Johnny Horton was best known for his “saga songs,” historical narratives that were popular in country music in the early sixties, right around the time the urban folk movement was hitting the pop charts. The longtime Tyler resident’s best-known saga song was “Battle of New Orleans,” which was written by a folklorist who put lyrics about the final battle of the War of 1812 to the melody of the traditional fiddle tune “The Eighth of January.” Horton’s rendition—with some throaty grit roughing up his molasses-smooth East Texas accent—topped the pop and the country charts. The Spectacular Johnny Horton was heavy on similar songs; this reissue also features a version of the single released only in England that shows the vanquished Brits more mercy. Yet Horton showed several voices and faces. He sang with pop music clarity and diction, with a hard twang, or with a threatening rumble. Before saga songs, he specialized in rockabilly- and boogie-tinged country but was just as comfortable with honky-tonk ballads. He never got more of himself on one album than this one.
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