Country legend will play Edna dance hall

Melissa Crowe By Melissa Crowe

Nov. 8, 2012 at 5:08 a.m.

Texas Country Music Hall of Famer Johnny Bush will two-step his way to Edna's Texas Country Oaks Dance Hall on Saturday night.

Bush, known as the Country Caruso, sat down with Get Out to talk about the evolution of country music, how dance halls can save the world, and his battle with a rare disorder that nearly robbed him of his singing career.

After more than 50 years in the industry, you are still releasing records. What does "Who'll buy my Memories" mean to you?

I went back through some old photograph albums of my family and that's what's on the cover. The back of the album is the house where my daughter was born in Houston. The cover echos who'll buy my memories rather than sitting through a boring, two-hour photo shoot. I don't like photo shoots anymore. I'll be 78-years-old; I'm not young and handsome like I used to think I was.

You don't retire from this business. This business retires you. As long as people want to come out and buy a ticket, I'm very thankful for that. I'm enjoying it more than I ever had. My crowds are bigger than I've ever had. My music is better, the equipment is better, we have better sound. Everything is better.

Spazmatic Dysphonia nearly robbed your career. How have treatments helped you to come back?

The kind of spasmodic dysphonia I have causes the vocal cords to slam shut. To dramatize what it's like, expel all the air out of your lungs and try to talk.

It brought it to a screeching halt for a while. I lost my contract. I had to cut my tour back. It went on for 30 years before we found Botox.

They give me a dosage in those vocal cords every 12 to 14 weeks, and it relaxes them enough to alleviate the spasms and allows me to speak and to sing again.

Some people say the glass is half empty, some say the glass if half full. I say the glass is too small.

You can sit around and be negative in gloom and doom and you won't live long if you do that. Things are going to happen that you can't control. Whatever happens, happens for a reason.

How would you say country music changed since you began playing?

My music is the pedal steel guitar, the twin fiddles and the shuffle beat. Then the new country coming out of Nashville, they're calling it country, I call it bad rock and roll in a cowboy hat.

Traditional country music is about real life situations, and that's still relevant today. Why is the divorce rate 50 percent? Because of lost love, cheating, whatever you want to call it. Half of those people are hurting and that's where traditional country comes in.

The new song writing wave - you can't say anything bad about a woman, you can't say anything about drinking or God. The song that comes to mind is "She thinks my Tractor is Sexy." I don't get it.

Without the song, it's just melodies. Melodies are important, but the ingredient to a hit song is the wedding or fusion between melody and the lyric.

What are you looking forward to Saturday night?

There are very few dance halls left any more. The place we're going to Saturday night is a new venue for me. I want to see the dance halls come back. I still believe people like to dance and come together.

Music is anything pleasing to the ear. The Bible says make a joyful noise unto the Lord. People say, "Well you play in honky tonks." I sure do, and I also play in my church. Some of the people I see in the dance halls are the same people I see in church on Sunday.

If there were more music - any kind of music - being played, this world would be a better place. I'd rather see more music than those wars being fought.

What life experiences have influenced your music the most?

Willie Nelson recorded "Whiskey River" 27 times. It's the title of my book, "Whiskey River Take My Mind: The True Story of Texas Honky Tonk." Being inducted into the Texas Music Hall of Fame, along with Kris Kristofferson and Lefty Frizzell, was a big thrill.

My dad bought me a guitar when I was 12 years old. Every now and then, I'd take it to school and sing and play for the class. There was no radio, no electricity. Music was a fun thing - that's all we had. My dad taught me a few chords and I went from there.



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