Catching Up With Johnny Lee
The 'Looking for Love' Urban Cowboy
Described as one of the main forces of the Urban Cowboy movement, Johnny Lee recently released is latest CD entitled The 13th of July. The album features some of his best work to date. Fans can expect an updated musical version of their favorite star with several songs in the vein of his eighties hits, but according to Johnny there is more depth, more feeling in much of the work.
In 1979, Johnny landed a role in the TV movie, "The Girls in the Office," starring Barbara Eden and Susan St. James. Soon after, he was asked to perform in the then upcoming film, "Urban Cowboy," which starred John Travolta and Deborah Winger, and for which Lee recorded several songs that were used in the soundtrack. The "Lookin' For Love" single went to number one in the country charts, number three in the pop charts, and became Johnny's first gold record. The Lookin' For Love album went on to produce four additional number one hits. Lee's movie success continued with the hit single "Pickin' Up Strangers" in the movie, "Coast to Coast," starring Robert Blake and Dyan Cannon.
During this time, Johnny appeared on virtually every major talk show, as well as several major network TV specials, including appearances on “Fantasy Island,” “CHiPS,” “The Fall Guy,” and “The A Team” with Mr. T and Boy George. Johnny Lee was awarded the 1981 New Male Vocalist of the Year award, an honor which was repeated the same year in Australia. "Lookin' For Love" also received a Grammy award nomination in 1981, and in 1996 he was named Veteran Music Singer of the Year for the gospel song, "He Could Have Walked On By." And, Johnny Lee is going be inducted
to the Texas Hall Of Fame in Carthage, Texas, on August 21, 2004.
[Cindy Beth Gordon] Hi Johnny. It's great to talk with you. So you're currently promoting your new CD, The 13th of July?
Johnny Lee Yes. Fans can get it at one of my shows or at www.johnnyleefanclub.com. They can sample some of the new songs that we'll be doing on the website plus get our tour schedule and find out everything that's going on. The record company, Title Tunes, has a website with my touring schedule at www.titletunes.com , phone # 1 800-808-5550. We've been out promoting that CD at shows as well as doing my hits that I was fortunate enough to have.
[Cindy Beth Gordon] So you're doing a lot of performing?
Johnny Lee I do between 80 to 100 dates per year. It keeps me pretty busy. The dates are the easiest thing, it's just the traveling's the thing that kicks your butt. And I do some events with the golfer John Daly for the Make a Wish foundation in June- people can check the dates and get more information on that at www.johndaly.com. (June 7th & 8, 2004 at Maumelle Country Club). I do a concert for that event. I think it's going to be in Little Rock Arkansas this year; it's been in Tunica Mississippi in the past.
[Cindy Beth Gordon] And you also do a concert for Project Joy and Hope for Texas? Tell us about that.
Johnny Lee Yes, every Columbus Day in October. This is my 3rd year with my name on a golf tournament called Project Joy and Hope for Texas. I always do a concert with that event. Project Joy and Hope for Texas aids families who are in need of any kind of counseling that have children who have been terminally diagnosed or who just lost one of their children - it's for families in need at that time. This turned into a very successful event too. We just try to make a difference in those hard times in people's lives because God forbid I hope I never find out how devastating it is but it has to be. We try to help not only the parents, but maybe their brothers and sisters and families in their time of need.
[Cindy Beth Gordon] Sounds like fun and for a good cause.
Johnny Lee Yes. And of course I'm a single father, so my working schedule has been kind of rough. I'm very grateful for the time I have at home, although I'm still thankful at the same time just to be working as much as I am. And my sister, Jan, moved in with me about a year ago. And she has just been such a big help to me, you know, being here taking care and helping me raise my son.
[Cindy Beth Gordon] And you have a daughter also?
Johnny Lee Yes, Cherish. She's 21. My son, Johnny Lee II, is 13. My daughter still lives out in CA - she's an excellent writer and is pursuing an acting career - she's got a great singing voice unlike her mother. My son - I would say he's your typical 13 year old, but he's not - to me he's pretty special. But right now, he's just into skateboarding and he's a great drummer. He's not really interested in country music whatsoever, although he respects it. I heard him tell one of his buddies that "everything I've got is because of country music so don't knock it."
