John Grimes ("Hillbilly Barton") Country Music/ Rockabilly Legend Passes.
"Dear John, oh how I hate to write that..."
John Grimes died at his home on October 8, 2011. He was 81. The singer/songwriter better
known as Hillbilly Barton, Billy Barton, Billy Boy Barton and Johnny Grimes was the author of
the song "A Dear John Letter" and was a pioneer in country and rockabilly music who
helped open doors for many others.
He was born in Kentucky on November 21, 1929. At 16, he had special training which enabled him to secure a
job as a tobacco auctioneer. He then enlisted in the military and married his young sweetheart,
Roda Holland. They had a daughter, Carolyn, and a son, Ronnie.
At 21, his love of music carried him to his first professional appearance on radio KXLA out of Pasadena, CA.
He had followed Russell and Herb Sims out to Los Angeles with his guitar and a notebook where he kept
the songs he had written. In only two years, he would see his name on his first record.
His first few releases were duets with Johnny Horton on Fabor A. Robinson's Abbott label.
A few of his notable hits were "Dear John" (released in 1953) and "I Love You" (released in 1954).
"Dear John" was first recorded by Jean Shepard and Ferlin Husky and it spent 6 weeks at #1 on
the Billboard country charts and made it to #4 on the pop charts, staying in the charts for a total
of 23 weeks. Many other artists recorded the song including Red Sovine, Pat Boone, Loretta Lynn, Ernest Tubb,
Skeeter Davis and Bobby Bare and they also had hits with it.
Jim Reeves and Ginny Wright recorded the song "I Love You" and it spent 22 weeks on the Billboard country
charts peaking at #3. Jean Shepard and Ferlin Husky recorded "Forgive Me John" which peaked at #4 on the
charts and Webb Pierce recorded "You'll Come Back" which made it to #8 in 1958.
He was a song writing machine. He wrote hundreds of songs for other artists as well as songs that he
recorded himself. According to those who worked with him, he was also one of the greatest performers they'd
He also performed on the Louisiana Hayride. His songs were recorded by many well known recording artists
and are still being played today.
Later, he met what would be the love of his life, Hattie Starnes, and they had 3 children together,
Debbie, John and Julie. He and Hattie spent many years together singing and recording the country
and gospel music that he continued to write throughout the remainder of his life.
He will be missed terribly and remembered most by his family for the great love that he had for them.
He will be at Woodlawn Memorial Park in Nashville, TN.
Survivors include daughters, Carolyn Caulkins, Deborah Harrell, Julie Ringel (of Florida) and son,
John Grimes (of Tennessee); grandchildren, Alan & Steven Wolstrup of Hollywood, CA;
Graysen, Rachel & Faith Harrell of Florida; John Grimes of Tennessee; Kate Ringel of Florida.
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