Enotris Johnson

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Enotris Johnson and his wife, Ann Johnson, devout white Seventh Day Adventists, adopted and raised a total of a dozen children, both black and white. One of these was Richard Penniman, who took on the…
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Enotris Johnson and his wife, Ann Johnson, devout white Seventh Day Adventists, adopted and raised a total of a dozen children, both black and white. One of these was Richard Penniman, who took on the stage name of Little Richard in the '50s. In the spring of 1956, this artist released one of the greatest rock & roll classics of all time, "Long Tall Sally." The rowdy selection is one of two songs from Little Richard's repertoire for which Johnson is listed as a co-writer; the other is "Jenny, Jenny," also a substantial hit for Mitch Ryder & the Detroit Wheels in the '60s.

Religious zealots may wring their hands over the suspicion that Johnson, sometimes listed as a lyricist in connection with these songs, wrote sordid lyrics such as this famous passage: "I saw Uncle John talking to 'Long Tall Sally.' She saw me comin' and he ducked back in the alley." Yet Johnson's connection with these mystic rock goddesses, "Long Tall Sally" and "Jenny, Jenny," is simply an example of Little Richard's generosity in regard to the folks who raised him. It is never the case of the singer not the song when it comes to gift credits: the right song can result in an endless cascade of royalties, with any and all singers lining up to sing it. Johnson winds up with one of the longest sets of discographical credits known to mankind from these two songs alone, establishing a niche in the roots repertoire of the Beatles as well as his adopted son.

While there are sleazy cases aplenty of credits being allotted under pressure to publishers, disc jockeys, and even drug connections, songwriting history is also dotted with episodes of charity or reciprocity such as Little Richard's. Another was Ernest Tubb's nearly annual habit of creating songwriting credits for the widow of his idol, singer Jimmie Rodgers. With multiple credits listed quite commonly under surnames alone, confusion regarding credits for any Johnson is as rampant as whistling. Little Richard's adopted father should not, for example, be confused with the songwriter Howard Johnson, who was active between the '20s and '40s. It happens, though, with journalists commenting on the versatility of the man who wrote the famous "Ice Cream" song -- that was Howard Johnson -- and how he could even go on to collaborate with Little Richard, when in reality that would have only been possible if that Johnson had come back as a zombie. Other writers are more honest: "Enotris Johnson? I don't know who that is," represented the total discussion of the man at a roundtable focusing on intensely fat publishing catalogs.