Johnny Fortune. 1943-2006

Since the release of his first smash hit, "Soul Surfer, in 1963, Johnny Fortune has made his presence known in the music industry. He has played guitar on record for such recording artists as: Sam Cooke, Bargara George (I Know), and Terry Stafford. He and his band have appeared on such popular TV shows as: "Shindig", 9th St. West, and "The Lloyd Thaxton Show," during the early to mid 1960s.

The Johnny Fortune Band has contained such recording artists as "Rock Entrepreneur" Sammy Hager, Al "The Snake" Wilson (Show and Tell) and Terry Stafford as members. Shows have been performed with artists such as The Beach Boys, Jan & Dean, Dick & Dee Dee. Barbara Mandrell and Ricky Nelson.

During the mid 1970s, the band embarked on what turned out to be a 3-1/2 year U.S. tour with Terry Stafford. Stafford's monster hit "Suspicion" in 1964 earned him a gold record and a #2 national hit. This tour saw the band at such popular local show places as The Troubador, The Whiskey Au Go-Go and Gazzari's on the strip. They broke away to do a show with Ricky Nelson during the tour called "A Country Concert Outdoors" at Arlington Stadium in Arlington, Texas.

In 1977 the band and Stafford entered the Atlantic Records Recording Studios in Nashville, Tennessee and recorded Stafford's "Amarillo By Morning" LP. The album met with a modest national success and helped set up appearances at L.A.'s Palomino Club. During thus stint the band not only backed Terry Stafford, But also such talents as Barbara Mandrell and Jerry Reed!

Late 1978 Stafford and the band had a mutual 'parting of the ways' so that both parties could try something new and fresh.

The group returned to the club scene in 1979 and performed in L.A., Orange Country, Riberside and San Berbardino areas.


Notable stints include; the "Oak Tree Lounge" in Azusa for 13 months, the "Boars Head" in Alta Loma for 6 months. The "Boars Head" management claimed that the Johnny Fortune Band had held the longest engagement ever for that club to date. Normally they changed bands every four weeks. "Billy B's"" in Riverside was the longest stay for the band and that spanned 17 months.

           Johnny was born March 18, 1943 in Warren, Ohio. At age 12 he picked up his first guitar. At age 16 recorded recorded"Soul Surfer." It quickly became a #1 hot. He wrote it in the back seat of the car on the way to the studio.
           Johny played guitar on Sam Cooke's "Chain Gang" and Barbara George's "I Know." He was offered a chance to tour England with Johnny Burnette. He had to decline because he was under age.
           Johnny went on to play with such notables as: Terry Stafford, Glen Campbell, Barbara Stanton, Al "The Snake" Wilson, Jerry Hopkins, Harry Belefonte, Eddie Downs, Fabian, Ricky Nelson, Jerry Reed, Willie Nelson, Barbara Mandrell and The Drifters.
           He also performed with The Rondell, The Cornells, Dick & Dee Dee, The Standells, Brian Highland, The Crystals, Freddie Wheeler & The Petersons, The Tornadoes, The Three Beats and The Blenders. Televison appearances included: "Solid Gold." "The Lloyd Thaxton Show" and "The Dinah Shore Show."
           When Johnny was playing with a well known artist or unknown, he always played to enhance his musicians' performance. No venue was too big or too small. Johnny gave it his all.
           Of all of his credits, his greatest legacy is the love he had for his beloved Rose, his wife of 27 years, his children and grandchildren, brothers and sisters. They were the light of his life.
           Johnny's infectious smile will remain forever in the hearts of his family and all the friends who knew and loved this God fearing man with the humble and contrite spirit.

Thanks to Alan Clark for supplying the text and photos for this page.

Page updated December, 2007

Rockabilly Hall of Fame