Gospel singer Willie Neal Johnson, known as "The Country Boy," was born in Tyler, Texas, on August 25, 1935, the oldest of six children in a musical family. His mother, probably the most musically inclined person in the family, motivated her children to pursue their singing careers by taking them to church and making them sing every Sunday. Willie started singing gospel music in his early teens.
His first musical group, the Gospel Keynotes, included Ralph McGee, Charles Bailey, Rev. J. D. Talley, John Jackson, Lonzo Jackson, and Archie McGee. They recorded their first major hit, "Show Me the Way," on the Nashville gospel label Nashboro Records. They received a Grammy nomination in 1980 for "Ain't No Stoppin' Us Now." Johnson also joined the Five Ways of Joy gospel group. In 1985 the Gospel Keynotes signed with Malaco Records and changed their name to the New Keynotes. With Malaco they recorded seven albums by 2002. Popular songs by the group include "I'm Yours, Lord" and "Lord, Take Us Through," which made the Top 25. The group was inducted into the Gospel Music Hall of Fame in Detroit and the American Gospel Quartet Hall of Fame in Birmingham, Alabama, in 1999. Johnson died on January 10, 2001, in Tyler. He was survived by his wife, Captoria, three sons, five daughters, and his mother, Luretia.
Is history important to you?
We need your support because we are a non-profit organization that relies upon contributions from our community in order to record and preserve the history of our state. Every dollar helps.
Tyler Courier-Times–Telegraph, January 16, 2001. Willie Neal Johnson and the New Keynotes (http://www.afgen.com/willie_neal.html), accessed October 22, 2011.
The following, adapted from the Chicago Manual of Style, 15th edition, is the preferred citation for this entry.
Devin Solice, and
“Johnson, Willie Neal,”
Handbook of Texas Online,
accessed July 01, 2022,
Published by the Texas State Historical Association.
Original Publication Date:
December 6, 2006
Most Recent Revision Date:
September 6, 2013
This entry belongs to the following Handbook Special Projects: