SongsTube Johnny Preston

Song IconJohnny Preston "Running Bear"

About "Running Bear"

"Running Bear" is a teenage tragedy song written by Jiles Perry Richardson (a.k.a. The Big Bopper) and sung most famously by Johnny Preston in 1959. The 1959 recording featured background vocals by George Jones and the session's producer Bill Hall, who provided the "Indian chanting" of "uga-uga" during the three verses, as well as the "Indian war cries" at the start and end of the record. It was No. 1 for three weeks in January 1960 on the Billboard Hot 100 in the United States. The song also reached No. 1 in the UK Singles Chart and New Zealand in 1960. Coincidentally, "Running Bear" was immediately preceded in the Hot 100 No. 1 position by Marty Robbins' "El Paso", and immediately followed by Mark Dinning's "Teen Angel", both of which feature a death of, or affecting, the protagonist. Billboard ranked "Running Bear" as the No. 4 song of 1960. The tenor saxophone was played by Link Davis.Richardson was a friend of Preston and offered "Running Bear" to him after hearing him perform in a club. Preston recorded the song at the Gold Star Studios in Houston, Texas, several months after Richardson's death in the plane crash that also killed Buddy Holly and Ritchie Valens. Preston was signed to Mercury Records, and "Running Bear" was released in August 1959.

"Running Bear" was used in the 1994 movie A Simple Twist of Fate, which stars Steve Martin as Michael McCann, a fine furniture maker in rural Virginia, who adopts a little girl named Mathilda. There is a scene about midway through the movie where he plays "Running Bear" on the record player, and he and Mathilda are dancing to the song. The song appears on the soundtrack of 1975's Crazy Mama, and, as performed by Ray Gelato, is featured in the London night-club scene in the film Scandal, based on the Profumo affair.

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