Famous Last Words: “It’s Okay! Gun’s not Loaded…See?”


John Marshall Alexander Jr. a.ka. “Johnny Ace” was a rhythm-and-blues singer in the 1950s. He was born in Memphis, Tennessee and was the song of a preacher. For a time, he served the U.S. Navy during the Korean War but after his service he decided to focus on his music. He joined Adolph Duncan’s band as pianist and then later the B.B. King band with Bobby Bland. When Bobby Bland joined the army, the B.B. King band headed for Los Angeles. With the loss of their singer, Johnny Ace took over singing for the band and renamed the band the Beale Streeters. Johnny also took over the King’s radio show on WDIA.

He later took on the name Johnny Ace and signed to Duke Records in 1952 at the age of 22. His very first song “My Song” topped the R &B chart for nine weeks in September 1952. It would later be covered by Aretha Franklin. With the success of his first single he started touring all over, many times with Willie Mae Thornton. For two years his career only grew in success with 8 hits in a row it seemed like he could do no wrong. He was named the most Programmed Artist of 1954 according to a poll of disc jockeys conducted by Cash Box.

In 1955, it was announced that three of his 1954 recordings along with Thornton’s Hound Dog sold 175,000 copies. And his song “Pledging All my Love” was a number 1 hit for 10 weeks and has been widely recorded by artists like Elvis Presley and David Allen Coe. But Johnny Ace never saw the success of this song as it was released after his death.

Read on to see just what caused the famous singer to utter his famous last words.