April 11, 2004 by

Johnny Bristol


Categories: Military, Musicians

jbristol.jpgJohn William Bristol, a singer and former Motown producer, died on March 21. Cause of death was not released. He was 65.

The North Carolina native was serving in the Air Force when he met singer Robert “Jackey” Beavers in the late 1950s. They formed the doo-wop duo Jackey & Johnny, and played shows in the Detroit area. In 1961, they recorded several singles, including the tune “Someday We’ll be Together.” Diana Ross & the Supremes remade the song in 1969, with Bristol singing background vocals.

Bristol spent most of the 1960s as a producer and songwriter for Motown Records. There he worked with some of the label’s biggest acts: Marvin Gaye, Smokey Robinson, Michael Jackson, Gladys Knight & the Pips, the Four Tops and Stevie Wonder. Bristol married and divorced Maude Bristol Perry, Battle Creek, Mich.’s first African-American woman mayor. He also wed and divorced Iris Gordy, the niece of Motown founder Berry Gordy.

Bristol left Motown in 1973 and launched his solo career. He signed record deals with MGM and Atlantic and released numerous singles. The song, “Hang On In There Baby,” reached number two on the R&B charts and number eight on the pop charts. He continued recording music through the 80s and early 90s. At the time of his death, Bristol was finalizing plans to tour Britain and complete a gospel album.

Listen to 2 Bristol Songs

74 Responses to Johnny Bristol

  1. Paul Sanderson

    Johnny Bristol was one of the greatest, and under-rated soul writers and singers in musical history. I have been trying to replace some old scratched vinyls of his, with new cds without much luck. it was during this search on the internet that I discovered this very sad news. He will be missed by many.

  2. Henriette

    though you’re gone so very far away…
    still I say…..
    take good care of you,dear,just for me, honey
    and I’ll take care of me ,for you…
    you were special.

  3. marie mclennan

    I attended Precious Blood catholic school in Detroit Michigan with Johnny Bristol Jr. One day Johnny sr. brought Gladys Night to our class and I till this day remember what a thrill that was;I am 43 now and though the years have pass I still feel that thrill. I am sure that throughout his life Johnny sr. brought others amazing memories and joy. The world has lost a billiant, generous, and talented man.
    I send my deepest sympathy to his family and friends.
    Marie McLennan

  4. Teresa Bonner

    Thank you for the music. My all time favorite song written by Johnny was “Hang On In There Baby.” The hits that you wrote for artists like Marvin Gaye and Tammi Terrill as well as others will always be loved.

  5. Dorane

    Johnny you will be missed by all, but your music legacy will forever remain, which is what you desired. I know what a incredible heart and soul you possessed and I will always have wonderful memories of you, love and miss you, your first cousin, D.

  6. Carlos

    I have only just discovered this site and of the death of Johnny. He had a great innings and achieved what many of us will never know i.e. he’ll be eternally remembered. ‘HANG ON IN THERE BABY’ is one of the great recordings of all time and shone like a beacon of light during those days of mass produced Pop-Pap back in the 70’s. I remember MGM and CBS dumping the paper record label for a printed plastic monstosity in 1973 so the only thing classy about their releases at the time were the quality tunes put down by Messrs Bristol and co. Hope your still Hanging On In There on the other side now Johnny. Be seeing you.

  7. Marilyn

    I still reget that I did not call you on your Birthday like I promise. If I had kept my promise to you I would have had more time with you. You know my heart will always be with where ever you are. And like you once said I’ll meet you in the next life if I can’t be with you in this one. Love Marilyn

  8. Rob

    He provided a great deal of pleasure to me growing up as a teenager. I only recently learned that he had died when attempting to reasearch lyrics for some of his songs for a friend. The vynil is gone. Will need to get a CD. While I remember a lot of his songs, those he sang, it seems the world only wants to remember ‘hang on in there baby’, when he performed more that were sentimental, such as ‘take good care of you dear’. I can only hope that we continue to have many more song writers / performers such as him rather than those we are exposed to now.

