North Texas country music icon Johnnie High dies

Johnnie High, maker of music and maker of stars in North Texas, died Wednesday. He was 80.

High was known for Johnnie High’s County Music Review, which was in its 36th year, a family member said. Hundreds of country music fans spent most of their Saturday nights at Johnnie High's Opry-style shows.

High started in Grapevine, moved to Fort Worth, then to Haltom City for five years, and then moved to Arlington for the past 15 years, his granddaughter Ashley Smith said Wednesday night.

About three years ago, High teamed up with Burk Collins, a real-estate developer and country singer, to create Center Street Station in Arlington, with the Johnnie High Review as its jewel.

"He was quite an icon in the country music business," Collins said. "He was so well known that everyone considered it an honor to sing on his stage. (LeAnn) Rimes did 560 shows with Johnnie High."

High's country music show began in 1974, when he and dance teacher Chisai Childs of Fort Worth bought and refurbished Grapevine's Palace Theatre. Five years later, Childs moved to Branson, and High opened his Saturday night show at Will Rogers Memorial Center in Fort Worth. The show stayed there for 13 years, until the building was closed because of asbestos contamination.

The show's home since 1990 has been Shannon Auditorium. In 1995, High bought an old movie theater and created the Arlington Music Hall, which is now a part of Center Street Station.

Staff writer Shirley Jinkins contributed to this report, which contains material from Star-Telegram archives.

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