Imagine going through life knowing when – and how – you were going to die.
Well apparently country singer Johnny Horton did just that, and even predicted how he would die just weeks before his passing.
Johnny Horton got his start writing songs while in Alaska looking for gold during the late 1940s. And after moving back to Texas and winning a talent competition, Horton decided to move to California to pursue a career in music.
While regularly appearing on the Louisiana Hayride radio show (the smaller version of the Grand Ole Opry), Horton racked up hits with songs like “Honky Tonk Man” (which would later become a hit for Dwight Yoakam as his debut single in 1986), “I’m a One Woman Man” (a song that George Jones would go on to record twice in his career, becoming a hit for Possum in the 1980s), “The Battle of New Orleans” and “North to Alaska.”
But in 1960, Horton knew something bad was about to happen. He went to see his friend, singer and songwriter Merle Kilgore, and wanted to give Kilgore his guitar.
According to Kilgore’s son Stephen, his dad told him about the meeting with Horton, where he told Horton that he couldn’t accept the guitar because it was the one Horton played on stage every night.
But Horton insisted, and told Kilgore that he had a vision that he was going to die, so he wanted to say goodbye to all of his friends. Horton even predicted that he would die at the hands of a drunk.
Kilgore took the guitar, and told Johnny that they should come up with a secret code so that Kilgore would know if Johnny ever tried to contact him from beyond the grave.
A week after the meeting, Horton was killed in a car crash – after being hit head-on by a drunk driver, fulfilling Horton’s prophecy that he would die at the hands of a drunk.
But that’s not where the story ends. Years later, Kilgore was visiting his friend and radio announcer Bob Lockwood, who was covering a baseball game that had been rained out in Cincinnati.
Lockwood introduced Kilgore on-air, and they played a brand new song that Kilgore had written for Johnny Cash with June Carter: “Ring of Fire.”
After the song wrapped up, they received a call from a group of psychics, who claimed that during a recent meeting they had received a strange message meant for a name they didn’t recognize.
Well that name was Merle Kilgore, which meant nothing to them at the time because they weren’t country music fans, but when they heard Kilgore on the radio they called in to deliver the message that they received from beyond the grave: “The drummer is a rummer and he can’t hold the beat.”
Kilgore was floored. As it turns out, Horton hated musicians who drank on the job. So the secret code that Horton and Kilgore had come up with in case Johnny had tried to contact him after he passed away?
“The drummer is a rummer and he can’t hold the beat.”
Check out the whole story from our friend Dillon Weldon on TikTok: