Since Johnny Bush’s birthday falls on Feb. 17, he may well turn 78 onstage at Antone’s.
The “Country Caruso” lives in San Antonio and doesn’t get to these parts often, but he’s been busy since last we spoke for the release of 2007’s Kashmere Gardens Mud and his autobiography Whiskey River, named after the song he wrote that forever tops Willie Nelson’s set lists.
“I’m busy enough,” he chuckles. “I couldn’t keep Willie’s schedule, I tell you that.”
Bush recently logged studio time to revisit some old tunes for the upcoming Reflections.
“I recorded a couple of songs with Randy Rogers,” he reveals. “We seemed to gel real well. We worked the Austin County Fair together a while back and became friends.”
In his early days, Bush worked in Ray Price’s band, the Cherokee Cowboys. As far as Price’s reaction to Blake Shelton’s recent words about the state of country music, Bush thinks both singers are right.
“When Shelton attacked the jackasses and grandpa’s music and old farts, that was a bit over the top, but mostly he said today’s music seems aimed at the younger market. CD sales are down for everybody. Ray had good points, too, but ultimately the music’s always changing. Remember, when the Grand Ole Opry started it didn’t allow electric instruments or drums. It was basically hillbillies.
“When Ernest Tubb came in with an electric guitar, they were just horrified. I think traditional country music has its place, because it’s about real life situations. Being that the divorce rate is 50 percent, somebody out there is hurting. That Shelton thing helped everybody. A hit song doesn’t care who sings it.”– Jim Caligiuri