R.I.P. Bob Johnston, 1932-2015 - Noise11.com
Bob Johnston with Bob Dylan

Bob Johnston with Bob Dylan

R.I.P. Bob Johnston, 1932-2015

by Roger Wink, VVN Music on August 19, 2015

in News

Bob Johnston, a record producer who helmed some of the most admired albums of the 60’s and 70’s from the likes of Bob Dylan, Johnny Cash and Simon and Garfunkel, died Friday in a Nashville hospice at the age of 83.

The Austin Chronicle reports that a friend of the producer said “For several days before, swinging, swaying, and waving around his hands, telling stories out loud, entertaining and consuming all those that saw and heard him,” one wrote. “Once he was confined to [a] bed and connected to machines, hospice only gave him a few days to live.

“He was on morphine to help any pain he was experiencing. Bob’s wife told me he pass[ed] away peacefully. The grand master waved his magical wand for the last time, then disappeared off into the night.”

Johnston’s mother and grandmother were both songwriters with mother Diane Johnston writing for Gene Autry along with the song Miles and Miles of Texas, recorded by Asleep at the Wheel. After a stint in the Navy, he began his own songwriting with his mother, composing for rockabilly star Mac Curtis. He also had a short recording career as the rockabilly artist Don Johnston.

Johnston later collaborated on songs with his wife Joy Byers including the Timi Yuro hit What’s a Matter Baby and a number of songs for Elvis Presley and other artists but his real career would peak as a producer starting with a short stint with Kapp Records followed by a staff job at Columbia where he started by producing Patti Page, including her final hit Hush, Hush Sweet Charlotte (1965 / #8) before being assigned to Bob Dylan. Johnston and the singer/songwriter worked together on a number of projects over the next decade or so including Highway 61 Revisited, Blonde on Blonde, John Wesley Harding and Nashville Skyline.

Throughout the 60’s and 70’s, Johnston would work on some of Columbia’s biggest and most influential albums for artists including Simon & Garfunkel, Marty Robbins, Flatt and Scruggs, Johnny Cash, Leonard Cohen, the Byrds and others. He eventually became the head of Columbia Nashville but, dissatisfied with the way he was treated by the company, went independent in 1972.

His later career continued his success as a producer with Lindisfarne, Jimmy Cliff, Joe Ely, John Mayall, Willie Nelson and Carl Perkins.

A sampling of albums produced by Bob Johnston:
Highway 61 Revisited – Bob Dylan (1965)
Blonde on Blonde – Bob Dylan (1966)
Sounds of Silence – Simon & Garfunkel (1966)
Parsley, Sage, Rosemary and Thyme – Simon & Garfunkel (1966)
John Wesley Harding – Bob Dylan (1967)
Tonight Carmen – Marty Robbins (1967)
Changin’ Times – Flatt & Scruggs (1967)
By the Time I Get to Phoenix – Marty Robbins (1968)
I Walk Alone – Marty Robbins (1968)
The Story of Bonnie and Clyde – Flatt & Scruggs (1968)
Nashville Airplane – Flatt & Scruggs (1968)
At Folsom Prison – Johnny Cash (1968)
Nashville Skyline – Bob Dylan (1969)
It’s a Sin – Marty Robbins (1969)
At San Quentin – Johnny Cash (1969)
Songs From a Room – Leonard Cohen (1969)
Dr. Byrds & Mr. Hyde – The Byrds (1969)
Self Portrait – Bob Dylan (1970)
New Morning – Bob Dylan (1970)
Hello, I’m Johnny Cash – Johnny Cash (1970)
Songs of Love and Hate – Leonard Cohen (1971)
Fog on the Tyne – Lindisfarne (1972)
Geronimo’s Cadillac – Michael Murphy (1973)
Less Than a Song – Hoyt Axton (1973)
Rainbow Race – Pete Seeger (1973)
Attempted Mustache – Loudon Wainwright III (1973)
Blue Skies Night Thunder – Michael Murphy (1975)
Oh, What a Mighty Time – New Riders of the Purple Sage (1975)
Rocket Fuel – Alvin Lee (1978)
Give Thankx – Jimmy Cliff (1978)
Down on the Drag – Joe Ely (1979)
Bottom Line – John Mayall (1979)
The IRS Tapes: Who’ll Buy My Memories? – Willie Nelson (1992)
Go Cat Go! – Carl Perkins (1996)
73 – Eron Falbo (2013)

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