Monday, December 12, 2011

Johnny Jay and the Shays / Johnny Jay (C R C)

 Earlier this year I posted on the blog a very cool record by the recording artist known as Johnny Jay. It was released on Cherokeeland record label.  Johnny Jay also released another outstanding 45 on  the same record label as Johnny Jay and the Shays.  I was pleasantly surprised when I was contacted by Johnny Carter  (aka Johnny Jay).  He was gracious to share a brief history of his early musical career and to discuss both of these 45's in detail. His story, I gratefully present to you today.

Johnny Carter
    In 1964, I was a 17 year old disc jockey at WCGA, 900 AM in Calhoun Georgia. I had just completed an audition with a producer for Dot Records, in Atlanta. They were looking for another Buddy Holly, and I auditioned singing "Well All Right". I was told to find a group to back me. WCGA program director (Lamar Gravitt) and I had started a record company. Since everything in our north Georgia area was "the land of the Cherokees", we called the company Cherokeeland Recordings. New Echota, the 1800's capital of the Cherokee nation was nearby. We began to look for a group to back me. Lamar found a business card of a group called “The Flames”, and we contacted them. Freddie Craig had started “The Flames”. Along with Freddie Craig there was David Pye, Travis Stephens and Harry Borders. They joined me to become Johnny Jay and the Shays. I was the old man of the group at the age of 17/18. A couple of guys were barely fifteen. Johnny Jay and the Shays was something that came up when we were casting about for a group name that rhymed. We practiced a lot. We always practiced at the David Pye's home. On a cold and rainy night, we all crammed into my car for the trip to Atlanta. With the defroster going strong, blowing in my face, my voice was shot by the time we got to the studio. We went in with a producer from Dot, recording three tunes. The Sing Studio was the best in Atlanta at the time, but session was a fiasco. I had lost my chance with Dot.
   The only thing I could think to do was go back into the studio and try to promote myself. I paid for studio time at the Sing Recording Studio in Atlanta. The session produced  the first 45, "Hey Little Girl / How Could You Go Away". The song "Hey Little Girl" was written by lead guitarist Freddie Craig and drummer David Pye. I wrote "How Could You Go Away". The record was pressed in Atlanta by National Recording Corporation. The original NRC was still operating as a pressing plant. We were limited as to major touring, but we did travel as much as we could. We opened several times for Jerry Lee Lewis. The most memorable time was when we performed at the baseball stadium in Atlanta. "Hey Little Girl" became a regional hit in 1965.

   By that time, the original bass player Travis Stephens had quit to form another group that I produced known as the St. Johns. I took over on bass guitar, and we rushed into the studio to record "If You See Me Cry" and another tune, both of which I wrote. Within a few weeks, the Shays were no more. David Pye had joined Travis Stephens in the St Johns. When the split happened, Freddie Craig ended up with the masters of the two new cuts. I had, however, kept the original music tracks from that session. Using the same chord progressions, I wrote two new songs, "If You Really Cared / Let Me Know You Care". I took the music tracks to Music City Recorders in Nashville, where Scottie Moore (Yes, Elvis Scottie Moore) engineered the session as I put new vocals with the music tracks to create the C-R-CO 45.

Nashville recording session
                                                                        Johnny Jay - If You Really Cared

                                                                   Johnny Jay - Let me know you care

  Without a backing group, I had no way of promoting the new Johnny Jay single.  "If You Really Cared" was recorded by Ann Parrish by the same Dot producer that had produced my first session. They renamed it "Love Me My Way", and secured a contract with Chess Records in Chicago. Parrish's husband would not allow her to sign a contract. I still have the demo of that session. For a few months I worked with a group called Things Inc. and produced a session that included a song called "Mr. Clown”.
   I left Georgia in May 1966, and spent the next two years in Tennessee, working in radio in the Knoxville market. While there, I re-recorded vocals at Vibrant Studio to some backing tracks I had cut with Things Inc., including a song called “Hey Now Girl”. Returning to Georgia in 1968, I did some demo recording. Since then, I have recorded a couple of country records for songwriters who wanted to promote their songs. In 2004, I bought the music recorded by the original National Recording Corporation in Atlanta 1958-1963. I license NRC artist like Joe South, Jerry Reed and Ray Stevens, as well as many obscure NRC recordings to Bear Family in Germany and Ace Records in London. I am currently being represented by two different companies for digital distribution, and I operate one of the largest recording studios in the state of Georgia.

The label scans and sound sound files of the Johnny Jay and the Shays 45 are courtesy of Johnny Carter.  Johnny has put together a CD featuring both his 45's, Things Inc. and also some cool unreleased recordings from the 1960's. He can reached at for details. Thanks Johnny . 


  1. Hey, you have some nice stuff up here! The story of Johnny Jay was really interesting.

  2. Hi Mello
    I'm glad you liked the story. I am very grateful to Johnny for providing a brief history of his early musical career. He's nice guy, I'm glad I got to meet him. Thank you for your comments

  3. Sadly my step-father, Johnny Carter, passed away back in June of this year. He had gone through many health issues over the past 7 years. It had taken a toll on his body and most recently he had some strokes and a sore on his foot that would not heal. He drove himself to the emergency room at the urging of people at his bank. They offered to drive him there, but he told them that he would drive himself. We are left with a lot of bills and Johnny's studio that we know very little about running. If you know of someone who might be interested in buying his studio that would be greatly appreciated. It was the largest of its kind in North Georgia.

  4. Hi Todd, My Condolence to your family. Johnny did tell me he was dealing with health issues at the time this story was being put together. I am thankful to him for contacting me and to be able to share just a small portion of Johnny's music with others.