  9. Fred

    Johnny Bristol was an outstanding producer. He
    never got the recognition Of HDH, Norman Whitfield
    or even Smokey Robinson but he was great. I did not know he had passed, found out when searching the net to see if he was still performing or producing, etc. My favorite was Someday We’ll be
    together (Diana’s swan song before going solo}
    May God Bless Mr Bristol’s family members and love ones.

  10. Teresa Bonner

    As a child a remember listening to “Hang on in There Baby” in 1974 on the radio with my dad singing along. I absolutley fell in love with that song as a little girl! Once I became an adult, I began to seek out the songs of my child hood because of the joy they brought to my heart. Johnny’s music was the first that I sought out. On the Internet I learned of his death and was very saddened. Johnny will truly be missed. Thank you for the joy your music brought to my life and lives of many.

  11. laura doyle

    I loved Johnny’s songs. Even at 14 I was feeling “Hang on in There”, maybe a little more than I should!! The flip side to this 45 was Take good care of you for me. I would love the lyrics to it and hear it again. I “gave” it to my boyfriend when my mom moved me 3000 miles away. I saw him again last week. It’s been 30 years, and it brought me right back to that awesome age of 14 again! Now I find I need a “Johnny” fix!!

  12. Steve Lauder

    Every time I hear “Hang on in There Baby” it brings me back to a very special time in my life. The track still sounds fresh. Great writing, great production, and a great vocal performance. Thanks so much for the music Johnny, and the absolutely priceless memories. We will always remember you.



  14. Connie

    Having spent 16.5 years with this lovely man, and knowing his heart and being loved by him is my treasure from him. I think of him daily, will love him always, and thank him for the music he gave me personally. I remember you tell me one afternoon, “So good to have you here today…”
    Much love always.


    Twenty+ years ago Johnny and I tried to walk out of each others lives. However, It was impossible because our hearts kept bringing us back together. We had a relationship that was exclusively design for us. Johnny opened his heart mind and sole to me, and I did the same for him. I will always cherish the love we shared. I will never forget his loud laughter filled with joy when ever I was near. It didn’t matter how much time we spend apart, our hearts became one when ever we were blessed with each others presents. I will always love you Johnny. Still missing you Marilyn P.S I miss those marathons phone conversation

  16. Connie

    To all those who were loved by John, and who loved him: All of his loves were special. Whoever he loved, he loved well. To all those other women who were blessed with it as I was and still am, cherish his love. Remember all he taught you about love. Remember all he taught you about yourself. Cherish your memories of him. He made the women he loved feel special. The love gave him his early music. God gave him his spiritual music.
    And Marilyn: God bless you for your friendship with him and for trust he had in you. I always knew he had it. He told me. I too had the marathon phone calls with him. Weren’t they wonderful? Thank you for loving him too. Thank you to all those who loved him. He is/was very special.

  17. unknown

    and I would like to thank for taking the time for being in johnny life, when I could not be there. but in ours heart, we know who the special one was.

  18. Sergey

    My heart have been touched by perfect songs of Mister Johnny Bristol. I have heard his splendid voice for the first time only about five days ago.
    People like You make this world better!Here in Russia,i will try to popularize your songs.Thank you very much.

  19. Chris Smith

    This song “Hang On in There Baby” has been an inspiration for me through my spritual tring time.
    I remember loving this song growing up, this song always had a special part in my heart.
    Thanks, because I’m, “Hanging on in There”.

  20. Sherlie Matthews

    I vividly remember handsome, talented Johnny when I worked with him at Motown as a background singer on many of his productions. He had a way of making each of us feel special, me in particular. I was looking for him on the web to contact him about a Stevie Wonder session we did together and was shocked to see this “death site.” I’m glad to know that he had a wonderful life after Motown and is now resting peacefully. My memories of our collaborations will, however live on and on.

  21. unknown

    I never Johnny. I have come to know his music through a friend. I have also come to have an idea of what kind of a person he must have been through both his music and the love that my friend still cherishes towards him. He gave her a wonderful, warm and important part of himself for over 16 years. In this time of disposable friendships and disposable marriages, 16 years is a lifetime. He may be gone, but his memory will keep her warm for years to come. His music will be with the rest of us always.

