Mirriam Johnson (Jessi Colter)
Mirriam Johnson (Jessi Colter)

Mirriam Johnson was an 18-year-old singing Pentacostal preacher’s daughter when Duane Eddy, already an international star, discovered her in their common Phoenix hometown. The Pentacostal preacher was Mirriam Johnson’s mother, but her daughter went in a different direction. Her sister Sharon was the wife of producer Jack Clement, an engineer in the original Sun Studios in Memphis, who introduced her to Duane.

Duane cut four sides with her for Jamie Records in 1960-61. “Young and Innocent” b/w “Lonesome Road” (Jamie 1181) came out in February, 1961. At the time, Duane was cutting his own records for Jamie and wrote “Young and Innocent” with co-writer and Duane’s effective co-producer Larry Knechtel. The New York sessions featured King Curtis on sax. Duane and Mirriam toured and performed together went on to marry on February 7, 1962 in Las Vegas.  

Settling in Los Angeles, as Mirriam Eddy she wrote songs for Nancy Sinatra, Don Gibson and Dottie West. Mirriam divorced Duane Eddy in 1968, moved back to Phoenix, where she met and started working with Waylon Jennings. Their romance too bloomed through music and they were married by the time of her first RCA album release, A Country Star is Born in 1970. Adopting the name Jessi Colter in honor of the outlaw Jess Colter whom she called an ancestor, her career flourished with hits like “I’m Not Lisa” and “What’s Happened to Blue Eyes.” She recorded duets with Waylon Jennings and was part of the first platinum country record, Wanted: The Outlaws in 1976. She is considered the only female hit artist to come out of the outlaw country music scene.


Jamie 1181