JOHNNY OLENN


Johnny Olenn started his career in the early fifties, playing steel guitar in the band of Eddie Dugosh and the Ah-Ha Boys in San Antonio, Texas. In 1954 he got his own band together called The Jokers and in 1955 he cut his first two 45 rpm records for the San Antonio based TNT label. In 1956 when he moved to Las Vegas, Nevada and was playing at the Hacienda hotel, he got a proposal to perform in the 1956 rock 'n' roll movie "The Girl Can't Help It" and he also got a recording contract with Liberty records that same year. On this label he cut one 45 rpm record and one album called "Just Rollin' With Johnny Olenn".

Then in 1957 he left Liberty records to sign up with Buck Ram's Antler, Dee-Gee and Personality labels, for which he cut several 45 rpm records. He also performed that year in the Warner Brothers movie "Born Reckless". After that it became quiet around Johnny Olenn on the record scene, while however, he kept performing in Las Vegas, hotel lounges and in Bakersfield, California. In 1983 Mac Records traced and contacted him and persuaded him to make his first European performance ever and this happened on October 13th 1984 in Aulnoye/Aymeries in France. His success was tremendous and that same month he cut his first 45 rpm record for Mac Records on Mac - 124 and this would become the beginning of a new recording career.

He returned to Europe in March 1986, to do three concerts again; One on March 21st in Bristol, England. On March 22nd, in Aulnoye/Aymeries in France he appered in the same show with Johnny Carroll and Judy Lindsey. On March 29th in Eindhoven, Holland where he appeared in a show with Sonny Burgess. This visit to Europe resulted again in a new 45 rpm record release for Mac Records on Mac - 128.

Johnny Olenn again returned to Europe in 1987 to perform on June 6th in Lummen - Belgium where he also appeared on the same show with Mickey Hawks and on June 13th in Amsterdam, Holland. During this latest tour, plans were made to cut an album for Mac Records, but this time the recording session would take place in Las Vegas, Nevada with Johnny's own band.

by Mac Bouvrie





JOHNNY OLENN

"The Blue-Eyed Devil of Rock and Roll!"
Johnny Olenn (McCord, this is his complete real name), was born on December 16, 1936 in San Antonio, Texas, where he later was raised and grew up with friends like Doug Sahm, (of the today's popular Texas Tornados). Here in San Antonio he also went to high school at Edgewood High where he played football for 3 years. As a musician he started his career in the early fifties, by playing stand-up bass in the western band of Eddie Dugosh. Later on he switched to the steel guitar and Rudy "Tutti" Grayzel, joined the band and became their stand-up bass player. Then the band became their name Eddie Dugosh & the Ah-Ha Play Boys. Eddie did the vocals and the rhythm guitar.

In 1954 he quit high school and stopped working in the western band of Eddie just to form his own band "The Jokers", who consisted of Cullen Offer - sax, Jerry Carnes - drums, Bobby Gene Baker - bass and Greg Nanus - piano, while Johnny himself did the vocals and lead guitar. Beside all these instruments he already played, he also plays the drums and the trumpet! After a year of playing around they got a steady engagement at the Tiffany Lounge club in San Antonio, this was in 1955 where they stayed for about 6 months.

Also in 1955 they had their first records released on Roy Tanner's T N T label. Recorded and released that year were: "Candy Kisses", Blues Stay Away From Me", "Sally Let Your Bangs Hang Down" and "I Ain't Gonna Cry No More". "Candy Kisses" and "Sally Let Your Bangs Hang Down" are different versions of the later in 1956 recorded Liberty versions.

Major Riddle, owner of the Dunes Hotel in Las Vegas, Nevada, discovered them in 1956 and offered Johnny Olenn & and Jokers a contract for 2 weeks. But, because of their tremendous success this was extended into 26 weeks. That same year they were also featured in the now classic rock 'n' roll movie "The Girl Can't Help It", a 20th Century-Fox release, in which they did perform the songs "My Idea Of Love" and "I Ain't Gonna Cry No More". Their new sax player then had become Jay Orlando who performs in this movie.