  22. unknown

    This is for MARILYN**** You HAD your time with Johnny, but in the end we all know that it someone else who had his heart and his love. She had it for well over a decade and even though he has gone on, she still has that love. They had abond so pure and so strong that even death cannot alter or lessing it. Their love was the kind most of us only hear of. But they found one another and made each others lives so much richer for the sharing together. You WERE a part of his life—she is and will always be his true soulmate for eternity.

  23. Marilyn

    This is for unknown posted September 14, It is obvious that you never had the pleasure of being blessed with Johnny present. Therefore you know absolutely nothing about Johnny or the people he loved in his life. So what gives you the right to speak on his behalf, who made you the authority over his heart. I do not care about Johnny relationship with others. My memories are only filled with the times we spend together. And as far as I am concern what Johnny and I shared, can not be measured. Marilyn

  24. Wilson

    John was a good man. we were friends for many years, He will be greatly missed in the music industry. John was a true talent, brother rest in peace you are in god’s hands now, Marilyn I remmeber meeting you up at John place a few times, You are a beautiful lady inside and out, John always spoke of you in very high regards

  25. marion jenkins

    Just been listening to your music once again and hope you are still singing the heavenly music. Resy in peace love and music, with love Marion

  26. Vikki

    Johnny, I am saddened to learn you are gone. You were a wonderful, talented person and a great friend. I wish I had kept in touch. I want to talk about the music again, and I find I am too late. I’ve learned not to assume there will always be more time. I’ll bring you some flowers when I come home for a visit. Beautiful music always surrounded you. I’m sure it’s playing where you are. Missing and remembering you.

  27. Jason

    I first met Johnny in 1999 when I was cutting lawns for a living. When he learned that I had a love of music and played in a band, he invited me into his basement studio and I was treated to a private recording session of the gospel album he was working. His kindness and obvious passion for his craft will be missed. Jason from Brighton, MI.

  28. Genet

    The best singer I ever heard in my 44 years of life. I am just learning of his death and it is 1st of September, 2007.
    I always wondered what happened to him. My older sister and brothers had all of his music. Where can I get it from now?
    …This makes me very sad.

  29. Fawn

    Wow! I didn’t know Johnny had died. He really was overlooked when it came to his talent and contributions. It should have been widely known, at least mentioned on black radio or magazines like Jet about his passing. I’m floored! Johnny was a wonderful man, genuine, very kind, sincere, and compassionate about everything and everyone. He had no ego or conceit like Marvin Gaye and David Ruffin. Johnny could get along with anyone. He was one of the few good ones. The time I spent with him will always bring a smile and bliss whenever I’m feeling low. Johnny always knew how to make a woman feel beautiful by using his heart and mind and not just with what’s between his legs. A lot of singers, a lot of men, have a lot of women but don’t know how to treat them (outside the bed) but Johnny knew how to treat a woman with respect, sensitivity, and care, that’s why the women Johnny was involved with never forgot him. He made all of us feel special! ~ Fawn ~ dewberrysquish@aol.com

  30. Jurona

    In my grandmother’s house, motown was always on the lips of many of my aunts. I feel so bad about the death of Mr. Bristol, he was a living legend.

  31. Marti

    Wow…I still can’t believe Johnny Bristol is no longer with us. I never met him but I wish I could have. Marilyn, I would have loved to get one of those passionate kisses that you remember so well. Lucky you!! I will always remember Johnny’s music, even though it is getting harder to find. I was fortunate to be able to find most of his CDs recently and I’m loving them so much. My favorite is Bristol’s Creme.

  32. Unknown

    I’m sorry, John, to see that some have made this blog about themselves, and not you. As your birthday has passed, and your deathday is coming up, just know that you are loved, respected, remembered. You will not be forgotten. Your music lives on, your memory lives on. And as you would have wished and hoped, people who knew you have moved on, but carrying your memory, your love, and your creativity with them. We who are moving on carry you with us now and forever. We thank God for giving you to us for a little while on this earth.

