Formed in 1982, and described as a cross between Marty Robbins and The Sex Pistols, Australian band The Johnnys dressed as cowboys – complete with Stetson hats, leather chaps and handguns – and appeared on stage amidst bails of hay, playing fast, loud, explosive guitar-drenched songs in a genre they dubbed ‘cowpunk’.
The band started out as a three-piece (Roddy Ray’da, Graham Hood and Billy Pommer Jr), adding Spencer P. Jones in early 1983.
The new line-up issued a single on the independent Regular label, I Think You’re Cute, in October 1983 before Ray’da left and was replaced by Paul ‘Slim’ Doherty with Spencer Jones assuming lead vocals.
The band signed to the Green label (owned by their manager Roger Grierson and music journalist Stuart Coupe) for the single My Buzzsaw Baby (Really Cuts Me Up) (November 1984) – which was produced by Steve Nieve, keyboard virtuoso from Elvis Costello and The Attractions – and the 12″ EP The Johnnys (also November 84).
In 1985 The Johnnys were banned in Christchurch, New Zealand when a hay fight with the audience got out of hand – although the hay was donated to drought-stricken farmers after the gig.
Also in 1985, the group signed to Mushroom records for their first hit singles, Injun Joe (November 1985), (There’s Gonna Be A) Showdown (March 1986) and Bleeding Heart (June).
All three singles were lifted from the band’s debut album, Highlights Of A Dangerous Life (August 1986) which was produced by Mondo Rock frontman Ross Wilson.
Wilson also produced the band’s second album, Grown Up Wrong (August 1988) which yielded the band’s last two singles, a cover of Chris Spedding’s bubblegum punk classic Motorbikin’ (July) and Anything Could Happen (November).
Michael Armiger (ex-John Kennedy’s Love Gone Wrong) replaced Hood on bass at that point.
Despite being one of the most popular bands on the Australian pub touring circuit, The Johnnys never crossed over into the premier league and the band broke up in 1989 with Spencer Jones throwing in his lot with Beasts of Bourbon.
Spencer P Jones died on 21 August 2018 as a result of inoperable liver cancer. He was just 61.
Spencer P Jones
Graham ‘Hoody’ Hood
Billy Pommer Jr
Paul ‘Slim’ Doherty
Roddy Ray’da (Radalj)