Johnny Cymbal

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Johnny Cymbal
Birth nameJohn Hendry Blair
Also known asBrother John, Derek
Born(1945-02-03)February 3, 1945
Ochiltree, East Ayrshire, Scotland
DiedMarch 16, 1993(1993-03-16) (aged 48)
Nashville, Tennessee, U.S.
  • Singer
  • songwriter
  • record producer
Years active1960–1993

Johnny Cymbal (born John Hendry Blair; February 3, 1945 – March 16, 1993)[1] was a Scottish-born American songwriter, singer and record producer who had numerous hit records, including his signature song, "Mr. Bass Man".


During a 33-year career, Cymbal made an impact on popular music worldwide as a songwriter, singer, performer and record producer. During those years, in addition to his rock and roll anthem, "Mr. Bass Man", he was responsible for hit records including "Teenage Heaven", "Cinnamon" (Under the pseudonym "Derek"), "Mary in the Morning", "Rock Me Baby" and "I'm Drinking Canada Dry".

In 1963, with the hit "Mr. Bass Man", Cymbal was recognized as a teen star. (The crucial Bass Man part was sung uncredited by Ronnie Bright (1938–2015),[2] who sang with the Cadillacs, the Valentines and, for 40 years, phase two of the Coasters.)[3] In 1973, Who bassist John Entwistle covered the song on his third solo album, Rigor Mortis Sets In.

In New York state, Cymbal wrote and produced records for a number of artists, including Gene Pitney[2] and Terri Gibbs (who had a big country crossover hit with "Somebody's Knockin'"). In early 1969, as the New York recording scene slowed dramatically, Cymbal and his writing/producing partner George Tobin moved their base to California. Initially, Austin Roberts, who was a singer as well as a writer, stayed in New York, but soon after they had settled into the West Coast, he joined them in Los Angeles. With the entrepreneurial Tobin running the business and Cymbal and Roberts creating the music, they were making what Roberts describes as "the record of the day" — they would write a song during the day, then go into the studio to record it that night — with either Cymbal and/or Roberts singing it. The next day, according to Roberts, "Tobin would go sell it to three different labels." That may be an exaggeration, but they certainly made a lot of music recording under names such as "Taurus" on Tower and "Brother John" on A&M.[4]


Cymbal died of a heart attack on March 16, 1993, at the age of 48.[5]



  • Mr. Bass Man (1963)
  • Cymbal and Clinger (with Peggy Clinger) (1972)


Year Single Peak chart positions
1960 "It'll Be Me"
"The Water Was Red"
1963 "Mr. Bass Man" 13 31 24 16
"Bachelor Man"
"Teenage Heaven" 80 58 19
"Dum Dum Dee Dum" 83 77
"Hurdy Gurdy Man"
1964 "There Goes a Bad Girl"
"Surfin' at Tia Juana" (Japan-only release)
"Pack of Lies (Ashita-Ga-Arusa)" (Japan-only release)
"Little Miss Lonely" (as 'Johnny (Mr. Bassman) Cymbal')
"Cheat, Cheat"
1965 "Go V.W. Go"
"Summertime's Here at Last"
1966 "Jessica"
1967 "Carol Cartoon" (with Paul Drefuss, as 'The Eye-Full Tower')
"It Looks Like Love"
"The Marriage of Charlotte Brown"
1968 "Cinnamon" (as 'Derek') 10 1[A] 10 11
"Angela Jones" (as 'Milk')
1969 "Snowball" (as 'American Machine')
"Back Door Man" (as 'Derek') 59
"Mr. Bass Man" (re-release)
"Big River"
"Bless You" (as 'Taurus')
"Save All Your Lovin' (Hold It for Me)"
"Inside Out - Outside In" (as 'Derek')
1970 "Polyanna" (as 'Brother John') 84
1971 "The Mookie Mookie Man" (with Peggy Clinger)
1972 "God Bless You Rock n' Roll" (with Peggy Clinger)
1973 "The Dying River" (with Peggy Clinger)
"Mr. Bass Man" (2nd re-release)
"Cinnamon" (re-release)
"Boulder, Colorado" (promo-only release)
1990 "Cinnamon" (2nd re-release)
2001 "A Pack of Lies (Ashita Ga Arusa)" (Japan-only re-release)
"—" denotes releases that did not chart or were not released


  1. ^ "Cinnamon" also peaked at number 3 on the Canadian RPM chart.[12]


  1. ^ "Johnny Cymbal". Archived from the original on September 26, 2007.
  2. ^ a b Colin Larkin, ed. (1992). The Guinness Encyclopedia of Popular Music (First ed.). Guinness Publishing. pp. 611/2. ISBN 0-85112-939-0.
  3. ^ "Passings: Ronnie Bright of the Valentines, Coasters and Johnny Cymbal's "Mr. Bass Man" (1938 - 2015)". Vintage Vinyl News. November 30, 2015.
  4. ^ Cymbal recorded under the names of Johnny Cymbal, Derek, the Eye-Full Tower ("Carol Cartoon", SSS Int'l 700), American Machine ("Snowball", Tower 473), the Sideshow ("Nickels and Times", (GRT 6), Brother John ("Polyanna", A&M 1199), Simonshy ("Hal, the Bill Collector", Mercury 73047), Dallas ("Ragamuffin Man", Marina 501), Milk ("Angela Jones", Buddah), Taurus ("Hey Jane", Tower 487), the Cymbal Roberts Band, James River Drive, the Non-Conformists Cymbal and Clinger.
  5. ^ Caudlle, Daniel (April 8, 2019). "Johnny Cymbal: 1960s teen heartthrob". Clinton News Record. Retrieved September 28, 2022.
  6. ^ "Every AMR Top 100 Single in 1963". Retrieved November 22, 2020.
    - "Every AMR Top 100 Single in 1968". Retrieved November 22, 2020.
    - "Every AMR Top 100 Single in 1970". Retrieved November 22, 2020.
  7. ^ "CHUM Hit Parade, week of March 4, 1963". March 4, 1963. Retrieved November 22, 2020.
    - "CHUM 30, week of December 14, 1968". December 14, 1968. Retrieved October 19, 2020.
  8. ^ "flavour of new zealand - search listener". Retrieved November 22, 2020.
  9. ^ "JOHNNY CYMBAL full Official Chart History". Official Charts Company. Retrieved November 22, 2020.
  10. ^ "Johnny Cymbal". Billboard. Retrieved November 22, 2020.
    - "Derek". Billboard. Retrieved November 22, 2020.
  11. ^ "Johnny Cymbal". Billboard. Retrieved November 22, 2020.
  12. ^ Canada, Library and Archives (July 17, 2013). "Image : RPM Weekly". Retrieved November 22, 2020.

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