It's kind of rough on me when I'm gone from him like I was this past two weeks. I figure every day of my life that I'm gone away from him it can never be replaced. I'm in my 50s - I'm not going to live forever and I really like to take advantage of the time that I have with my son and my daughter when I get to see her. I'm taking both of them to Hawaii - we're leaving the 13th of April and I'm going to play like at a NFL Golf tournament - I'm sure that's for some charities. I'm not going over to sing, they just want me to come and play golf so I'm going to take my kids and enjoy for the first time us taking a trip like that together.
[Cindy Beth Gordon] Sounds like a fun trip.
Johnny Lee It will be neat - staying on the ocean and cutting out with my two goofy kids.
[Cindy Beth Gordon] Any advice to aspiring songwriters and artists?
Johnny Lee I'm really not qualified to give advice but since I've been there and done that - the only advice that I could give somebody is to tell them if that's what they really want to do, it's a tough business but it's very rewarding. You just gotta hang in there, learn all you can and never give up because if you ever quit, it will never happen. That was my whole philosophy of hanging in there. I didn't have any major success until I was in my early 30s, when the Urban Cowboy movie came out. So I just thank G-d a million times over that I never did just give up and quit. If you're a songwriter, I'd suggest getting with other songwriters and learning - it's like being in a business - if you want to be successful, you've got to know your trade so you need to learn everything that you can about it - learn it on your own or learn it with or from other people.
If someone is going to be an artist or a songwriter, if that's going to be your trade. If that's what you're going to be in life, it's no different than being a businessman or something. I mean you have to learn about your business. You've got to know about it and if you're going to be the best. You've got to work harder than anybody else would be willing to work at it to be on top. You gotta stick with it and try to be the best to get that spot.
[Cindy Beth Gordon] What are some of your favorite songs on the 13th of July?
Johnny Lee One of my favorite songs on there for sentimental reasons is "You are My Special Angel." The main reason is when my son was a little guy, at night he would say “Walk me, Daddy.” I would pick him up and carry him in my arms, and that would be the song that I would sing to him. Now that he's a teenager, I try to sing that song to him now, he says, “Dad that crap don't work on me anymore.”
”I'd Marry You Again” - I think that's a good sentimental love song, as well as the title track song, “The 13th of July.” And there's another song on there that's one of my favorites that my brother Jim, who lives down in Florida, he wrote it probably 20 years ago and it always just stuck in my head. It's called “Just Like Love.”
[Cindy Beth Gordon] Any future plans?
Johnny Lee For the first time in my career I'm going to record a Christmas CD this summer and the plans are in the making for making another CD. There's going to be some guest artists on the CD with me. I can't tell you much about that now, but I'm really excited about that! So I've been writing some songs, plugging the hew stuff, looking forward to doing the Christmas CD and getting ready to make another CD probably in a few months.
[Cindy Beth Gordon] Are you open to people submitting you songs and/or co-writing?
Johnny Lee Absolutely. That's how I got all those songs on the CD 13th of July. Also, for the upcoming Christmas CD, I'm going to write a couple of the Christmas songs, and also myself and the President of the record company, Clayton McGonigle, who's really responsible for getting my career going again recording- wise. We just got through writing a great Texas Swing song together - in fact we just finished it today.
[Cindy Beth Gordon] Any additional projects that you'd like to mention?
Johnny Lee The only other thing we didn't mention anything about was I had the opportunity to go back and visit Grand Ole Opry - one of my dreams is to one day become a member of the Opry. That's one of the very few jobs that's still left that when I get to perform, I actually get a little nervous before I go on stage. I'm real proud to have had the opportunity to sing on the Opry five or six different times, and I really look forward to being able to do it again.
[Cindy Beth Gordon] Well, thank you Johnny Lee. We wish you much success with your new CD, The 13th of July, and with all the events and projects you're involved in.
Johnny Lee Thank you Cindy.
Deborah Danker, Publicist
International Sourcing Plus
1227 Sixteenth Ave. So.
Nashville, TN 37212
Be sure to catch Johnny Lee on tour and check out his latest CD, the 13th of July!