b. Johnny Grimes, 21 November 1929, London, Kentucky, USA. Barton’s recording career was centred upon some 50s and early 60s tracks made for Abbott Records. As Hillbilly Barton he sang with Johnny Horton, ‘Somebody Rockin’ In My Broken Chair’ and ‘Betty Lorraine’. Using the same name, but singing alone, he recorded ‘Strange Affection’, ‘She’s A Good Ole Gal’, ‘No Interest’ and ‘Never Satisfied’. As Billy Barton, he made ‘My Darlin’ Liza Lou’, ‘You Made Me Love You’, ‘Blues In Blue Of The Night’ and ‘You Will Always Be In My Heart’. With Wanda Wayne, he cut ‘I Cried My Eyes Out Over You’, ‘What’s The Matter With Me’, ‘The World Called Love’ and ‘You’re You’. Eventually, Barton and Wayne were married. He also recorded for other small independent labels, including Fire Records and Gulf Records. Among the songs recorded for these labels were ‘Doorway To Heaven’, ‘A Day Late And A Dollar Short’ and ‘Monkey Business’. Some of these songs were recorded using the name Billy Boy Barton. He also recorded as Laurel London, a name he used in 1962 for ‘Don’t Knock The Rock’ and ‘My Conscience And I’.
Although Barton’s recording career was low-key after the early 60s, he was by no means finished with the country music business. He was involved in the early career of the Stoneman Family, helping them gain acceptance on the Grand Ole Opry. Two members of the family, Donna and Jimmy, had at one time played in Barton’s band. Barton’s songwriting skills continued to attract the attention of better-known singers. For example, ‘Dear John’ (‘Dear John Letter’), written in collaboration with Charles ‘Fuzzy’ Owens and Lewis A. Talley, was recorded as a duet by Jean Shepard and Ferlin Husky, becoming a number 1 country hit in 1953, and by Ernest Tubb and Loretta Lynn. It was also recorded solo by Pat Boone in 1960. Another song, ‘Donna On My Mind’, was a success for Wynn Stewart.