... he was 48 when he died on March 16, 1993.
Johnny Cymbal was not his made-up stage name. At a young age, he was adopted by his mother's second husband, Nick Cymbal, who was a Polish national and a member of the Free Polish Forces stationed in Scotland during World War II. John, who always spoke of Nick as his father, took his surname, and became John Hendry Cymbal.
Johnny Cymbal was born in Ochitree, Scotland and named John Hendry Blair. When Johnny was seven or eight years old, the family moved from Scotland to Goderich, Ontario, Canada, and later to Cleveland, Ohio.
Growing up outside Toronto and then Cleveland, during the genesis of rock and roll, Johnny (who was a fan of, and heavily influenced by, Elvis Presley) became fixated on music and quickly taught himself guitar. He began writing his own songs and singing at the age of 13.
When he was 15, he was discovered by Cleveland music entrepreneur, Sid Lawrence, who brought him to the attention of the well-connected Philadelphia radio personality, Jack Gale. Gale negotiated a recording contract for Cymbal with MGM, and in 1960, at the age of 15, Johnny did his first two sessions, in Nashville, singing his own compositions; "Always Always" and "The Water Was Red." When neither song charted, Johnny's contract option was not picked up by MGM.
At that time, according to Gale, he became both Johnny's manager and legal guardian, and John went to live with Jack Gale and his wife, Lovey, in Philadelphia. John worked in a shoe store as a salesman during this time, while he continued writing songs and Gale sought another recording deal.
Gale was able to get Johnny several one-shot releases on various labels and he soon charted with "Bachelor Man," a demo released in 1963. Kapp gave Johnny an album deal and in December 1962, John recorded his self-penned, "Mr. Bass Man" with Ronnie Bright from The Valentines doing the bass voice.
"Mr. Bass Man," became an instant worldwide smash, going to #16 in the U.S., #1 in Japan and Argentina, Top 5 in England. It was recorded with French lyrics by Henri Salvador and released in France as "Monsieur Boum Boum"; with different french lyrics, it was released as "Monsieur La Basse" by Gilles Brown in Quebec, Canada. "Mr. Bass Man" continues to receive radio airplay and sell records after 40 years.
John was soon signed by The William Morris Agency and began personal appearances throughout the Northeast and then to Europe and Japan after completing his first LP for Kapp. He was 18 years old.
"Dum Dum De Dum," the July 1963 follow-up release to "Mr. Bass Man," did not do well, nor did his next record "Teenage Heaven." The inability to maintain his success was naturally discouraging to Cymbal, who ."..would lock himself in his room for hours."
First and foremost, Johnny Cymbal thought of himself as a songwriter; throughout his life he kept diaries of ideas and notes for future use. By 1966, he devoted his time to songwriting. Although he continued to make records as a singer throughout his career, most of those recordings were released under recording pseudonyms including "Brother John," "Derek," "The Eye-Full Tower," "Dallas" and "The Non-Conformists," among many others.
A prolific composer, Johnny has a catalog of over 200 published songs. in addition to his rock and roll anthem, "Mr. Bass Man," he was responsible for hit records including: "Teenage Heaven," "Cinnamon," "Mary In The Morning," "Rock Me Baby" and "I'm Drinking Canada Dry."
During his career he wrote alone and with many partners, including: CMA Hall Of Famer Charlie Black; Austin Roberts of "I.O.U." fame; Mark Sameth; multiple CMA award winner Gene Pistilli; Nashville writer David Malloy; Bill Holmes, and Peggy Clinger.
With Michael Rashkow as his co-writer, he penned smash hit and BMI Million Performance Award Winner, "Mary In The Morning." With that song, John attained a lifetime ambition - to have one of his compositions recorded by Elvis Presley.
Cymbal's songs have been recorded by numerous artists inb addition to Elvis: Glen Campbell, Gene Pitney, Al Martino, The Partridge Family, Spencer Davis Group, Frankie Ford, The Flying Burrito Brothers, Eddy Arnold, Ed Ames, Adam Wade, Aaron Tippen, Mike Curb, Jan and Dean, Trini Lopez and David Cassidy, among others.
In 1983, he placed songs on the movie soundtracks of Tender Mercies starring Robert Duvall and Tough Enough starring Dennis Quaid.
He died in his sleep of a heart attack on March 16, 1993 at the age of 48.