Country Johnny Mathis

Johnny’s Memoirs – Pickin’ Cotton and Plantin’ Churches

“We stayed in Texarkana, TX until I was 9 years old. Little did I know I was about to experience what work was all about. Backbreaking work and where I first learned to pray. I remember one day a man backed a trailer, a big old trailer, cotton trailer. It was backed up to our door and I didn’t know exactly what was going on, I knew we was moving. We loaded up all our furniture we had and moved to Royce, TX. Not all that far away, probably 150 miles. We moved to a shack where we could see the chickens under the house, that old joke you know, we could see the chickens under the cracks and the sun coming through the roof. But I’m gonna tell you right now, there’s nobody in this world that ever lived a more joyous life than I did through those years. And we had gone there to pick cotton, I had never seen cotton enough to remember or know what it was. But I could come close to picking 150 pounds a day. And we stayed there during that cotton season. 

As I said those were some of the best days. Papa could send one of us to the grocery store not too far away on our dinner break he would give us four bits, which is fifty cents to you city folks. And we would go over there to that little store and buy our dinner, and bring change back. Bologna, cheese, crackers and what have you. 

In the meantime while we were picking cotton my dad had gone to Dallas, TX. We saw him on the weekend. And he had dug out a place in West Dallas, one of the meanest towns in world for us to live and to move to as soon as cotton season was over. When cotton season was over, he loaded up that same old trailer and moved to Dallas. Moved in that house, I believe it was County Ave. 

Papa said he paid rent for a month which was $65.00 and I believe he had some change left in his pocket. No job. Not knowing where any money would come from and we started a church in our living room. Put a few benches in there. And it wasn’t long til we was making progress. Soon found a building to have church in.” – Country Johnny Mathis 

Note about Johnny’s Memoirs: Prior to Johnny’s stroke in 1999, he had sat down at his typewriter and began to share stories about his life and music. We are sharing these excerpts in Johnny’s own words… just as he told them.