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Author Topic:  John Peter Bonvillain
Joe Rogers

Lafayette, LA USA
Post Posted 21 Nov 2017 11:51 am     Reply with quote

I just read this in the New Orleans Times Picayune today.

Not many steel guitar players can say they backed Elvis, Marty Robbins and Hank Williams.

Rest In Peace.

Joe Rogers
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Mitch Drumm

Frostbite Falls, hard by Veronica Lake
Post Posted 21 Nov 2017 12:17 pm     Reply with quote

That is sad news.

He's not well known, but was a major inspiration to Tom Morrell and I'm sure others after being heard on radio out of New Orleans in the early 50s. No doubt John Hughey heard him as well. I get the feeling his steel playing was mostly for live performances rather than in recording studios.

Here's a bio I found a few years ago and some pictures. I think I met him at his music/record shop in Gretna around 1970, but I had no idea of his steel background at the time.

John Peter Bonvillain was born on November 26, 1931, in Ashland, Louisiana, raised in Houma and New Orleans, and now resides in Gretna, Louisiana.

He's been playing steel guitar for 61 years. His first job was with Irvin Tuttle and has played with many bands around New Orleans, Houma, and in Mississippi.

He played on WWL radio with Bill Cason from 1948 til 1955 and at that time recorded with many bands at the Blue Room of the Roosevelt (Fairmont) Hotel. He wrote and played on the Dr. Tishner commercial, and made the first Charman Tissue commercial at WDSU radio.

He has played with Elvis Presley, Marty Robbins, Hank Williams, Tex Williams, Sam Butera, Joe Jones, Barbara Lynn, Johnny Horton, Jeannie Pruett, Little Jimmy Dickens, Russ "C.J. Cheramie" Wayne, Vin Bruce, Leroy Martin, Russ Russell, and Billy Fayard.

He also wrote and recorded songs for "Gyp the Jitter Bug" and Russ Wayne (aka C.J. Cheramie,) and recorded on Capitol records.

Mr. Bonvillain played just about every club on the Westbank. He wrote and recorded campaign songs for Vernon Wilty, Assessor of Jefferson Parish, Jack Riley, Sheriff of St. Bernard Parish, and played and campaigned for Earl K. Long, Governor of Louisiana.

From 1963 till the present, Mr. Bonvillain has taught music and operates his music store located on Lafayette Street in Gretna, Louisiana.

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Herb Steiner

Spicewood TX 78669
Post Posted 21 Nov 2017 2:31 pm     Reply with quote

Morrell told me that Johnny Bonvillain was the closest you could get to sounding like Joaquin Murphey. I've never heard him play though, to my knowledge anyway.
Herb's Steel Guitar Pages
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Allison String Instruments
My rig: Infinity and Telonics.

Son, we live in a world with walls, and those walls have to be guarded by men with steel guitars. Who's gonna do it? You? You, Lt. Weinberg?
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Mitch Drumm

Frostbite Falls, hard by Veronica Lake
Post Posted 21 Nov 2017 2:49 pm     Reply with quote

You can hear him on the above 3 tracks from the 1953-54 era. Unfortunately, straight hillbilly without many fireworks.
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Todd Clinesmith

Lone Rock Free State Oregon
Post Posted 8 Dec 2017 9:26 am     Reply with quote

I have some live recordings of Johnny Bonvillain from some radio shows in the 50's. He was great player. He used a lot of Joaquin's signature licks. I would say, it was not quite as smooth as Joaquin phrasing , but very well executed ideas and phrasing.
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Mike Neer

Post Posted 8 Dec 2017 9:48 am     Reply with quote

Rest in peace, Johnny. A great player.
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Tommy Shown

Denham Springs, La.
Post Posted 8 Dec 2017 2:38 pm     Reply with quote

Cleat Wooley used to talk to me about Johnny all the time, Sad to say another institution of New Orleans music is gone. He used to have a shop on the West bank.
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