When the song, “Johnny Angel,” reached the top of Billboard’s U.S. record charts on April 7, 1962, no one could have predicted that the song (written by Lyn Duddy and Lee Pockriss) originally made famous by Shelley Fabares (from “The Donna Reed Show”), would morph into monumental fame again, 50 years later, deep in the heart of Texas. Then again, no one should underestimate the loyalty and devotion of those who love Texas A&M University and are die-hard Texas Aggie athletics fans. There’s another Johnny considered special, 19-year-old Texas native, Johnny Manziel.
Thanks to Aggie football fan Lisa Vasquez Roper of Houston, there’s an updated version of that song on YouTube, with special lyrics devoted to Manziel, which has achieved over 112,000 views since being posted November 16th. In an interview today, Mrs. Roper explained what brought her to writing, recording and posting the song, which has achieved such great response on YouTube. It’s been a fun view “while you wait” during the Aggies’ watch for official announcement of Heisman candidates. Aggieland is definitely home of Manziel Mania, and Mrs. Roper has a winner with her video.
She describes herself as “an Aggie sweetheart, married to a 3rd-generation Aggie (which is how every proud Aggie describes their family heritage). Her husband, Carter Roper ’78, grew up going to Aggie football games as a child; both Mr. and Mrs. Roper were born and grew up in Houston, where they still reside.
For the unforgettable matchup of Texas A&M against Alabama, the Ropers had “gone to San Antonio to join friends in a sports bar full of Aggies; it was really exciting!” On the way home they were tuned into Sirius Radio’s classic channel “60’s on 6” and Cousin Brucie (radio Hall of Fame DJ Bruce Morrow) played “Johnny Angel.” So, there, in the car, Mrs. Roper listened to the song: “I thought it would be clever to change the name to ‘Johnny Football’ and play around with the lyrics. I worked on it for a couple of nights and after a couple of takes, my husband and I recorded it on a Flip Video Camera.” At that point, “going viral” was the last thing on her mind.
“We uploaded the video to YouTube, thinking we would share with family and friends who know of my affinity for song,” said Mrs. Roper. Little did they dream that what was just “a little silliness to highlight a really great A&M football season where everyone said we could not compete and that our first year in the SEC would be awful” would have over 112,000 views on YouTube in seven days.
But, Aggies are known for their devotion to their school, to each other, and to Aggie athletics, particularly if it’s football. As the Heisman watch continues it’s fun to have some soundtrack to accompany the ever-growing legend of Johnny Manziel as “Johnny Football.” To be clear, as Manziel humbly stated yesterday in his first live press conference, “I don’t see myself as Johnny Football.” Besides, that term has been overused by every sports reporter and blogger across the country. “Johnny Angel” just has a nice ring to it, and to the Aggie fans who already think he hung the moon, it just fits.
Mrs. Roper has done a clever job with the custom lyrics, and the video is respectful of both the song and the player, and most importantly the entire Texas A&M football team and coaching staff, many of whose names don’t always get mentioned. Those who listened carefully to young Manziel’s words yesterday heard, directly from him, that “any one of his team members could be equally up there in his position, and that without them he wouldn’t be there.” His recognition of his team and coaches is even more appreciated when it comes from a modest young man, who is now part of the Aggie football legend for another 50 years to come, with or without a Heisman trophy in the case.
Lisa Vasquez Roper was just having some fun, inspired by a classic rock song of the 60s, from a day and time when life was simpler, when young kids didn’t have much to worry about, except what to do on a Saturday night. When it’s fall in Aggieland, every Texas Aggie fan knows what to do on a Saturday afternoon. It’s been a splendid welcome to the SEC this year, thanks to head coach Kevin Sumlin, offense coach Kliff Kingsbury, and Tivy High School coach, Mark Smith, and of course, Johnny Manziel.
Check out Lisa Vasquez Roper’s video here. It’s still a great song, 50 years later, and now it has innovative new Aggie-fied lyrics to go with it. Gig ‘em, Johnny Angel!