Johnny Lee Celebrates 25th Anniversary Of 'Urban Cowboy' and #1 Hit, 'Lookin' for Love'

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Country legend, Johnny Lee, celebrates 25th anniversary of “Urban Cowboy."

“Johnny Lee,” Billboard’s Tom Roland writes, “was hardly a well-known quantity on New Year’s Day 1980, but with the advent of ‘Urban Cowboy,’ he quickly became Country music’s biggest surprise of the year.”

‘Urban Cowboy,’ directed by the late James Bridges just a year after he’d scored another big hit with The China Syndrome, starred John Travolta, Debra Winger, and Scott Glenn.

The film’s soundtrack, helped immeasurably by Lee’s performance of “Lookin’ For Love,” “introduced people to what Country’s really about,” Mickey Gilley told author Robert K. Oermann. “All these young acts that are in the business now, the Urban Cowboy had somethin’ to do with bringin’ all these people along. Because we got a bigger audience. I think that opened doors for a lot of people.”

It certainly opened doors wide open for Lee, and 25 years later, he and everyone associated with “Urban Cowboy” are looking back and looking forward. Johnny remains a busy and beloved live and recording act to this day.

“Lookin’ For Love” was so popular that many Radio stations began spinning it even before Full Moon/Asylum Records officially released it as a single. It went to No. 1 on the Billboard Country charts (and No. 5 on the Pop charts) in September of 1980, and by November it had sold a million copies.

One of the wonderful urban legends regarding Lee’s “Urban Cowboy” smash is that following its recording the master tape disappeared. “I’d already done my part in the movie then, singing this song from a copy of the tape,” Lee told Tom Roland. “But we had to re-record it, and make sure it was exactly the same tempo and everything as the first one we did. To this day, I still don’t know if it was somebody’s mistake and nobody ever ’fessed up to it, or what the deal was.”

Lee had three more No. 1 Billboard Country hits, “One In A Million” (1980), “Bet Your Heart On Me” (1981), and “The Yellow Rose” (1984). Lee, a native of Texas City, Texas, was truly a Lone Star State king in those days: From 1982-84, he was married the 4-foot-11 actress Charlene Tilton, who played Lucy in the hottest TV show of that period, Dallas. The real-life couple (both accomplished singers -- Tilton sang for real on an episode of the show) were married on Valentine’s Day 1982.

Lee remarried in 1987, signed a 10-album deal with Curb Records, and was the subject of a biography in 1990. “I’m very lucky to have the first opportunity,” he said. “I feel like I earned the second opportunity.”


Deborah Danker

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