Sammy Johns

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

Sammy Johns (February 7, 1946 – January 4, 2013) was an American country singer-songwriter, best known for his million-selling 1975 hit single, "Chevy Van".[1]


Sammy Reginald 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.[2] The group performed locally and made a few records for Dixie Records.[2] Johns moved to Atlanta, where he signed with General Recording in 1973. His first solo recording was "Early Morning Love" (1973).[2]

"Chevy Van" (1975) reached No. 5 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart[1] and remained in the chart for 17 weeks. It was awarded a gold disc by the R.I.A.A. on 4 May 1975.[1] The titular song had been recorded in 1973, but was initially shelved and only released after 18 months with the album. It became very popular.[3] The song sold about three million copies, and is credited for an increase in van sales the following year.[2] In Canada, the song reached No. 7 in the RPM Magazine charts.[4]

The song and an album (also titled "Chevy Van") 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."[3]

Johns switched to the Elektra label, 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.[2] John Conlee's cover version of "Common Man" reached number 1. Conlee made the song his theme song.[2] Johns' songs have also been covered by Waylon Jennings, Sammy Kershaw, Conway Twitty 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.[2]


Johns died on January 4, 2013, at Gaston Memorial Hospital in Gastonia, North Carolina, at the age of 66.[3]



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[5] US Country
1974 "Chevy Van" 5 Gold Sammy Johns
"Early Morning Love" 68 79
1975 "Rag Doll" 52
1976 "Peas in a Pod"[6] N/A
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.[3]

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.[2]


  1. ^ a b c Murrells, Joseph (1978). The Book of Golden Discs (2nd ed.). London: Barrie and Jenkins Ltd. p. 114. ISBN 0-214-20512-6.
  2. ^ a b c d e f g h "Biography by Linda Seida". Retrieved 8 December 2008.
  3. ^ a b c d Lyttle, Steve (2013-01-07). "Writer of 'Chevy Van' dies at 66". The Charlotte Observer. Retrieved 2016-06-27.
  4. ^ [1]
  5. ^ Whitburn, Joel (2011). Top Pop Singles 1955–2010. Record Research, Inc. p. 462. ISBN 0-89820-188-8.
  6. ^ "Picks of the Week" (PDF). Cash Box: 16. July 10, 1976.

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