Each one had a string tied around it for reins and little Johnny
stick horses every day.
worked like a man
was 12 years old,
Before the morning light
learned horsemanship, integrity and the value of a hard day's work from his
father, who was also named Johnny
Father and son became best friends, confiding in one another, never judging, always understanding.
An honest and sincere man, the elder Johnny
made a living as a rancher, but the family never had a lot of money.
Notwithstanding, Johnny's dad always believed he
was the most fortunate man alive.
The man was everything Johnny
ever wanted to be.
After high school in Shoshone, Johnny attended Idaho State University on a track scholarship.
Following graduation, he became a high school math teacher.
But it wasn't the algebra or geometry that motivated Johnny
"My favorite part of teaching was the counseling," Johnny
"Some kids have come back and said, 'You saved my life because you let me spend time to visit with you.' That is the best thing."
years of teaching, Johnny
competed in local rodeos.
Then, in the fall of 1983, Johnny
began down a new road.
wife divorced and he
"I was too young to have a midlife crisis," he
But in a way, it was.
late 20s, Johnny
knew if he
wanted to follow his
dream of riding horses to rodeo fame, he
was running out of time.
"I figured if I'm going to do this, I gotta do it now.
I wasn't getting any younger," Johnny
hit the professional rodeo circuit, made some money and was on his
early rodeo years, Johnny Urrutia
became simply known as, "Johnny U
met with more adversity when knee, shoulder and wrist injuries forced him into surgery and out of rodeo."Maybe it's good that I didn't know then what I know now because maybe I would have skipped all that adversity and wouldn't have learned a thing," Johnny
During his recovery, Johnny struck a music deal with Dodge Rodeo and became their national representative.
For the next 15 years, Johnny
U and the Dodge Country Band toured the nation 300 days out of the year.
The deal with Dodge catapulted Johnny
U's music career and he
went on to record 10 albums.
His first single, "He's a Cowboy," charted in 1984.
music was especially hot in Europe, where he
had six top-10 songs.
nearly always attracted the best musicians to play in his
Coupled with his
good looks and genuine cowboy charm, it wasn't long before Johnny
U had a loyal fan base.
"It always bothered me to sign autographs," he
Growing up on the ranch in Shoshone, Johnny
had learned to be a real cowboy.
didn't have to pretend, like Alan Jackson, Toby Keith, Kenny Chesney and several other country music stars do.
time in Nashville, that's what set Johnny
U apart from the rest.
a true cowboy singing true cowboy songs.
"Those guys don't have an idea of what it's like to go out and break the ice for the stock cows in the winter, or be on a green broke colt when you're out on the range and it's about to buck you off.
They don't know that side of cowboy life.
Yet, the perception is that they're cowboys.
They can never know what being a cowboy is if they don't feel that adversity."
All the lessons Johnny
had learned on the range as a young cowboy couldn't have prepared him for the unique challenge of playing on the road 300 days of the year.
One night, Johnny
was at the famous Bluebird Café
in Nashville when his old buddy Garth Brooks walked in.
"Yeah, but I don't think I have anything that's worthy," Johnny
I never wanted to be that guy," Johnny
"That guy's got as much money as God and he
can't buy what I've got.
What a price he
has to pay.
And all he
really wants is what I've got."
Around that same time, Johnny
U's dad was critically ill back in Idaho.
desperately wanted to spend time with his
best friend, his
father, while he
still had the chance.
came home to Idaho.
The walls of his
house in Twin Falls are covered with pictures of his
There's a Bible on the coffee table, although Johnny
claims to be more spiritual than religious.
That's why he
was able to make sense of the impending events in his
's dad had a favorite horse named Candy.
When Candy died, Johnny
's dad was heartbroken.
One day, while sick in bed, Dad told Johnny he
dreamed that God told him He
would send Candy down to get him.
The next day, when Johnny
dad's room, he
appeared to be asleep.
Then suddenly, he
sat up, grabbed the bed sheets like they were reins and said, "Whoa Candy!
wrote dozens of songs about his
dad's death because he
agonized so much over losing his
realizes that could have been him, but he's
not looking back.
"I'm where I'm supposed to be," he
life now is busy with family, horses and business, Johnny
is enjoying the adventure.
"I think the most fulfilling thing I could do in my life is take all my adversities and struggles and help younger people," he