Johnny Preston Running Bear

Johnny Preston Running Bear

Johnny Preston Running Bear

On January 18, 1960 Running Bear by Johnny Preston became Billboard’s #1 single.

Johnny Preston Running Bear

El Paso

Running Bear was the second of three consecutive #1 songs in which someone died.  Preceding Running Bear,  Marty Robbins’s El Paso was #1.  Grateful Dead fans are familiar with that story:

From out of nowhere Felina has found me

Kissing my cheek as she kneels by my side

Cradled by two loving arms that I’ll die for

One little kiss and Felina, good-bye.

Johnny Preston Running Bear

Teen Angel


The next #1 will be Mark Dinning’s Teen Angel.

That fateful night the car was stalled upon the railroad track

I pulled you out and we were safe but you went running back.

Johnny Preston Running Bear

Running Bear

For Running Bear, the two young lovers, separated by a river that was too wide, but their love forced them to try to cross and meet.

Now their hands touched and their lips met

The swirling river, it pulled them down

Now they’ll always be together

In their happy hunting ground

The song  has some interesting trivia associated with it besides its part in a consecutive death motif. J. P. Richardson, better known as The Big Bopper, wrote it.  Richardson had a hit of his own in 1958 with “Chantilly Lace.” He had died in the famous plane crash on February 3, 1959 in Clear Lake, Iowa, with Buddy Holly and Ritchie Valens.

Richardson thought the Romeo & Juliet theme of this song was too serious for him to record. He passed it on to his friend Johnny Preston, who originally was unsure about the song but others eventually persuaded him to cut it.

Richardson had done background vocals along with George Jones.

Johnny Preston Running Bear

Running Bear

Preston’s follow-up single, “Cradle of Love,” reached No. 7 on the Billboard chart.

In 1971 Jonathan King took the “Ocka Chunka” backing and added it to the B.J. Thomas hit song “Hooked On A Feeling.”

Preston died on March 4, 2011 >>> NYT obit

References >>> Song facts

Johnny Preston Running Bear
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