  33. ksharp

    Oh why must the blessed leave us so soon. Johnny you will be remembered by the ballads that you sung so sweet , love takes tears, take good care of you dear, woman woman, hang on in there baby, and more. But now all I have are “memories”,which will stay with me always.Good night Johnny, but may your music stay alive……………..always.

  34. graham

    always loved the song hang on in there baby,and thought i would look up johnny bristol on the net,very sad to see he has passed on,but reading all the tributes to him it seems he was a very kind and loving person,rest in peace johnny

  35. Unknown

    I was reading all the wonderful things people are saying about Johnny Bristol and I feel he had to be a good guy. I have been a fan for many years and I was really sad to here of his death. I remember he wrote a song ” memories don’t leave like people do” Well reading all the good things people have to say about him I guest he was right. However, unknown written February 29,2008 state’s she is sorry that some people has made this blog about themselves but I think the writings have all been about Johnny and the memories these people shared with him. Sorry to say but I truly feel you are the one that has not moved on.

  36. BJ

    Rest in peace Johnny. I know that you are in the hands of God. I will never forget you. You are a part of why I am the woman I am today.

  37. mary.roby

    Just heard about Johnny’s death, Iam also a fan from the 1970’s, loved all your music, may angel love be with you, xxxx,from Mary R….

  38. Lamar Thomas

    I happened to work with John in the united states and in England. As a point of fact I produced and wrote several of the songs on his last commercial recording, “Come to Me”
    To say that Johnny was my friend is truly, to say that we were always friendly is not so true. We are all complex human beings and Johnny was no less that. But what Johnny was to me and my wife Judy, no one will ever know except me.
    I see so many wonderful words being spoken by so many good people here, I do remember Marilyn and Connie, because you both were a huge part of his life and his world.
    To his children, your dad was a great human being, and that was the human being that I knew. Perhaps he was different for you. Connie, as you and i have talked many times, I know what he shared with you and to him it was special.
    Johnny and i stood side by side in the recording studio in New York, Detroit and in England and other parts of the UK. I still feel his presence and we learned so much as men that we were willing to share amongst one another.
    I wrote a song on Johnny’s last album, “He’s waiting on you” should any one out there have a copy, please send it to me.
    So long John.
    Lamar and Judy

  39. SANDY

    IN NH

  40. jm

    Late to discover Johnny’s great work. “That’s How Love Goes” spins every morning when I wake up – such a great song! From the lovely things you all have said, it makes me respect the man even that much more.

  41. Marilyn Holmes

    I have a copy of the record He’s waiting on you.
    if you posted an address I can send you a copy.
    I come to this site periodically when I,m
    missing Johnny. It does my heart good to read all
    all the wonderful things people have to say
    about him. Johnny was a very complex person at
    time but as you know he had a really tender
    place for for the peope he loved.

  42. WarpedRecord

    Johnny should have been a bigger star, but his music will live on in our hearts, minds and souls. “Hang On in There Baby” is beautiful, sensual, and better than anything being recorded these days. Thanks for the great music, Johnny!

  43. Brenda Bristol Logan

    My name is Brenda Bristol Logan, Johnny Bristol was my cousin. The first time I heard of Johnny was when he made The Bristol Stomp, that’s when me and my siblings learned that he was from Marganton not very far from where we lived. He have relatives in Rutherford County NC, that’s where I live.
    My brother’s grandson is 13 yrs old and he is fascinated with Johnny’s music. I am sorry that the family here in this part of NC didn’t get to know him. My brother is searching for the Bristol Roots and he found out about another great talent in our family, Charles E Bristol and he is also from Marganton NC. I hope they got to know each other, I regret not getting to know him. I would like to hear from his wife and children, I know he has one son Johnny Bristol Jr.

