Longtime Nacogdoches radio talk show host, author, Norman Johnson dies

The singer in this picture is Norman Johnson at the age of 16.
The singer in this picture is Norman Johnson at the age of 16.

NACOGDOCHES, TX (KTRE) - Longtime radio talk show host, entertainer, and music historian Norman Johnson has died.

Norman Johnson, 73, a long-time resident of Nacogdoches, was just on East Texas News last October. He was in a nursing home for a variety of health reasons, but he remained sharp as a tack.

Norman Johnson hosted his own radio show for years. The prolific writer was an expert on Elvis Presley, and he kept music fans informed on all those famous country singers that he knew on a personal basis.

"Marty Robbins, Faron Young, Elvis Presley, Jim Reeves, Ray Price ... who else?" Johnson said in a previous East Texas News story.

Norman Johnson is survived by his wife Lil Mayes Johnson, who co-hosted many of his shows and concerts.

Family and friends held a benefit for Norman Johnson and his wife back in October at the Appleby Sand Café in Nacogdoches to help raise money for their astronomical medical expenses. In addition to his many medical issues, Lil Johnson is battling a serious illness as well.

In 2012, Norman Johnson released an anthology of stories about Elvis and other famous entertainers. The book's title "I Forgot to Remember to Forget" also happens to be the title of the late author's favorite Elvis song.

Back in 2012, Norman Johnson estimated that he met thousands of entertainers over the course of his career.

During an interview with East Texas News, Norman Johnson narrowed the Who's Who list down to entertainers with East Texas ties such as Ernest Tubbs. He said the legendary country musician was like a grandfather to him.

"And this is not bragging, it's just the way life turned out," Norman Johnson said. "He was like a grandfather to me."

In addition, Norman Johnson did the first-ever interview with a young future country music legend, George Strait.

"I did the first interview with George Strait - the first interview he ever did," Norman Johnson said.

Johnson also mentioned a songwriter who can make a hit about a tractor. Along with "She Thinks My Tractor is Sexy," the author said that Jim Collins has "written about 15 number one songs."

East Texas provides material for the old sound of country music, but Johnson believes the true country sound is fading away.

Services are pending at the Laird Funeral Home.

Johnson will be remembered for so much. Like at age 14 when he impersonated his idol, Elvis Presley, making him most likely the first Elvis impersonator. He never stopped singing his favorites. In December he sang to preschoolers in 2012.

As a musician, Johnson performed with the king in Hawkins. Later, as a radio disc jockey Johnson met up with thousands of country performers.

Along the way, rowdy dance halls and bars were replaced with seminary. The ordained Methodist preacher kept his faith while holding onto his love for country music.

"He was not judgemental," said his friend, promoter David Stallings. "He couldn't have been to be involved in the music business, but I remember on Ray Price's 80th birthday, my company was producing a concert on Ray and Norman was the master of ceremonies that night."

Johnson and his wife, Lill, went on to co-host a radio and television talk show during the 70s. They met hundreds of people.  Lill said she couldn't have managed Norman's illness or his death without the prayers and sentiments from friends and fans.

"Because of him thousands of wishes have been granted," said Susan Cox, a Make-A-Wish East Texas director.

Make-a-Wish foundation is a friend to J

ohnson. The former regional board member mentored Cox.

"At first when he took over in the Texas Gulf Coast region we were about a quarter of Texas and now we're all of Louisiana," Cox said. "So because of him it's still sprouting everywhere. Every single day there's wishes granted because of him."

We can only speculate Johnson's own wish would have been to sing with the great country music stars.

But it really lives on through Johnson's many books on the subject. Friends belive that in the end Johnson got his wish.

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