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JOHNNIE HIGH’S COUNTRY MUSIC REVUE

JOHNNIE HIGH’S COUNTRY MUSIC REVUE. Johnnie High’s Country Music Revue is a weekly variety show that was founded by promoter and host Johnnie High in 1974. Held every Saturday night, the show features both local and unknown talent as well as prominent country stars.

Johnnie High was born on May 1, 1929, in Central, Texas, but grew up in McGregor. His early interest in music prompted him at age thirteen to hitchhike to nearby Waco to audition for a radio program. The following year he was given his own radio show there and sang and played guitar live five mornings a week for several years. Still in his teens, he married Wanda Davis in 1948. They had one daughter.

In 1974 High, with dance teacher Chisai Childs, purchased and renovated the Palace Theatre in Grapevine. He wanted to establish a family-oriented weekly country opry that would showcase unknown local talent. Billed as Johnnie High’s Country Music Revue, the program drew a loyal following in the Dallas/Fort Worth area. High moved his show to the Will Rogers Auditorium in Fort Worth in 1979. (Childs moved to Branson, Missouri.) By the early 1990s the revue had moved to Shannon Auditorium in Haltom City.

In 1994 High purchased an old movie theater in Arlington and transformed it into Arlington Music Hall, a 1,200-seat auditorium located near downtown at 224 North Center Street. Known for his showmanship and eye for talent, High has been credited with launching the careers of a number of country music stars. His Country Music Revue featured LeAnn Rimes as a regular act for more than six years. Lee Ann Womack, Steve Holy, Boxcar Willie, Gary Morris, Miranda Lambert, and Linda Davis also performed on the revue.

The show includes a regular cast with backing band and backup singers, and more than twenty performers appear each week. Auditions are held several times a year, and in the early 2000s, after thirty years of auditions, High estimated that perhaps 20,000 people had tried out for his revue. An estimated 20 percent of the aspiring stars make it to a Friday night performance, and approximately 4 percent break through to the Saturday night program. The programs have featured a variety of theme shows—from gospel to big band to 1950s to country legends and others. Through the years, the revue has been a popular nationally-syndicated television show and on national radio and has garnered four awards as the Live Country Music Show of the Year by the National Organization of Music Associations of America. High’s wife Wanda and daughter Luanne work behind the scenes at the revue. High and his granddaughter Ashley Smith co-hosted the show.

Johnnie High died of heart failure on March 17, 2010. His granddaughter continued to host the revue, and its venue, Arlington Music Hall, underwent extensive renovations during 2010. At that time the program had a regular cast of eight singers along with the house band. Michael Hix served as producer and co-host. The revue’s name was eventually changed to Arlington LIVE!, but in 2013 the weekly format was scrapped, although some specialty shows were planned. The last weekly show took place on May 4, 2013. In 2015 Arlington Music Hall continued to host concerts and was home to Symphony Arlington. The hall was also the venue for a new live music show, Burk Collins Country, which occurred twice a month.

BIBLIOGRAPHY: 

Arlington Music Hall (http://www.arlingtonmusichall.net/), accessed September 5, 2015. “Country music impresario Johnnie High dead at 80,” WFAA.com (http://www.wfaa.com/news/local/Country-music-impresario-Johnny-High-dead-at-80-88310687.html), accessed May 26, 2011. Fort Worth Star–Telegram, March 18, 2010. Dorothy Hamm, “Johnnie High: People Told Him It Would Not Work” (http://www.texasescapes.com/Music/Johnnie-High.htm), accessed May 26, 2011. Johnnie High’s Country Music Revue (http://johnniehighcountry.com/www.johnniehighcountry.com/HOME.html), accessed May 26, 2011. “Johnnie High’s Country Music Revue at Newly Renovated Arlington Music Hall,” Insider Arlington (http://insider.arlington.org/2010/09/07/johnnie-high%E2%80%99s-country-music-revue-at-newly-renovated-arlington-music-hall/), accessed May 26, 2011. 

Laurie E. Jasinski

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Handbook of Texas Online, Laurie E. Jasinski, "Johnnie High’s Country Music Revue," accessed October 19, 2017, http://www.tshaonline.org/handbook/online/articles/xfj02.

Uploaded on May 26, 2015. Modified on September 5, 2015. Published by the Texas State Historical Association.