  44. K. Bristol

    I miss my Dad and think of him EVERY day. Reading the nearly four years of blog postings above, is touching and truly keeps his memory alive to the world. I enjoy reading the many ways he has touched the lives of so many in a positive way. He gave a lot of love, and could have taught classes on how to treat a lady. He had class and style. His legacy will live on through his wonderful gift of music.

  45. wawerka

    Here, in Hungary Johnny is a rare listened singer.
    I like him very-very much, especially Hang On In There, Baby. It’s a masterpiece.
    Oh, Johnny, so long. You are living on in our hearts. Petz Nándor; Budapest — Hungary

  46. Brian Anthony

    I am hoping this will posted still. Johnny is long gone but I am male singer who just wants to honor a male singer who was damn ruggedly handsome as well as a great songwriter & SINGER! I don’t know how much his vocals are given credit but they are utterly impressive. My favorite Bristol song which calls to mind my dear deceased mother who had a taste for the cream as well & basically launched my appetite, is “LOVE TO HAVE A CHANCE TO TASTE THE WINE” next to “She Came Into My Life” & of course “Do it to My Mind” This song’s bitter sweet classic ballad feel driven by this man’s passionate, and uncommonly endearing country twang style of singing, ad to that his masculine tenor(?) wailing, that soulful organ solo, the sweet sexy yet dignified play on words that you rarely find these days with the crude lyrics of our creative young…just a breathtaking a powerfully touching song just….”takes you home” as they used to say! what a memorable song what a tender man what an incredible talent!! Brother Johnny Bless me with your spirit I’d like to carry on this enigma that is your all around package a fine brother with a beautiful soul!!! Oh thank you Jesus/God “Do it to my mind” soul & voice & being brother Johnny Bristol!

  47. jag lully

    Johnny Bristol touched our hearts & soul in the U.K. – Don t keep Your Distance , is my personal favourite .Your music – Hang on in their Baby & Love no Longer Has A Hold on Me & Junior Walkers What Does It Take to Win Your Love Back are still being played this very moment in my room – to a younger generation
    A great fan of T.S.O.P Gamble & Huff 1970s – England .
    We Lurveee Ya Johnny (R.I.P)

  48. Anne

    I’m from South Carolina and love to shag to Johnny Bristol — “Love No Longer Has a Hold on Me.” Recentl a friend gave me “Man Up In The Sky,” and I truly love that song.
    I also did not that he had passed — his music will, however, live on and on and on.
    Thanks Johnny!

  49. Linda Evans

    I just learned of Johnny’s death today as I was trying to reconnect with him… and I am so, so, sorry to learn of his passing. I had the pleasure of working with Johnny on Bristol’s Creme and a few other projects. He was truly a class act and an incredible man. Rest in peace my friend. I will always love you!
    Linda Evans

  50. Lamar Thomas

    I did not get your message about Johnny’s album with He’s waiting on you, until now, tonight, @ 1:09 PM (October 19). I guess that I only come here when I miss Johnny. Otherwise there is sadness here for me.
    Email me and I will send you my home address.
    Peace and Goodwill
    Lamar Thmas

  51. Janice McGowan

    Johnny Bristol was one of a kind. Just when everything seems like it can get no worse, I play this song and it seems as if his spirit uplifts my spirit. I didn’t have the pleasure of knowing him personally as many of those who have posted messages. I wish I could have.

  52. Lady Kat

    Yes! I love this romantic song…My mother use to play it all of the time…outside of Johnny gifts..he was an attractive man and gifted in the Motown Era!

  53. fred hosback

    i find it hard to believe johnny has been gone so many years now i still play his albums over and over is there anybody out there with any news as to if maybe the album he was working on at the time of his death might be released in the near future would in that be great heres hoping

  54. Rhonda

    I have loved Mister Bristol since I was a kid. His music is wonderful. When I was young I said I was going to marry him. I listen to his music everyday. I heard about his passing a few years ago, but I did not no about this page. I was just looking to see if there was an obituary for him. My favorite song of his is You and I, then Do it to my mind. I listen to it every day all day. Thank you all for sharing your thoughts and time that you had with him. If his last album come out I will be looking for it.

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