This performance in the movie led them to a contract with Liberty Records, on which was released that great and today rare album "Just Rollin' With Johnny Olenn"! During their stay in Hollywood for "The Girl Can't Help It", they met Elvis Presley who was at that time in Hollywood shooting his movie "Love Me Tender" and they became good friends and would meet again a lot of times in the sixties in Las Vegas.

After the movie "The girl Can't Help It" was released, a great European tour was organized and Johnny Olenn was in it. However, by that time, it was 1957 and Johnny Olenn had left Liberty records to sign a contract for Buck Ram (of The Platters fame) and owner of Antler records, at the last moment decided to back out and stay in The Hacienda Hotel in Bakersfield, California, where he had got a good and steady contract after his shows in The Dunes in Las Vegas.

Johnny was replaced by another well-known rock 'n' roll performer Benny Joy! This performer also had at the time a recording contract with Buck Ram's Antler label. Known for sure is that they did performances on that tour in Paris, France and Italy!

Upon returning to the U.S., Johnny stayed again at Bakersfield for 26 weeks and from there he went to Harvey's Wagon Wheel in Lake Tahoe, California, for another successful engagement of 4 weeks. Then Doc Bailey, Chairman of the Hacienda Hotels, Inc. booked Johnny and his band again into the Las Vegas Hacienda Hotel, where he stayed for 15 years! A long time contract for a hotel chain, which he worked between Las vegas, Bakersfield and Fresno and the New Frontier Hotel in Las Vegas!

In 1959 he again performed with his band in a movie, this time for Warner Brothers, called "Born Reckless" in which he sang the title tune! The star of the movie was Mamie Van Doren, a great lady and actress! Also in 1959, he recorded for Antler records a hit tune called "For The first Time". He then went to New York and appeared on Dick Clark's American Bandstand. He also did many TV shows in California. He met many fifties performers and just to mention a few; Elvis Presley, The Platters, Nat "King" Cole, The Cadillacs, Jimmy Clanton, The Crests, Clyde McPhatter, The Treniers, Don Cherry, Duane Eddy, Louis Prima, etc.!

After a long search, Mac Records found Johnny, still working at that time in the Dunes in Las Vegas, in 1983. After this contract he was persuaded to do a performance in Europe. His first one ever! This concert took place on October 13, 1984 in the north of France in the city of Aulnoye/Aymeries! The agent then was Christian Landru! His success was tremendous and about 2,000 fans had an unforgettable night! That same month Mac Records cut his first 45 rpm record, MAC - 124 and this would become the beginning of a new recording career.

Johnny returned to Europe in March of 1986 to do three more concerts! One on March 21st in Bristol, England, then on March 22nd in Aulnoye/Aymeries, France again where he was in the same show that night with Johnny Carroll and Judy Lindsey and then on March 29th on the big Rockhouse meeting in Eindhoven, Holland, where he appeared on a show with Sonny Burgess, Dave Travis and The Bel-Airs. This visit to Europe resulted in another new 45 rpm records release for Mac Records on MAC - 128.

Johnny Olenn again returned to Europe in 1987 to perform on June 6th in Lummen Belgium, where he appeared on the same show with Mickey Hawks, The Playboys from England and Ronnie Nightengale and the Haydocks from Holland. On June 13th he performed at the Cruise-In in Amsterdam, Holland which ws held in the open air in the street in front of the Cruise-In, over 2000 rockers were present! This show was wild and Johnny performed a great version of Elvis' "Heartbreak Hotel"! During this latest tour, plans were made to cut an album for Mac Records, but this time the recording sesson would take place in Las Vegas with Johnny's own band. The album was cut in October 1987 and released on Mac Records in 1988!

His last European performance was in September 1989 in Holland at the Pony Park in Slagharen! It was one of the biggest 1950's rock 'n' roll concerts ever held on the continent with fans from all over Europe, even from Russia, America and Japan! Johnny performed on the famous Bill Turner Show also featuring Pee Bee and the Night Train Orchestra, Sugar Ray Ford, The Chessnuts, The Bugaloos, Tina Lee, Mr. Fats Murdock and Ronnie Dawson!

