Johnson was born in Enterprise, Alabama but raised in Montgomery, Alabama. From an early age, he was influenced by country acts such as Alabama and Alan Jackson, the latter of whom he claims is the first act that he saw in concert. Johnson, after graduating high school, attended Jacksonville State University, the same university from which Alabama lead singer Randy Owen graduated.
Johnson then quit college after two years, and served in the the Marine Corps Reserves for eight years. After exiting the Marines, he began playing country music in various bars throughout Montgomery; one of his first gigs was opening for David Allan Coe. By 2000, Johnson had moved to Nashville, Tennessee in pursuit of a career in country music. One of his first connections was with Greg Perkins, a fiddler who had played for Tanya Tucker and other artists. Perkins invited Johnson to sing as a duet partner on a demo tape; the other duet partner with whom he sang was Gretchen Wilson. Songs for which Johnson sang demos include „Songs About Me“ (cut by Trace Adkins) and „That’s How They Do It in Dixie“ (cut by Hank Williams, Jr. with Big & Rich, Gretchen Wilson, and Van Zant).
In addition, Johnson had made connections with producer and songwriter Buddy Cannon, who helped him land a songwriting contract. Among Johnson’s first cuts as a songwriter was „Honky Tonk Badonkadonk“, which Adkins cut for his 2005 album Songs About Me and released as a single.
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