Traditional pop/cabaret songstress and performer Betty Johnson was particularly active in the 50s music period. Show business ran in the blood; when she was younger, she performed with The Johnson Family Singers, who consisted of her parents and three brothers. When she was in her teens, she recorded under Columbia; none of her singles charted. In 1954 she was inked to management company Csida-Green; country star Eddy Arnold and crooner Bobby Darin flourished under the firm’s wings at that time. This led her to record her first hit, “I Want Eddie Fisher for Christmas”. But her biggest smash came much later with “I Dreamed.” She continued working in show business until 1964, when she married her second husband. She went out of the spotlight to raise her family and continue her studies (she graduated at the University of New Hampshire in 1981). In 1993 she was in the show business once more, establishing her own record company Bliss Tavern Music, where she also releases her own songs.
Early life and career
Pop and cabaret singer Betty Johnson was born in Guilford County, North Carolina on March 16, 1929 (although other sources cite her birth year as 1921). She honed her singing skills in their own family act The Johnson Family Singers who consisted of her parents and siblings. Their family act usually performed a repertoire of religious songs. After winning a singing contest in Charlotte, North Carolina, the family was quickly discovered and got signed to a contract on WBT (FM), one of the biggest local radio stations in that city.
From 1938 to 1951, the Johnson Family Singers performed on broadcasts. In 1943, Betty Johnson also started solo performances along the way. By 1948 she hosted her own 15-minute show on the local radio station. Not so long after, the teenaged Betty got a record deal from Columbia Records but unfortunately, none of her recordings there became successful. In 1949 she also married to her first husband, but their union (which produced a son) ended in divorce.
As a former Columbia Records artist, Johnson met people inside Columbia, among them including Perry Faith. Faith tried to help Johnson get a record deal but Columbia’s A&R director Mitch Miller turned Johnson down.
Johnson recorded and released a children’s album, along with country singer Eddy Arnold. The album was produced by Simon and Schuster, who would later sign Johnson to their own recording label, Bell Records, in 1954. She later switched to another label Csida-Grean, which also managed Arnold. Csida-Grean’s owner Charles Grean produced many of Johnson’s subsequent recordings.
In 1955, Johnson was signed to RCA Victor, leading her to be sent to Chicago, Illinois. While in Chicago, Johnson and Arnold worked together again for his television series Eddy Arnold Time and on Don McNeill’s Breakfast Club in 1955 which paved her the way to a record deal under a small label Bally Records. Johnson recorded her 1956 breakthrough hit “I Dreamed” which reached #9 on the Billboard Hot 100. Also in that same year, she married Charles Grean which lasted four years
In 1957, Johnson worked for Jack Paar for his Tonight show which led her to a recording deal with Atlantic Records. She scored another big hit “Little Blue Man.” It went up to #17 on the Billboard pop chart.
In 1964, Jonson had her third and last marriage to an investement banker in New York City, Arthur Gaye. The marriage produced two daughters.
Johnson took the role of Essie Miller in the Godspeed Opera Houses remake of TAKE ME ALONG! And years after, she did some appearances in New York’s Algonquin Hotel and managed her own record label Bliss Tavern Music.