Terry "Buzzy" Johnson

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Terry "Buzzy" Johnson
Birth name Isaiah Johnson
Born (1938-11-12) November 12, 1938 (age 76)
Baltimore, Maryland, United States
Occupation(s) Singer, Songwriter, Music producer
Associated acts The Flamingos

Terry "Buzzy" Johnson (born Isaiah Johnson in Baltimore, Maryland, USA on November 12, 1938), is an American popular music singer, songwriter and music producer.[1]

Early career[edit]

Johnson grew up as a neighbor of The Orioles' Sonny Til and The Swallows' Earl Hurley. In 1954, Johnson formed The Whispers (no relation to the more famous Los Angeles-based group) with four high school friends, and recorded for Gotham Records (based in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania). Terry wrote, arranged and sang lead on "Fool Heart" and "Are You Sorry?", both released in 1955.

In mid 1956, after the Whispers broke up, Terry saw The Flamingos (at the time, composed of Nate Nelson, Johnny Carter, Paul Wilson, and Jake Carey; - Zeke Carey was not with the group as he was in the service at the time) and renewed his rapport with the group, from the days when the Careys lived in Baltimore (they were now based in Chicago.)

On Christmas Eve of 1956, Johnson accepted an invitation to join the Flamingos, replacing the military-bound Johnny Carter. Terry's ethereal tenor was a perfect fit with the Flamingos' unique harmonies and his talent as a composer and producer also proved an asset to the group. Terry turned the group around, first on their Decca releases, most notably his arrangement of "Ladder of Love." Terry also went on to write "Lovers Never Say Goodbye", "Mio Amore", "At the Prom", "You, Me & The Sea" and "Heavenly Angel" for the Flamingos. As a matter of fact, Terry Johnson's taking Johnny Carter's place in the group would result in Carter ending up in The Dells, where he became a fixture until his death in 2009.

Terry Johnson is the duet lead heard, along with Paul Wilson, on "Lovers Never Say Goodbye", "Love Walked In", "Time Was" and "But Not For Me", all Billboard chart hits except the latter which is a beautiful album cut. Terry recorded three albums with The Flamingos, Flamingo Serenade, Requestfully Yours and Flamingo Favorites. They toured extensively and appeared five times on the TV show American Bandstand. The group's signature classic "I Only Have Eyes for You" is perhaps the finest example of Johnson's genius in musical arranging, especially vocal harmony.

Touring as The Flamingos featuring Terry Johnson[edit]

Shortly after Tommy Hunt left the group in 1961, the Flamingos split into 2 groups, one with the Careys and Paul Wilson and one with Terry Johnson and Nate Nelson calling themselves at varying times, the Modern Flamingos, the Fabulous Flamingos and later simply, Terry Johnson's Flamingos. The two recorded on Atco together in 1963 as the Starglows. The result was the beautiful Johnson-penned ballad "Let's Be Lovers" (b/w "Walk Away Softly", written by Skyliners' manager and "Since I Don't Have You" co-author Joe Rock). Johnson wanted to record more than tour and Nate, having a family to support by this time, wanted to perform. Nate joined The Platters shortly after. Terry Johnson would later re-record "Let's Be Lovers" in 2005 with artists Jeff Calloway and TeeTee for his own Hot Fun Record label. Terry Johnson is the owner of "The Flamingos" federal trademark[2] and leads the current incarnation of the group. The current lineup is Johnson, Starling Newsome, Stan Prinston and musical director Theresa Trigg. The Flamingos featuring Terry Johnson appeared on two PBS specials: Rock and Roll at Fifty (in which they were the only group to have more than two songs featured) and Doo Wop Cavalcade: The Definitive Anthology. In 2013, The Flamingos released the Diamond Anniversary Tour CD. They continue to perform in concerts across the country.

At Motown[edit]

In 1964, Smokey Robinson recruited Johnson onto the staff of Motown Records where he and Robinson became regular collaborators. Their most notable credited work was the beautiful 1969 Top 10 Miracles hit, Baby, Baby Don't Cry . Other charted hits include Malinda for Bobby Taylor & The Vancouvers and "Here I Go Again" for Smokey Robinson & The Miracles. Terry also wrote and produced for the Four Tops, the Temptations, Martha and the Vandellas and the Supremes. In 1969, Johnson released the solo 45's "My Springtime" and "Whatcha Gonna Do", both b/w "Suzie" on Gordy Records (a Motown subsidiary.) He then released the follow-up "Stone Soul Booster" b/w "Sandy" under the name "Buzzie". When Smokey moved to California in 1974, Johnson remained in Detroit and later had a short-lived stint as Harold Melvin & The Blue-Notes musical conductor.

Awards, Accolades and Present-Day Ventures[edit]

In 1996, Terry Johnson and the surviving Flamingos were awarded the Rhythm & Blues Foundation's Pioneer Award and in 2001, Terry Johnson was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame with The Flamingos. Shortly after, he re-focused his energy on touring as Terry Johnson's Flamingos, establishing the group as a mainstay of casinos and major concert package tours. In 2003, Johnson was honored by NARAS as "I Only Have Eyes For You" was inducted into the Grammy Award Hall of Fame. His touring group always consist of some of the best talent in the country.

References[edit]