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Johnny "Happy" Valentine
Born in East Tennessee in 1957, Johnny "Happy" Valentine is a musician, artist, and teacher based in Houston. Known for his upbeat sense of humor and lyrics, he is a protégé of Jimmie Dale Gilmore of the Flatlanders and a beloved “Old-Timer” in Gilmore’s songwriting circles at the Omega Institute in Rhinebeck, N.Y.
Valentine, nicknamed “Happy” as a young inner-city teacher by students and colleagues, "is one of the most aptly named people I know," said actor-singer Gilmore ("Big Lebowski"). And musically, "he's one of those hidden treasures."
A master of country, folk and Americana, songwriter-guitarist Valentine’s credits include field recordings of folk, aleatoric, and traditional compositions. In his early years, he played campfires at the old Kerrville Festivals, including Camp Stupid, a circle of Houston- based musicians. His guitar of choice is his Martin DM 12, although he owned and played numerous string instruments.
After a three-year stint in the U.S. Air Force and completing a Millwright apprenticeship, (his family craft) Valentine studied music theory and ear training at San Jacinto College. He later concentrated on voice and conducting at Sam Houston State University.
At the advice of a friend, Valentine applied to and was accepted at Texas A&M University in 1995. There he earned a Bachelor of Music while working as a stagehand and recording technician.
After graduation, Valentine became director of the Southmore Middle School Department of Music, directing choral and string ensembles. He then directed and taught choir, popular music, and music history for seven successful seasons at Edison Middle School on Houston’s historic East Side. Valentine later completed the first of the three levels of Kodály certification at Southwest Texas State in San Marcos, Texas.
After undergoing cancer treatments in 2006, "Happy" noticed subtle losses in tactile acuity and coordination in his hands. This led to a diagnosis of Spinal Myelopathy, a consequence of radiotherapy. He was soon unable to "grab" chords on his beloved Martin 12-string or roll out arpeggios on a piano. Undaunted, the upbeat guitarist - known for playing thick or heavy flat pick textures and delicate slide melodies (think “Bumblebee Blue”) -- channeled his creativity into graphic arts and process theory. While he continues physical therapy and rehabilitation, he composes and experiments with electronica. One recent ternary composition is called “Going Home."
Buoyed by the love and support of his wife, Diann, family, and friends, Valentine’s joy of life centers on his three adopted grandchildren, extended family, and former students and colleagues. He is currently teaching and consulting privately while channeling screen cowboy Slim Pickens.
By Molly Woulfe