About Rome Johnson

Drawing of Rome Johnson playing a guitarIt is alleged that in a recent interview the following question was asked the Sons of the Pioneers: What is the reason for the success of the current group? Great harmony? Great instrumentation? "No sir," Roy Lanham replied. "It's the fact that three of us are from Kentucky." Now whether that really took place or not, it is a fact that Roy Lanham, Dale Warren, and Rome Johnson are all from Kentucky.

Rome was born in the hills of Kentucky, the youngest of five children. His interest in music came about at a very early age. It was the custom in those days to have house dances as well as barn dances. It was quite common for any one of several families to call in their neighbors on a weekend night and dance until early morning. Rome's oldest brother, Floyd, played fiddle at these dances, and Rome backed him up on guitar.

His earliest professional radio appearance took place in 1932 when he was a member of the "Kentucky String Ticklers," appearing on WLAP in Lexington, Kentucky. Asa Martin, Rome's uncle, was a member of the group, and was quite a respected musician in that part of the country. Before long, Rome migrated to WLW in Cincinnati, Ohio joining an impressive collection of name performers, including the Delmore Brothers, Hank Penny, Merle Travis, and Grandpa Jones. He soon put together a fine group called the "Trail Blazers." He also made friends with another outstanding talented musician, Roy Lanham.

Rome Johnson with the Sons of the PioneersIn the early fifties, Rome was signed to a personal contract by the legendary Fred Rose, and recorded a number of fine tunes for MGM, the most notable being "Waltz of the Wind," Rome generously donated to the John Edwards Memorial Foundation, several acetates made by Fred Rose on which Fred says, "Now Rome, here's the way this song goes."

Rome has been a fan of the Pioneers since the early days of their Standard Transcriptions. He was greatly impressed with their collective talents. For many years he has been closely associated with the fellows and was thrilled to become part of their great tradition.

Without question, Rome has one of the finest solo voices in country and western music. He has filled in very well in the trio and the other fellows make it known that they appreciate his considerable talent. A little known fact is that Rome has a vast repertory of perhaps two-hundred songs that he can perform from memory. And it's probably not too well advertised that he has composed several songs of considerable note.

In his heart Rome has been a Pioneer for many, many years. He states, "My most enjoyable and rewarding work has been and still is, being a member of the "Sons of the Pioneers."

Portrait of a Pioneer, Rome Johnson, by Ken Griffis.

Rome married Imogene Walton in 1937 and they had 5 children. Robert, Shirley, Donald, Rome Jr, and Raymond. They divorced after 33 years of marriage and Rome remarried.

More photos of Rome Johnson:
Rome Johnson with the Sons of the Pioners
Drawing of Rome Johnson

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