Johnny Alexander had a short but brilliant career until he blew his own brains out backstage at his Christmas show. In the late 40s, Johnny could be found playing piano and singing in the clubs around his native Memphis. He was part of the loose collective of Blues musicians known as The Beale Streeters with BB King, Bobby ‘Blue’ Bland and Rosco Gordon who would team up into informal bands anywhere they could get paid. Duke Records’ first release in 1952 was also the first record by Johnny Ace, as he was now named. ‘My Song‘ went to No.1 in the R&B charts, spending months vying for the top spot with ‘Juke’ by Little Walter. He repeated the trick with ‘The Clock’ a few months later, and Johnny’s heart-felt Blues ballads regularly rode high in the R&B charts.
His career was flying, with huge record sales and sold-out concerts, when he was billed to play the City Auditorium, Houston on Christmas night 1954. Big Mama Thornton was back-stage with him when he was “fooling around with a gun”. He had been drinking and, after assuring people that it wasn’t loaded, he put the gun against his head and pulled the trigger. ‘Pledging My Love’ was a posthumous No.1 in the R&B charts and it went to No.17 in the Hot 100 too.