A Dear John Letter
|"A Dear John Letter"|
|Single by Jean Shepard and Ferlin Husky|
|Released||July 1953 (U.S.)|
|Format||7", 78 rpm|
|Writer(s)||Billy Barton, Fuzzy Owen and Lewis Talley|
|Jean Shepard and Ferlin Husky singles chronology|
The song played on the concept of a Dear John letter while referencing the United States' involvement in the Korean War. Here, a young woman, whose boyfriend John was stationed in Korea, writes stating that she is breaking off the relationship. To add to the heartbreak: She is marrying John's brother, Don, and wants her photograph back (because — according to the lyrics — Don wants it now).
"A Dear John Letter" was performed as duet by the two performers, with Husky speaking his part while Shepard sang hers. "Dear John" was released in 1953 and was a big success. The song topped the Billboard magazine country charts  and reached No. 4 on the Billboard pop charts; in addition, it turned the unknown singers into star performers in the United States.
When "A Dear John Letter" topped the Billboard country charts, Shepard — at 19 years, nine months — became the youngest artist to that point to have a no. 1 country single. She kept that record for nearly 20 years, when 14-year-old Tanya Tucker topped the Hot Country Singles chart with "What's Your Mama's Name."
Cover versions and sequels
"Dear John" has been covered by several other performers, including Pat Boone. Following Husky and Shepard, Skeeter Davis and Bobby Bare recorded the song together in 1965, resulting in a No. 11 country hit for themselves that year. Red Sovine and Ernest Tubb also recorded cover versions of "A Dear John Letter." The song was released as "Käre John" in Sweden/Scandinavia by Swedish jazz vocalist Alice Babs and Charlie Norman och deras Reeperbahn Stompers in the 1950s. Tommy wrote the Swedish lyrics.
Shepard and Husky recorded a reply to "Dear John," called "Forgive Me, John," which was another popular country music song.
The song was released by MGM Records (catalogue M-G-M 5161 in Australia) by The Four Horsemen with vocals by Pat O'Day, in 1954.
Between 1972 and 1974, this song was covered by Singapore-based female singer Ervinna, backing music by The Charlie & His Boys, on her LP album Golden Hits Of 20th Century Vol. 4 with the local White Cloud Record.
In popular culture
- Whitburn, Joel (2004). The Billboard Book Of Top 40 Country Hits: 1944-2006, Second edition. Record Research. p. 311.
"Hey Joe" by Carl Smith
|Country & Western National Best Sellers
number one single by Jean Shepard and Ferlin Husky
August 29, 1953
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