This entire show was filmed and is available on Video and is a real fifties Alan Freed's type stage show! Never ever done before or until today, after! Johnny Olenn had brought along his sax player Jay Orlando and performed in "The Girl Can't Help It". This was really real! Johnny Olenn is a fantastic person and a well rounded entertainer, musician, composer, husband and grandfather of 4 grand children. He has 2 sons, John and Kevin. At this very moment Johnny Olenn is still with Mac Records and still does performances, but no longer as a regular job, because today he's involved with a financial investment company. But we all hope and look forward to seeing Johnny Olenn back on stage again over here in Europe one of these days and enjoy his fantastic performance and singin', as long as he lives be sure Johnny Olenn keeps on rollin'!

by Mac Bouvrie - MAC Records



Johnny with Nebraska's first rocker Bobby Lowell.
Photo taken at Lincoln's Zoo Bar, August, 1999



Johnny Olenn Discography

1955 Glenco - 7001 Sally Let Your Bangs Hang Down/Candy Kisses
1955 TNT - 1016 Sally Let Your Bangs Hang Down/Candy Kisses
1955 TNT - 1018 I Ain't Gonna Cry No More/ Blues Stay Away From Me
1956 Liberty - 55053 My Idea of Love/Candy Kisses
1956 Liberty LP - 3029 Just Rollin' with Johnny Olenn
A: Candy Kisses/My Idea of Love/Pipeliner's Blues/Sally Let Your Bangs Hang Down/ Twenty-Four Hours/Someday
B: When My Dreamboat Comes Home/The Gypsy/I Ain't Gonna Cry No More/Oh! What A Dream/ Because I Love You/Yeah, Yeah, Yeah. 1957 Broadway International
(Italy) - 1003 My Sweetie Pie/Smile
1957 Antler - 4009 My Sweetie Pie/Smile
1957 Antler - 4012 My Sweetie Pie/Come Prima (For The First Time)
1957 Antler - 4018 The Magic Touch/Football Freddy
1959 Antler - 1101 My Sweetie Pie/For the first time (Come Prima)
1959 Antler - 1105 Born Reckless/You, Loveable You
1959 Personality - 1002 Teenie/Devil Darling
1960 Dee Gee - 2000 Gotta Keep Movin'/You've Got The Magic Touch
1960 Entree - 2003 Gotta Keep Movin'/You've Got The Magic Touch
1976 ECR - 1-7-81 Miss Yesterday/Living Together
1982 Ace (UK) LP - 48 Just Rollin' with Johnny Olenn Re-issue of the Liberty LP
1985 Mac - 124 Hey You, Let's Dance/I Feel Allright
1987 Mac - 128 The Rock and Roll Therapy/She Came Running Back To Me
1987 Hydra LP (G) - 7705 Rocket 69/Honey Love/Mind Your Own Business (vocal by Bobby Gene Baker, his bass guitar player).
1988 Mac - 014 Johnny Olenn Keeps On Rollin'
A: Eindhoven Rock/That's The Reason Why I'm Leavin' You/Ain't It Great/We're Gonna Have Some Fun Tonight/ Rock My Baby, Rock/Blue-Eyed Devil Of Rock 'n' Roll.
B: I Wonder Why/I Still Can't Forget You/You Belong To Me/That's Nice/Shinning Star/Call Me Fool.

UNRELEASED RECORDINGS

Tutti Frutti/Silhouettes/Little Darlin'/Young Blood/Raunchy/Diana/ChancAfes Are/Blueberry Hill/Hound Dog/
You Send Me/Whole Lotta Shakin' Goin' On/Shake, Rattle and Roll/Columbus Stockade Blues/Keep Movin' On/ Pledging My Love/Mention On The Hill/You're So Fine/Walk On By/Ringo Let Your Bangs Hang Down.

1956 London, England - HLU8388 My Idea of Love/Candy Kisses






Rockabilly Hall of Fame