Local Icon Johnnie High Dead
Tarrant County isn’t the same today as it was yesterday.
Country music emcee Johnnie High is no longer on Earth.
High died yesterday at 80.
Johnnie High’s Country Music Revue was a regional version of Nashville’s Grand Ole Opry, and High was a combination of Ed Sullivan, Porter Wagoner, and Billy Graham.
LeAnn Rimes (above), Boxcar Willie, Lee Ann Womack, the Dixie Chicks, Gary Morris, and others sang from his stage early in their careers.
His revue started in Fort Worth in the 1970s but found its current home near Division and Center streets in Arlington in 1995.
I was an Arlington Star-Telegram reporter back then and interviewed High numerous times for various stories. He was never anything but upbeat, positive, gracious, and hard working.
The only time I sensed his displeasure was in 1996 when I wrote a Sunday feature about enrolling in one of his “how to be a country star” seminars. The culmination of the seminar for participants, most of whom were teenage girls, was to perform a song onstage during the revue.
The article described my humiliation at being caked in stage makeup and feeling like “a hillbilly transvestite.” High didn’t like that line, but he enjoyed the rest of the story.
I’m actually grateful I couldn’t find that article in the Star-T archives to provide readers a link. It contains a glaring error.
Rimes had just released her hit song “Blue.” While writing my story, I wasn’t sure how to spell her name and so I copied it down — “Lee Ann Rimes” — from a flyer tacked to the wall in the music hall.
But Rimes’ first name is “LeAnn” — High had misspelled it on the flyer.
My editors didn’t catch the mistake. Worst of all, I began the story with Rimes’ misspelled name in the first sentence.
High framed the article and hung it on the wall at the Arlington Music Hall.
I shudder every time I visit and see that glaring misspelling. About 10 years ago I asked High to take down that framed article because of my embarrassment. He just laughed.
“I wouldn’t worry about it,” he said.