Duncan, John Richard [Johnny] (1938–2006)

By: Laurie E. Jasinski

Type: Biography

Published: July 15, 2014

Updated: October 26, 2015

Johnny Duncan, country singer and songwriter, was born John Richard Duncan on October 5, 1938, in Dublin, Texas. He grew up in a musical family and was close to his cousins, Jim, Eddie, and Dan Seals. Jimmy Seals and Dan Seals went on to achieve fame in Seals & Crofts and England Dan and John Ford Coley, respectively. As a boy, Duncan was influenced by such crooners as Eddy Arnold, Frank Sinatra, and Perry Como. He was also inspired by his mother, who played rhythm guitar and taught the instrument to Duncan. His first performances were in the family country band that consisted of his mother, his fiddling uncle Ben Moroney, and cousins Jim and Dan Seals. They played dance halls around Dublin.

Duncan majored in English at Texas Christian University in Fort Worth. At the age of twenty he married Betty Deisher. They had three daughters. He moved to Clovis, New Mexico, in 1959 and recorded demos with producer Norm Petty. He then moved the family to the Nashville area, where he worked construction jobs and in radio. As an on-air personality and jingle singer at a radio station in Franklin, Tennessee, Duncan had access to well-known recording artists to whom he could pitch his songs. Such popular country stars as Marty Robbins, Conway Twitty, and Charley Pride recorded Duncan’s songs. Duncan’s growing reputation earned him a performance on Ralph Emery’s morning show on WSM-TV Nashville in 1966. Subsequently, he signed with Columbia Records, and his singles “Rainbow Road” and “Hard Luck Joe” were released in 1967. His album Johnny One Time came out the following year.

Duncan’s career spawned minor success until he partnered with famous producer Billy Sherrill. He scored a hit with “Sweet Country Woman” which reached the Top 10 on the Billboard country chart in 1973. In the early 1970s, however, Duncan’s marriage fell apart, and he moved back to Texas. His career experienced a resurgence in the mid-1970s when he recorded the duet “Jo and the Cowboy” with an unknown Dallas jingle vocalist named Janie Fricke. Other recordings followed, and Duncan hit the top of the country charts with Number 1 hits, “Thinkin’ of a Rendezvous” (1976), “It Couldn’t Have Been Any Better” (1977, a duet with Fricke), and “She Can Put Her Shoes Under My Bed (Anytime)” (1978). Lauded for his smooth baritone, Duncan toured the world in the late 1970s. He also sang the song “Acapulco” on the soundtrack of Clint Eastwood’s movie Any Which Way You Can (1980).

In the early 1980s, with changing styles in country music, Duncan left Columbia Records, took time off from the music business, and settled on his farm near Dublin, Texas. He married Connie Smith, and they had a son. He continued some limited recording and performing throughout the 1990s. He released his last album The Thing to Do in 2004. On August 14, 2006, Duncan suffered a heart attack at his home in Dublin and died en route to a Fort Worth hospital.

All Music Guide (www.allmusic.com), accessed January 20, 2011. “Country Singer Johnny Duncan Dies,” Fox News.com (http://www.foxnews.com/story/0,2933,208673,00.html), accessed January 20, 2011. Dave’s Diary—17 August 2006—Johnny Duncan Obituary (http://www.nucountry.com.au/articles/diary/august2006/170806_johnnyduncan_obit.htm), accessed January 20, 2011. Johnny Duncan (www.johnnyduncanmusic.com), accessed November 1, 2015. New York Times, August 17, 2006.


  • Music
  • Genres (Country)

The following, adapted from the Chicago Manual of Style, 15th edition, is the preferred citation for this entry.

Laurie E. Jasinski, “Duncan, John Richard [Johnny],” Handbook of Texas Online, accessed September 23, 2021, https://www.tshaonline.org/handbook/entries/duncan-john-richard-johnny.

Published by the Texas State Historical Association.

July 15, 2014
October 26, 2015

This entry belongs to the following Handbook Special Projects: