Those who grew up during the 1970s likely remember the hit song “Chevy Van.” Though the tune sat unused on the shelves of a record company for nearly two years before being released in 1975, it was an impressive success, reaching number five on the Billboard Hot 100 chart.
The song remained on the chart for 17 weeks and was eventually deemed “The Song of the Seventies” by Rolling Stone. It was even credited with an increase in van sales the following year.
But less well-known than the song itself is the artist. Who wrote “Chevy Van,” and whatever happened to him?
Life and Death of Sammy Johns
Sammy Johns, the artist who wrote and recorded “Chevy Van,” did not have any further hit records. He did, however, write songs that went gold for other artists, including “America,” by Waylon Jennings.
The song “Chevy Van” is known for celebrating the free-wheeling lifestyle of the seventies, but that lifestyle may have led to problems for Johns as the years went by; Johns had publicized battles with alcohol and drugs, and was married and divorced several times.
In an interview in the year 2000, Johns was asked to assess his life in the music business. He responded that it, “was painful at times, but never boring.”
Or, you could go the speedy route in the fastest 2020 Chevy Camaro.
Did Sammy Johns release any music after “Chevy Van?”
Sammy Johns continued to record and release music after “Chevy Van,” but none reached anywhere near the same level of success as that hit. As noted above, he did have success writing songs for other artists.
Johns’ final album was released as a new CD in the early 2000s. He also made an appearance at the Grand Ol’ Opry around the same time.
These days, they say that Ford makes the perfect family van.
Is Sammy Johns still alive?
No. Sammy Johns died on January 4th, 2013 at Gaston Memorial Hospital in Gastonia, North Carolina. He was 66 years old.