Johnny Dee, the band founder, leader and front-man for Johnny Dee and the Rocket 88's, passed away on Monday evening at approximately 6:30PM after arriving home from a weekly treatment at an Austin dialysis treatment center. Dee's real name is Keith Landers he was 60 years old and was a 1969 graduate of Abilene High School. Dee had resided in Austin for the past 40 plus years. Johnny Dee and the Rocket 88's were still performing regularly, mostly on weekends all over the state.

Johnny Dee & the Rocket 88s

He was known throughout the Lone Star State as the "coolest guy ever." I once described him as "too hip for the room" because he could control the vibe in the air wherever he played. Johnny Dee and the Rocket 88's played here in west Texas quite a bit during the 80's and 90's with their 1950's jump-jive sock-hop swing. There were many "Cruise Nights" when Johnny Dee and the Rocket 88's were the main attraction. As the band played you could feel the air jump and move in a very heavy rhythmic swing, putting everyone within ear shot into the "Johnny Dee trance." You couldn't help it but you would first start tapping you toes, then, the full boogie was on and everybody danced.


Johnny Dee and his Rocket 88's were also the stars of a campaign for the Texas Department of Transportation. The public service TV announcements were, "Don't Mess With Texas" an anti-litter campaign that ran for many years with the band as the pitchmen. As you watch the videos, one is reminded how much of an entertainer Johnny Dee was and when you take into account the number of wardrobe and set changes they did, just for one show, it's no wonder they will always remain the best 50's-style rock and roll band ever in my book. My fondest memory was the year that Johnny Dee and the Rocket 88's and Wolfman Jack both came and performed at our Cruise Night.

So what is your fondest memory of Johnny Dee and the Rocket 88's?

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