Johnny Western, a successful radio personality, is the Kansas Cowboy Hall of Fame's Cowboy Entertainer Inductee for 2004.
Born in Two Harbors, Minnesota, Johnny received his first guitar for Christmas when he was twelve years old. The next year, at the age of thirteen, he sang and played his guitar on radio shows. A couple of years later, Johnny received his own full-time radio show on KDHL in Northfield, Minnesota. There he caught the attention of Billboard Magazine, which dubbed him the youngest DJ on commercial radio in the United States. At the age of sixteen, Western got the chance to release his song, "The Violet and the Rose", recorded on vinyl.
After graduating from high school, Johnny met his idol, Gene Autry, who signed him to appear in motion pictures. Between 1957 and 1959, Western appeared in several movies. At the same time he was beginning his career, his idol's was ending his. Autry retired from film making in 1957, after which Johnny signed with Autry's agent.
With a new representation, Western recorded a pilot for one of the directors of the hit television western "Gunsmoke"; who was looking to direct a new show called "Pony Express". Over the next two years, Hollywood directors cast Johnny in five feature western films and thirty-two episodes for various television westerns.
Western branched out in his career again when he started writing a monthly column titled "The Filmland Horseman" for Western Horseman Magazine. The articles featured actors from the big and small screen, such as James Arness, Hugh O'Brian, Steve McQueen and Chuck Conners. Reflecting back on the interviews, Johnny recalled, "These guys were friends of mineÉ and honest-to-God cowboys."
From 1958 to 1997, Johnny toured and performed with the Johnny Cash Show. During this time, he also wrote theme songs for televisions shows like "Have Gun Will Travel" and co-wrote songs for "Johnny Yuma", "The Rebel" and "Bonanza".
Johnny, his wife Jo and their five daughters settled in Wichita; though the family soon spread out across the country. In 1986, Western joined a local radio station, as a disc jockey, where he brings first-hand knowledge of the country music business and the country western stars to his daily broadcasts.
In 1993, the TV Theme Hall of Fame inducted Johnny in New York City. He joined the ranks of the Country Music Disc Jockey Hall of Fame in 2000, as well as the Old Time Country Music Hall of fame in Anita, Iowa. A year later, the Western Music Hall of Fame inducted Johnny for his years of service and dedication. In 2002 the city of Wichita inducted Johnny into the Wichita Professional Broadcasters Hall of Fame. And earlier this year, Johnny accepted his honorary induction into the Kansas Western Wing Hall of Fame.