themselves
on both radio and TV in the South Dakota / Iowa areas. They were
featured over radio station WNAX in Yankton, South Dakota and over
KVTV in Sioux City, Iowa.
Johnnie graduated from Humes High School in Memphis, Tennessee in 1946, after
serving his country in the United States Marine Corps from 1944 to 1946. He
was the second most celebrated alumni of Humes; in first was a fellow
by the name of Elvis Presley.
During his stint in the 2nd Marine Division, he served with distinction
and earned the rank of field music corporal and received a Purple Heart
from his experience in the battle of Saipan.
Johnnie became a 32nd Degree Mason in the Scottish Rights while he was living
in White Bear Lake, Minnesota. His rapid advancement to that level was
matched by only one other person, former senator and vice-president Hubert H. Humphrey.
Their stint on WNAX included several radio programs. They did two
shows that were on Monday through Friday. Their morning show was at 5:30 to 6:00am called
"Good Morning Neighbor" and the other was "Sons of the West" that aired from
3:05 to 3:30pm.
When Saturday nights came around, the group was one of the stars on the "Missouri
Valley Barn Dance" that was heard over WNAX from 8:30 to 9:30pm.
And if that wasn't enough, they would appear on Sundays from 1:00 to 1:30pm
on the "Sunday Get-Together".
The group was a bit pioneering in that they were the first live musical group
to play over the then new television station, KVTV, channel 9. The station
was began by WNAX and located in Sioux City, Iowa.
Their work on KVTV was no less time consuming. The boys worked on two daily,
Monday through Friday shows over KVTV. One was on from 4:00 to 4:30pm and
the other was 5:30 to 6:00pm.
In addition to KVTV, in the 1950s and 1960s, Johnnie also did shows on KELo, KPLO and
KDLO in Sioux Falls.
We have learned that Johnnie owned and operated several venues over the years. In 1958,
Johnnie and his group were playing regularly at the Club Cabana. The other two members
of his group then were Bob Blum and Al Guiness.
Other venues Johnnie operated in Sioux Falls were the Corral Bar, The Peppermint Stick,
John's Bar and Steak House. He owned operated a club for a time in Minneapolis, Minnesota
as well, perhaps named The Little Nashville Club. Eventually he moved to Southern California
where he owned and was the featured performer at The Little Nashville Club in North Hollywood, California
from 1977 to 1989. He retired after over 60 years in the music business.
His first band was the Rhythm Riders and later became the Sons of the West.
Johnnie passed away in October 2013 in Van Nuys, California.
He was preceded in death by his wife of 50 years, Betty.
Timeline and Trivia Notes
Group Members included:
- Johnnie White, Hawaiian steel guitar, vocals
- Jimmy Franklin, rhythm guitar
- Billy Grey, accordion, vocals
- Bob Blum, electric guitar, vocals
- Al Guiness, rhythm guitar, vocals
Credits & Sources
- Cowboy Songs No. 34, June 1954, American Folk Publications, Inc.,
- Country Song Roundup; No. 34; September 1954; American Folk Publications, Inc.;
- Country and Western Jamboree; Vol. 3 No. 8; Spring 1958; Maher Publications, Inc.; Chicago, IL