Johnny Bond had several successful facets to a career that lasted over 30 years. As a member of the Jimmy Wakely Trio and as a session musician, he was an important support musician in dozens of B Westerns, working alongside Wakely, Tex Ritter, and Johnny Mack Brown. As a songwriter, he was responsible for several compositions that became country standards, including "Cimarron," "I Wonder Where You Are Tonight," "Conversation With a Gun," "Tomorrow Never Comes," and "I'll Step Aside," which became hits for everyone from Billy Vaughn & His Orchestra to Johnny Rodriguez. He also contributed mightily to the recorded music of Wakely, Ritter, and other country stars of the 1940s and 1950s. And his own recordings -- which included work with such luminaries as Merle Travis -- were popular from the 1940s onward, and included several hits, but it wasn't until the 1960s that he had the biggest record of his career, "Ten Little Bottles."
Cyrus Whitfield Bond was born in Enville, OK, on June 1, 1915, to a poor farming family. His first instrument was the trumpet, but as a boy he also learned to play the guitar and the ukulele, and by the time he was a teenager he was entertaining at local dances -- his main inspiration was the playing of Jimmie Rodgers and Milton Brown and the Light Crust Doughboys. After graduating from high school in 1933, he headed for Oklahoma City to try for a career on radio, first broadcasting under the name Cyrus Whitfield, and later as Johnny Whitfield, before he settled on Johnny Bond. In Oklahoma City he also hooked up with Jimmy Wakely and Scotty Harrell (later replaced by Dick Reinhart), with whom he formed a group, originally known as the Singing Cowboy Trio and later the Bell Boys, in acknowledgment of their radio sponsorship from Bell Clothing. Their repertoire in those days was influenced heavily by the work of Gene Autry and the Sons of the Pioneers, and featured many cowboy songs. They did their broadcasting on radio station WKY, and cut transcription discs at KVOO in Tulsa. By then, Bond was already writing songs of his own, and in 1938 he wrote his first classic, "Cimarron." Gene Autry saw their work when he was on tour late in the 1930s and indicated his interest in using them on his Melody Ranch radio show, should they ever make it out to California.
By the end of 1957, Bond had written 123 songs, several of which - "Cimarron," "I'll Step Aside," "Tomorrow Never Comes," and "I Wonder Where You Are Tonight" - were very heavily covered by numerous other artists. The most successful version of "I Wonder Where You Are Tonight" was the cover by Johnny Rodriguez, but it was also recorded by Bobby Bare, Roy Clark, Flatt & Scruggs, Jerry Lee Lewis, Bill Monroe, the Louvin Brothers, Hank Snow, Red Allen & the Kentuckians, and even Arthur Alexander. "Cimarron" was not only a country standard, with versions by the Sons of the Pioneers, Foy Willing, Bob Wills, and Jimmy Dean, and concert renditions by Johnny Cash and Chet Atkins, but it was also recorded by Les Paul and Mary Ford and as an instrumental by Harry James and Neal Hefti, with Billy Vaughn & His Orchestra doing the biggest-selling version of them all. "Tomorrow Never Knows" was a hit for Glen Campbell, but was also covered by Lynn Anderson, Elvis Presley, Little Jimmy Dickens, Loretta Lynn, the Statler Brothers, and Ernest Tubb. "Conversations With a Gun" was recorded by Tex Ritter and Marty Robbins, among others, and "I'll Step Aside" done by Hank Thompson, Ernest Tubb, and Marty Robbins.
He spent a brief time on Autry's Republic Records label, for which he recorded "Hot Rod Lincoln," a crossover record that did well and later became a rock & roll standard. Then, in 1960, Bond was signed to the Starday label, beginning an 11-year relationship with the company. In 1964, he recorded a new version of "Ten Little Bottles," a song that he'd previously done twice, as far back as 1954 -- this proved to be the biggest hit of Bond's career, rising into the Top Three and making it to number one on some charts. Unfortunately, none of Bond's follow-up records, including the comical "Morning After," sold nearly as well. ~ Bruce Eder, All Music Guide
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