We first learn about this native of Farwell, Michigan through a feature in an
old Eddie Adams Fan Club Journal put out by then president Agnes (Aggie) McDonald
around 1958 or so.
Johnny Colmus started displaying his musical talents at an early age. When he was all of four
years old, he made his first public appearance at the little school house
and sang "Happy Little Woodpecker's Song".
The family enjoyed country music. On Saturday nights, the family, including
Johnny would tune into WSM and listen to the Grand Ole Opry. When he heard
Ernest Tubb do his tune, "Our Baby's Book", he is reported to have said
back then, "That's the kind of music I'm going to play." And he was only eight
at the time!
The calendar turned a couple of years to when he was ten
years old. He entered a Farwell Talent Show on Labor Day and walked away
with the first prize of a US Savings Bond of $25.00. He won over the audience
with his rendition of the then popular tune, "Cruising Down The River".
A 1965 article notes "in pursuit of his life-long ambition" (and keep in mind,
he's only 12), he was appearing on a regular basis on the WCEN Jamboree
that originated in Mt. Pleasant, Michigan.
He later joined the Bundy Mountain Jamboree show that aired over WPBN-TV in
During the early part of his career, he worked both as a sideman and as a front
man for his own group. His sideman stints included time with Bill Lyon on
WPBN-TV in Traverse City, Michigan and WWTV in Cadillac, Michigan. His travels
with those groups took all over Michigan and into Chicago and Milwaukee as
When Johnny had his own group, he spent an entire season in Traverse City
appearing at the O-At-Ka Beach Pavilion. In 1958, he was appearing regularly
at Grand Rapids' only country music night spot. He was entertaining audiences
every Friday night at the Night Hawk Casino on Campau Lake. On Saturday nights,
audiences heard him at Evelyn Genung's Tamarack Barn Dance near Howard City
along with the Country Rhythm Boys.
Johnny was starting to dabble in song writing in those Michigan days.
His musical journey took him to Nashville, Tennessee. He was there
only four months when he became a part of the Cousin Jody show and was
doing regular appearances on the Grand Ole Opry - the show he grew up
listening to. He told Paul Charon in a 1965 article that he was a jack
of all trades music wise, but master of none, perhaps in a self-deprecating
way. Paul tells us that Johnny played the steel guitar (his first love),
piano, drums, bass guitar, lead guitar and banjo.
In addition to performing, he also did A&R work and found time to pen
some tunes as well. He partnered
with Clyde Beavers on the tune "Handprints On The Window". That
tune was on the flipside of Clyde's "Sukiyaki (I Look Up When I Walk)" single.
Other tunes he penned and were recorded by others include:
- From A King To A Joker To A Clown (recorded by Earl Scott)
- Too Busy Saying Goodbye (recorded by George Morgan and Marion Worth
- I'll Just Call You Darling (recorded by Ernest Tubb and Loretta Lynn)
The Guest Star record label released an album entitled "The Late Great Cowboy
Copas" that noted that Cowboy Copas was joined on the album by "...Johnny Colmus,
an up and coming new artist who is sure to become a favorite of yours also."
Apparently he was also handy with shop tools for Mr. Charon ends his feature
on Johnny by telling fans to ask him about his 8-string fiddle that he carved
out of a block of wood with just a butcher knife - and it played, too! We don't
know if we'd rather hear the fiddle play or see how someone could carve
something like a fiddle with just a butcher knife - not your everyday type
of hobby or side of work.
Credits & Sources
- Eddie Adams Fan Club Journal No. 3; Agnes McDonald (President);
Mt. Pleasant, Michigan (copy courtesy of Eddie Adams family).
- Country Music Review; March-April 1964; Country Music Review; Devvy Davenport;
- Country Music Review; June 1965; Cal-Western Publications, Inc.;