Ernie Johnson, half of the soul duo, Eddie & Ernie, was born on the 22nd October 1943 in Lubbock, Texas. His family were steeped in Gospel music, so his early life was very much involved around the church, and he joined, becoming the youngest member, a gospel group called the Crusaders.
His family moved to Phoenix, where he first met and struck up a friendship with Eddie Campbell. Together they became members of a secular group called the All Stars. Their first venture into a recording studio came when they were offered the chance to do background vocals for Isaac Worley, a release credited to Little Worley & The Drops. As Eddie and Ernie they began doing local gigs, particularly the Zanzibar club in Phoenix, and writing together. Their compositions being picked up by Jackie Wilson, Jean Stanback, Dee Clark, and James Carr to name a few.
In 1963 as Eddie & Ernie they made their first recording for the Nightingale label 'It's A Weak Man That Cries' which was leased to Checker records. Further releases followed on a variety of labels including, Tomorrow, Shazam, Chess, Columbia, and Buddah. Occasionally there would be forays under different names, in 1964 the New Bloods, and in 1971 they became a group called Phoenix Express. Their greatest success came during a spell on Eastern Records with 'Time Waits For No One' which was regionally a big hit, and made a brief showing in the R&B billboard top 100. On the strength of this the duo are booked for shows at the Apollo Theatre, appearing along side the Temptations, Gene Chandler, Impressions and Wilson Pickett.
Despair of ever breaking into the big time took a toll on their partnership, and they slowly drifted apart. In 1967 Johnson released a solo record on Artco 'I Can't Stop The Pain' b/w the duo's composition that Dee Clark hit with 'In These Very Tender Moments'. End of solo career.
In 1970 the pair got together once more and recorded some material for LA's Revue label without any success. A California club owner Al Reed was putting a house band together and invited Eddie and Ernie to join. Phoenix Express, an eight-piece combo was born, although recordings were cut nothing was released.
Campbell died in July 1994 after which Johnson slowly disappeared from the music scene and into bouts of depression. He was later discovered doing Karaoke and living rough in Phoenix. He died 20 August 2005, the victim of a hit and run driving accident.
The Ace/Kent anthology LOST FRIENDS released in 2002 is worth seeking out, an excellent retrospective overview of their career.