Celebrating Black History Month With East Texas Legends: Willie Neal Johnson
During the month of February it is observed as Black History Month.
Created by American historian Carter G. Woodson, Black History Week began on February 12th, 1926 and as part of the bicentennial the week was expanded into Black History Month in 1976.
We are paying tribute to notable African Americans who made contributions we are honoring men and woman who have ties to East Texas.
Today we shine a spotlight on Tyler's own "Country Boy" Willie Neal Johnson.
“The Country Boy” Willie Neal Johnson was born August 25th, 1935 in Tyler, Texas.
Willie started singing gospel music early in his childhood when his mother would make them sing gospel songs during church service.
Later Johnson would form Willie Neal Johnson and The Gospel Keynotes with longtime friends Ralph McGee, Rev. J. D. Talley, Charles Bailey, John Jackson, Lonzo Jackson, and Archie B. McGee.
Their popularity began to rise throughout the southwest and earned them a recording contract with Nashboro Records where they earned their first hit record “Show Me The Way.”
They received a Grammy Award nomination in 1980 for “Ain’t No Stopping Us Now” and have recorded over 20 records for Nashboro.
Willie Neal Johnson and The Gospel Keynotes were inducted into The Gospel Music Hall of Fame in Detroit and the American Quartet Hall of Fame in Birmingham Alabama in 1999.
Sadly, Willie Neal Johnson passed away on January 10th, 2001 and his final recording was with Kirk Franklin in 2000 with the single “Looking Out For Me.”