While our physical offices are closed until at least April 13 due Austin's COVID-19 "shelter-in-place" order, the Handbook of Texas will remain available at no-cost for you, your fellow history enthusiasts, and all Texas students currently mandated to study from home. If you have the capacity to help us maintain our online Texas history resources during these uncertain times, please consider making a 100% tax-deductible contribution today. Thank you for your support of TSHA and Texas history. Donate Today »


Laurie E. Jasinski

Listen to this artist

DUNCAN, JOHN RICHARD [JOHNNY] (1938–2006). Johnny Duncan, country singer and songwriter, was born John Richard Duncan on October 5, 1938, in Dublin, Texas. He grew up in a musical family and was close to his cousins, Jim, Eddie, and Dan Seals. Jimmy Seals and Dan Seals went on to achieve fame in Seals & Crofts and England Dan and John Ford Coley, respectively. As a boy, Duncan was influenced by such crooners as Eddy Arnold, Frank Sinatra, and Perry Como. He was also inspired by his mother, who played rhythm guitar and taught the instrument to Duncan. His first performances were in the family country band that consisted of his mother, his fiddling uncle Ben Moroney, and cousins Jim and Dan Seals. They played dance halls around Dublin.

Duncan majored in English at Texas Christian University in Fort Worth. At the age of twenty he married Betty Deisher. They had three daughters. He moved to Clovis, New Mexico, in 1959 and recorded demos with producer Norm Petty. He then moved the family to the Nashville area, where he worked construction jobs and in radio. As an on-air personality and jingle singer at a radio station in Franklin, Tennessee, Duncan had access to well-known recording artists to whom he could pitch his songs. Such popular country stars as Marty Robbins, Conway Twitty, and Charley Pride recorded Duncan’s songs. Duncan’s growing reputation earned him a performance on Ralph Emery’s morning show on WSM-TV Nashville in 1966. Subsequently, he signed with Columbia Records, and his singles “Rainbow Road” and “Hard Luck Joe” were released in 1967. His album Johnny One Time came out the following year.

Duncan’s career spawned minor success until he partnered with famous producer Billy Sherrill. He scored a hit with “Sweet Country Woman” which reached the Top 10 on the Billboard country chart in 1973. In the early 1970s, however, Duncan’s marriage fell apart, and he moved back to Texas. His career experienced a resurgence in the mid-1970s when he recorded the duet “Jo and the Cowboy” with an unknown Dallas jingle vocalist named Janie Fricke. Other recordings followed, and Duncan hit the top of the country charts with Number 1 hits, “Thinkin’ of a Rendezvous” (1976), “It Couldn’t Have Been Any Better” (1977, a duet with Fricke), and “She Can Put Her Shoes Under My Bed (Anytime)” (1978). Lauded for his smooth baritone, Duncan toured the world in the late 1970s. He also sang the song “Acapulco” on the soundtrack of Clint Eastwood’s movie Any Which Way You Can (1980).

In the early 1980s, with changing styles in country music, Duncan left Columbia Records, took time off from the music business, and settled on his farm near Dublin, Texas. He married Connie Smith, and they had a son. He continued some limited recording and performing throughout the 1990s. He released his last album The Thing to Do in 2004. On August 14, 2006, Duncan suffered a heart attack at his home in Dublin and died en route to a Fort Worth hospital.


All Music Guide (www.allmusic.com), accessed January 20, 2011. “Country Singer Johnny Duncan Dies,” Fox News.com (http://www.foxnews.com/story/0,2933,208673,00.html), accessed January 20, 2011. Dave’s Diary—17 August 2006—Johnny Duncan Obituary (http://www.nucountry.com.au/articles/diary/august2006/170806_johnnyduncan_obit.htm), accessed January 20, 2011. Johnny Duncan (www.johnnyduncanmusic.com), accessed November 1, 2015. New York Times, August 17, 2006.

Image Use Disclaimer

All copyrighted materials included within the Handbook of Texas Online are in accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107 related to Copyright and “Fair Use” for Non-Profit educational institutions, which permits the Texas State Historical Association (TSHA), to utilize copyrighted materials to further scholarship, education, and inform the public. The TSHA makes every effort to conform to the principles of fair use and to comply with copyright law.

For more information go to: http://www.law.cornell.edu/uscode/17/107.shtml

If you wish to use copyrighted material from this site for purposes of your own that go beyond fair use, you must obtain permission from the copyright owner.


The following, adapted from the Chicago Manual of Style, 15th edition, is the preferred citation for this article.

Handbook of Texas Online, Laurie E. Jasinski, "DUNCAN, JOHN RICHARD [JOHNNY]," accessed April 05, 2020, http://www.tshaonline.org/handbook/online/articles/fdu73.

Uploaded on June 26, 2014. Modified on November 1, 2015. Published by the Texas State Historical Association.
visit the mytsha forums to participate

View these posts and more when you register your free MyTSHA account.

Call for Papers: Texas Center for Working-Class Studies Events, Symposia, and Workshops
Hi all! You may be interested in this call for papers I received from the Texas Center for Working-Class Studies at Collin College...

Katy Jennings' Ride Scholarly Research Request
I'm doing research on Catherine Jennings Lockwood, specifically the incident known as "Katy Jennings' Ride." Her father was Gordon C. Jennings, the oldest man to die at the Alamo...

Texas Constitution of 1836 Co-Author- Elisha Pease? Ask a Historian
The TSHA profile of Elisha Marshall Pease states that he wrote part of the Texas Constitution although he was only a 24 year-old assistant secretary (not elected). I cannot find any other mention of this authorship work by Pease in other credible research about the credited Constution authors...