Samantha Lange, Adrian McCall, Devin Solice, and Leighann Weggemann

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JOHNSON, WILLIE NEAL (1935–2001). Gospel singer Willie Neal Johnson, known as "The Country Boy," was born in Tyler, Texas, on August 25, 1935, the oldest of six children in a musical family. His mother, probably the most musically inclined person in the family, motivated her children to pursue their singing careers by taking them to church and making them sing every Sunday. Willie started singing gospel music in his early teens.

His first musical group, the Gospel Keynotes, included Ralph McGee, Charles Bailey, Rev. J. D. Talley, John Jackson, Lonzo Jackson, and Archie McGee. They recorded their first major hit, "Show Me the Way," on the Nashville gospel label Nashboro Records. They received a Grammy nomination in 1980 for "Ain't No Stoppin' Us Now." Johnson also joined the Five Ways of Joy gospel group. In 1985 the Gospel Keynotes signed with Malaco Records and changed their name to the New Keynotes. With Malaco they recorded seven albums by 2002. Popular songs by the group include "I'm Yours, Lord" and "Lord, Take Us Through," which made the Top 25. The group was inducted into the Gospel Music Hall of Fame in Detroit and the American Gospel Quartet Hall of Fame in Birmingham, Alabama, in 1999. Johnson died on January 10, 2001, in Tyler. He was survived by his wife, Captoria, three sons, five daughters, and his mother, Luretia.


Tyler Courier-Times–Telegraph, January 16, 2001. Willie Neal Johnson and the New Keynotes (, accessed October 22, 2011.

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

Handbook of Texas Online, Samantha Lange, Adrian McCall, Devin Solice, and Leighann Weggemann, "JOHNSON, WILLIE NEAL," accessed May 23, 2019,

Uploaded on June 15, 2010. Modified on September 12, 2013. Published by the Texas State Historical Association.

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