Sleepy Sunday, Vol. 46

By now, you know Sleepy LaBeef, national treasure, is a honky-tonk man.

Today, he demonstrates. Sleepy covers a tune debuted by Johnny Horton in 1956, covered 10 years later by Conway Twitty and covered 30 years later by Dwight Yoakam.

Horton wrote “Honky Tonk Man” with Tillman Franks and Howard Hausey. It was his first top-40 hit.

You may be more familiar with a couple of Horton’s No. 1 hits — “The Battle of New Orleans” from 1959 and “North to Alaska” from 1960. (Both of those songs were on the jukebox at a bar one of my friends worked at after high school, so they’re etched in my head.)

Sleepy recorded this version at Regent Sound Studio in London on April 23, 1979. It’s a fairly straightforward cover, but pleasant enough.


“Honky Tonk Man,” Sleepy LaBeef, from “A Rockin’ Decade,” 1997.



Filed under January 2008, Sounds

6 responses to “Sleepy Sunday, Vol. 46

  1. Mike Martinsen

    Thanks, a lot. I thought I had those Johnny Horton songs repressed deep in my brain never to return (also working at that bar).

  2. Didn’t Johnny Cash cover The Battle of New Orleans at one point in his career?

  3. “Battle of New Orleans” reminds me of when I was a pre-teen, hanging around in my friend’s bedroom, playing his sister’s records on the stereo, pretending we were rock stars (beating the bed with drumsticks, strumming tennis rackets). Correct me if I’m wrong but didn’t Johnny Horton make some records with really racist lyrics? Back when they were recorded, they weren’t likely considered inappropriate (just as the Marx Brothers racist innuendo seemed normal for the time). But, to today’s ears, they sound pretty shocking. (Love the Beef, by the way. Keep up the good work.)

  4. Oh, I forgot to mention there’s a pretty good biography of Horton written by Chet Flippo at (if you can stand the eye seering web design and small type). And, yes, Johnny Cash covered B.O.N.O, as did Boxcar Willie, Barefoot Jerry, Lonnie Donegan and on and on. (I think my Mom might have covered that song, too, but all her albums are out of print. 🙂

  5. evandad

    For the record:

    This is what Wiki says about the racist thing:

    Some songs with racist titles and content by Johnny Rebel are often falsely attributed to Horton. The confusion may have arisen because Horton had a hit named “Johnny Reb.”

    I wasn’t aware of anything like that.


  6. I dug out my “World of Johnny Horton” album while in the studio last night; a quick glance has me thinking I am, in fact, mistaken. Now I have to reboot my memory and figure out who, exactly, it is I’m thinking about.

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