“I couldn’t play after school because I had to hurry to the radio station to do my show,” says Betty Johnson, recalling her 1940s role as the youthful lead singer of The Johnson Family Singers. And that wasn’t just any little station; it was WBT, whose 50-kilowatt signal reaches New Hampshire from Charlotte, N.C. The religious songs that her family group performed are still in Betty’s repertoire today.
In her New Hampshire home there are current CDs that she sells through betty-johnson.com, and there are musical charts she prepared for a performance at Haverhill’s Alumni Hall, but there is nearly nothing from the peak of her fame, 1955-60. She purged most of the memorabilia when she made her most serious attempt to settle down. Now at an age that some would consider the retirement bracket, she’s re-energized and taking a more active role than ever. She often travels to Spain for recording sessions.
Between North Carolina and New Hampshire, she spent many years in New York and Chicago earning fame as a wholesome and lighthearted pop singer. Arthur Godfrey and Eddy Arnold were early boosters of her pop career. She was a regular on the early “Tonight Show” with Jack Paar and on “Don McNeill’s Breakfast Club” on the ABC Radio Network. On disc, “I Dreamed” was her biggest hit, breaking into the top 10 in Billboard in late 1956.
“The Little Blue Man” now gets the most mentions from fans. In a year of witch doctors and purple people eaters (1958), the musical tale of an ardent but alien admirer was mainstream material. And it etched durable memories into many a young mind, as novelty songs are likely to do. When those baby boomers hear or read Betty Johnson’s name today, they immediately recall the blue man’s incessant refrain, “I wuv you, I wuv you to bits.” Though Betty sang of her dislike for the guy, she likes the song well enough that she has started singing it again in some live appearances. It seems that the little blue man has given her a lesson in being persistent. — David Marston
Preservation magazine turned a jaundiced eye on downtown Concord recently, singling out the bright-green exterior panels of Endicott Furniture for inclusion in its “Yikes” section (the preservationist equivalent of Mr. Blackwell’s Worst Dressed List). The Concord Monitor reports that the tacky fiberglass paneling went up about the time the Concord train station came down and a modernization fad was sweeping downtowns.
No one asked us, but when Blips heard about the latest controversy over what greeting to post on the official New Hampshire welcome signs, a compromise seemed obvious. How about “You’re Going to Love it Here or Die”? Maybe in French?
A Modest Proposal: National privacy rights groups and RFID marketers are eyeing NH House Bill 203, which would require that no item “to which a tracking device or devices have been affixed or implanted shall be sold or offered for sale or provided to a consumer without a label containing a universally accepted symbol.” We’re willing to allow them to use the newt. He’s pretty universally accepted.
The Band June is a group of boomers from in and around Bow who play great original bluesy folk rock that evokes the ‘60s without getting mired in them. Their slick Web site (thebandjune.com) notes that in March they played NYC’s “CB F’n GBs.” Cool.