Born John Dee Abohosh, 6 February 1936, Dallas, Texas
Donnie Brooks recorded under a lot of different names. Most biographies tell us that his real name was Johnny Faircloth. In an interview* with Donald John Long from July 2003, Donnie reveals: "Well, it's never really been made public before, but my real name was John Dee Abohosh". He assumed the name Johnny Faircloth when his stepfather adopted him (circa 1954) and moved the family to Ventura, California. To avoid confusion, I will refer to him as Donnie in what follows.
>From a rock 'n' roll point of view, he was an inconsistent singer. His early recordings (as Johnny Faire, Dick Bush and Johnny Jordan) are certainly worthwhile, but almost all his sixties hits had nothing to do with rock 'n' roll. Donnie's first recordings were made for a local label in Los Angeles, Fable Records, using the name Johnny Faire. Three singles were released in 1957, which, for some unknown reason, were all numbered # 601.>From there he went to the Kenny Babcock's Surf label in Burbank. Donnie's friend Dorsey Burnette had recorded a single for Surf, "Bertha Lou"/"Till the Law Says Stop", but Babcock found out belatedly that he couldn't release it, because Dorsey was still signed to Coral Records. Donnie was asked to sing over Dorsey's voice (on both sides), as there was no separate track for the vocal. Interviewed by Cub Koda, Donnie said: "I think you can still hear Dorsey on the record. It took forever, line by line, just hours of studio time!" The Johnny Faire version of "Bertha Lou" attracted enough attention to be released in the UK (on London HLU 8569), but it was a cover version by Clint Miller on ABC-Paramount that charted.
After a second Surf single as Johnny Faire ("Betcha I Getcha"), Donnie became Dick Bush on Era Records. "Hollywood Party"/"Ezactly" is rock & roll at its most contrived, but, as the liner notes of the "Hollywood Rock 'n' Roll" album say : "Hollywood Party" is a wonderfully inept checkroll of song-titles-cum-party guests". Dick Bush lasted only one single ; for his next record, "Sweet, Sweet, Sweet"/ "Don't Cry Little Baby", Donnie was credited as Johnny Jordan! This was a one-off release on the Jolt label, but in 1959 Donnie would return to Herb Newman's Era label and stay there for the next four years. From now on he recorded as Donnie Brooks and it was his fourth record under that name that finally gave him his big break. The lightweight pop tune "Mission Bell", complete with girl chorus and strings, went to # 7 on the Billboard charts in the summer of 1960. The follow-up, "Doll House"/"Round Robin" was a better record, but got no higher than # 31, while in the UK Donnie's version of "Doll House" was outsold by a cover by the King Brothers, which peaked at # 21. The next Era single, "Memphis" reached # 90 in Billboard, but it would be Donnie's chart swansong. Seven more Era singles were released before Donnie moved to Reprise Records (1964-65) and then to Challenge. In the sixties, he appeared in three films, "A Swingin' Summer" (with Raquel Welch), "Get Yourself A College Girl" (with Nancy Sinatra) and "The Love-Ins". Until 1971, he had regular record releases, but after these stopped, he continued to tour and perform all over the USA, and occasionally Latin America, Europe and the Far East.
A very religious person, Donnie played the role of Jesus Christ in the rock opera "Truth of Truths" in 1971. (See interview mentioned below.)
In December 2003, Donnie was involved in a serious car accident near Las Vegas, from which he never fully recovered. He died of congestive heart failure at a hospital in Panorama City, Los Angeles, at the age of 71.
More info: http://www.rockabillyhall.com/DonnieBrooks.html
CD: Donnie Brooks, Greatest Hits 1958-1968. Canetoad International 6458 . An Australian release from 2001. 34 tracks from the Surf, Era and Reprise labels.
The CD "Hits and Rarities" (Teen Sound TSR-59631, Canada) has more or less the same contents (though not the four Surf sides), with 35 tracks, but this looks like a bootleg to me, whereas the Canetoad CD is a legal release.
* Interview: http://one-way.org/jesusmusic/index.html, Choose "Interviews", then "Ray Ruff (Truth of Truths Rock Opera)."
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