Sammy Johns

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Sammy Johns
Birth nameSammy Reginald Johns
Born(1946-02-07)February 7, 1946
Charlotte, North Carolina, U.S.
DiedJanuary 4, 2013(2013-01-04) (aged 66)
Gastonia, North Carolina, U.S.
GenresFolk rock, soft rock
Occupation(s)Musician, songwriter
Instrument(s)Vocals, guitar
Years active1970–2013
LabelsGeneral Recording Corporation, Warner-Curb, New World, Elektra

Sammy Reginald Johns (February 7, 1946 – January 4, 2013) was an American singer and songwriter, known for his 1975 sleeper hit song, "Chevy Van", which was released in 1973. The song was certified gold by the RIAA on May 5, 1975.[1][2]


Johns was born in Charlotte, North Carolina. Johns' father gave him a guitar when he was nine, and he founded his first band (the Devilles) in his teenage years.[3] The group performed locally and made a few records for Dixie Records.[3] Johns moved to Atlanta, where he signed with General Recording in 1973. His first solo recording was "Early Morning Love" (1973).[3]

"Chevy Van" (1975) reached No. 5 on the US Billboard Hot 100 chart and remained on the chart for 17 weeks.[2] The song had been recorded in 1973, but was initially shelved and only released after 18 months with the album.[4] The song sold three million copies, and is credited for an increase in van sales the following year.[3] In Canada, the song reached No. 7 on the RPM Magazine charts.[5]

The song and an album led to a contract with Warner Curb Records to produce a soundtrack for the 1977 film The Van at the height of the Vansploitation genre. In an interview with WBT radio personality Keith Larson, Johns was paraphrased as saying "the song wasn't about a specific woman he met – but a compilation of events."[4]

Johns switched to Elektra, where he issued singles such as "Common Man" and "Love Me off the Road". In his later career, he was mainly known as a composer rather than as a performer, as many covered versions of his songs became successful.[3] John Conlee's cover version of "Common Man" reached number 1. Conlee made the song his theme song.[3] Johns' songs have also been covered by Waylon Jennings, Sammy Kershaw, Conway Twitty (his final Billboard No. 1, "Desperado Love") and Fu Manchu. After Jennings sang Johns' song "America" at a celebration of the restoration of the Statue of Liberty in 1985, the single was nominated for country song of the year.[3]


Johns died on January 4, 2013, at Gaston Memorial Hospital in Gastonia, North Carolina, at the age of 66.[4]



Year Album US Label
1973 Sammy Johns (LP) 148 General Recording
1994 Golden Classics (CD) Collectables
2000 Honky Tonk Moon (CD) Southern Tracks


Year Single Chart Positions RIAA Album
US[6] US Country AUS[7] CAN[8]
1974 "Chevy Van" 5 74 7 Gold Sammy Johns
"Early Morning Love" 68 79 56 79
1975 "Rag Doll" 52
1976 "Peas in a Pod"[9]
1980 "Falling for You" 103
1981 "Common Man" 50
1988 "Chevy Van" (re-release) 80


That was the era of hippies, with free love and all that. I was sort of a hippie – a conservative hippie.

— Sammy Johns, interviewed by Keith Larson in May 2012 about recording Chevy Van.[4]

Chevy Van, a song about a loose-loving man who picks up a woman while he's on the road, struck a loud chord with listeners in the sexually liberated '70s when Johns released it mid-decade.

— Linda Seida, Biography about Sammy Johns.[3]

See also[edit]

List of one-hit wonders in the United States


  1. ^ Sammy Johns entries on the RIAA official website.
  2. ^ a b Murrells, Joseph (1978). The Book of Golden Discs (2nd ed.). London: Barrie and Jenkins Ltd. p. 114. ISBN 0-214-20512-6.
  3. ^ a b c d e f g h "Biography by Linda Seida". Retrieved December 8, 2008.
  4. ^ a b c d Lyttle, Steve (January 7, 2013). "Writer of 'Chevy Van' dies at 66". The Charlotte Observer. Retrieved June 27, 2016.
  5. ^ "RPM Top Singles" (PDF). Retrieved September 18, 2021.
  6. ^ Whitburn, Joel (2011). Top Pop Singles 1955–2010. Record Research, Inc. p. 462. ISBN 0-89820-188-8.
  7. ^ Kent, David (1993). Australian Chart Book 1970–1992 (illustrated ed.). St Ives, N.S.W.: Australian Chart Book. p. 159. ISBN 0-646-11917-6.
  8. ^ "RPM Top 100 Singles - search results".
  9. ^ "Picks of the Week" (PDF). Cash Box: 16. July 10, 1976.

External links[edit]