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Johnny Bristol
Birth name John William Bristol
Born February 3, 1939
Origin Morganton, North Carolina, United States
Died March 21, 2004 (aged 65)
Genres Soul, rhythm and blues
Occupations Singer, songwriter, record producer
Years active 1959 - 1993
Labels Motown, MGM, Ariola/Hansa, Atlantic
Associated acts Junior Walker, Supremes, Tom Jones, Tavares, Boz Scaggs

Johnny Bristol (born John William Bristol, February 3, 1939 - March 21, 2004[1]), was an American musician, most famous as a songwriter and record producer for the Motown label in the late 1960s and early 1970s. He was a native of Morganton, North Carolina[1].


Motown producer

Bristol first came to local attention in the Detroit area as a member of the soul duo 'Johnny & Jackey' with Jackey Beavers[1], an associate Bristol met while in the U.S. Air Force. The pair recorded two singles in 1959 for Anna Records, a label owned by Gwen Gordy (Berry Gordy's sister) and Billy Davis and four 45s for Gwen Gordy and Harvey Fuqua's Tri-Phi label, none of which was a success beyond the Midwestern United States.

In the mid 1960s, Tri-Phi was absorbed by Motown and Bristol began working with Fuqua as a songwriter and producer. Among their successes as producers were hit singles such as Marvin Gaye and Tammi Terrell's "Ain't No Mountain High Enough" (1967), "Your Precious Love" (1967), and "If I Could Build My Whole World Around You" (1968); Edwin Starr's "Twenty-Five Miles" (1969); and David Ruffin's "My Whole World Ended (The Moment You Left Me)" (1969).

Bristol flourished at Motown working with some of the label's best selling acts. His producer and/or writer credits included: The Velvelettes "These Things Keep Me Loving You" (1973); Gladys Knight & the Pips' "I Don't Want To Do Wrong" (1971) and "Daddy Could Swear, I Declare" (1972); and with Jr. Walker & the All Stars, who charted with a number of Bristol-written songs including "What Does It Take (To Win Your Love)" (1969), "Gotta Hold On To This Feeling" (1970) and "Walk in the Night" (1972). One of his last successes was Jermaine Jackson's first solo record "That's How Love Goes" (1972).

Notably, Bristol was the producer and co-writer of the final singles for both Diana Ross & the Supremes and Smokey Robinson & the Miracles, before each group lost its namesake lead singer. While the Miracles' "We've Come Too Far to End It Now" (1972) was an original, the Supremes' "Someday We'll Be Together" (1969) was a cover version of a Johnny & Jackey single from 1961.[2] Bristol is the male voice on the Supremes' version of "Someday We'll Be Together," singing response to Diana Ross' lead vocal[2] (Ross actually recorded the song with session singers replacing the other two Supremes).

Producer and solo performer

In 1973, Bristol left Motown joining first with CBS as a producer. He worked with a number of emerging singers that included Randy Crawford, for whom Bristol wrote "Caught in Love's Triangle", as well as production duties on established performers including Marlena Shaw, Johnny Mathis and Boz Scaggs. Now in his early 30s, he was anxious to resume his own recording career, and when CBS/Columbia showed little enthusiasm he signed a recording contract with MGM.

At MGM, Bristol recorded two successful albums and charted with several singles, notably "Hang On in There Baby" (1974, #8 U.S. Pop,[3] , #2 U.S. R&B chart and #3 UK[4 ]), "You and I" (1974, #20 U.S. R&B[3]), "Leave My World" (1975, #23 U.S. R&B[3]) and "Do It To My Mind" (1976, #5 U.S. R&B). He also recorded the original version of "Love Me for a Reason", later a major hit for The Osmonds. He was nominated for a Grammy Award in 1975 for Best New Artist; ultimately losing out to Marvin Hamlisch.

Bristol then recorded two albums for Atlantic, Bristol's Creme (1976) and Strangers (1978). One track from the Atlantic period, "Strangers In The Dark Corners" has become a popular track on the European rare soul scene. He maintained a parallel role as a producer during this period, working mainly for artists signed to Columbia Records. Among those with whom he worked was Boz Scaggs, and Bristol can be credited with creating Scaggs' blue-eyed soul sound for the Slow Dancer album (1974). Bristol also produced Tom Jones' 1975 album, Memories Don't Leave Like People Do, which included five covers of Bristol's songs, including the title track. He continued to be held in high regard as a producer and some of the other acts with whom he worked included Tavares, Margie Joseph and The Jackson Sisters.

Bristol's main market was in Europe by the early 1980s. His duet with Amii Stewart on a medley of "My Guy - My Girl" reached #39 in the UK Singles Chart in 1980.[4 ] A deal for Ariola/Hansa saw him score with club hits, "Love No Longer Has a Hold on Me" and "Take Me Down". An accompanying album failed to consolidate his status, and it would be eight years before new product by Bristol appeared, with a 12" single "I'm Just a Musician" for Hansa. An affiliation in 1989 with the UK record label Motorcity Records was brief[2], but did result in the release of one of Bristol's most popular releases, "Man Up in the Sky"[1], and a cover of the Bristol penned "What Does it Take to Win Your Love", originally a hit for Jr. Walker & the All Stars.

Johnny Bristol's last releases were a 12" single in 1991 for Whichway Records, "Come to Me", and an album Life & Love released for the Japanese market in 1993. The latter included a duet of Earth, Wind & Fire's "That's The Way I Feel About You" with his daughter Shanna J. Bristol. The album received a U.S. release three years later under the title Come To Me.

Bristol died in his Brighton Township, Michigan[1] home on 21 March 2004, of natural causes, at the age of sixty-five.[5]

A comprehensive article on his career is contained in issue 51 of the music magazine, In The Basement.[6]




Year Title UK Albums Chart[4 ] U.S. Billboard 200[3] U.S. R&B Albums[3]
1974 Hang On In There Baby 12 82 7
1975 Feeling The Magic - - 29
1976 Bristol's Creme - 154 43
1978 Strangers - - -
1981 Free to Be Me - - -
1993 Life & Love (retitled Come To Me for 1995 U.S. release) - - -

Compilation albums

Chart singles

Year Title / Songwriter(s) UK Singles Chart[4 ] U.S. Billboard Hot 100[3] U.S. R&B[3]
1974 "Hang On In There Baby" (Bristol) 3 8 2
1974 "You and I" (Bristol) - 48 20
1975 "Leave My World" (Bristol) - - 23
1976 "Do It To My Mind" (Bristol) - 43 5
1977 "I Sho' Like Groovin' With Ya" (Bristol) - - 47
1977 "You Turned Me On To Love" (Bristol) - - 36
1980 "Hang On In There Baby" (duet with Alton McClain) - - 73
1980 "My Guy - My Girl" (Robinson - Robinson/White)
(Duet with Amii Stewart)
39 63 76

See also


  1. ^ a b c d e Allmusic biography - accessed January 2008
  2. ^ a b c Obituary for Johnny Bristol - Independent, The (London), Mar 25, 2004 by Pierre Perrone
  3. ^ a b c d e f g - Charts & Awards
  4. ^ a b c d Roberts, David (2006). British Hit Singles & Albums (19th ed.). London: Guinness World Records Limited. pp. 78. ISBN 1-904994-10-5.  
  5. ^ Motown:The Golden Years by Bill Dahl & Weldon A McDougall III p.216-218 Krause ISBN 0-87349-286-2
  6. ^ In The Basement - issue 51, August-October 2008; article by Greg Burgess

External links


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