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Man who used his songs to promote racism



Johnny Rebel is a name that evokes a spectrum of emotions, from curiosity to unease. This American singer, songwriter and musician left an indelible mark on the world of music, albeit for reasons that extend beyond the melodies he crafted.

This piece unravels the complexities behind the controversial artist who garnered attention for both his musical prowess and the contentious themes that surrounded his work.

Johnny Rebel biography

Johnny Rebel play the guitar

Clifford Joseph Trahan (September 25, 1938 – September 3, 2016), better known by his stage names, Johnny Rebel and Pee Wee Trahan, was an American singer, songwriter and musician who performed songs that expressed support for white supremacy and racist views.

Rebel was born in Moss Bluff, Louisiana. His music often glorified the Confederate flag and expressed strong anti-African American sentiments. His lyrics contained derogatory language and racial slurs, perpetuating harmful stereotypes and inciting division.

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Some of the songs produced by Johnny Rebel are characterised by their explicit and inflammatory content. These songs openly targeted black individuals and propagated messages of racial superiority. It is important to emphasise that these songs are offensive and have been widely criticised for promoting hate speech.

Rebel’s music emerged during a time when racial tensions in the United States were high, particularly in the South. He remarked that he had valid rationales for composing songs that might superficially appear “racist.”

The singer from Louisiana often asserted that he held no regard for anyone’s skin colour. His principal concern centred around the adverse attitudes directed toward white individuals. He believed that individuals of black ethnicity had not fully moved beyond their painful historical past and consequently distanced themselves from any rapport with white people.

He also acknowledged that this animosity was reciprocated. His viewpoints were explored in a 2015 Canadian documentary, titled: “Acadie noir et blanc.” He contended that he resonated with the sentiments shared by many in his vicinity during that period. Similarly, his overtly racist perspectives have diminished over time.

Johnny Rebel retired in 1985 but still occasionally took to the stage to perform.

He passed away in September 2016 in Rayne, Louisiana.

Johnny Rebel career

Johnny Rebel flaunting a plaque

As a result of his friendship with his cousin and record producer J. D. “Jay” Miller, Rebel recorded several country songs under the pseudonym “Tommy Todd”. Those songs failed to find success commercially, so Rebel relocated to Nashville, Tennessee, to record with Todd Records, a newly established label. He developed a friendship with Murray Nash, a songwriter for the country music artist George Morgan, and cut four songs for Todd Records before the label went out of business in 1964.

A 45 RPM record of Lookin’ for a Handout and Kajun Ku Klux Klan was Rebel’s debut release, the fifth for the Reb Rebel label. More tracks were soon produced by him for the label, including Nigger, Nigger, Coon Town and Who Likes a Nigger?, Nigger Hatin’ Me, Still Looking for a Handout, Some Niggers Never Die (They Just Smell That Way), Stay Away from Dixie and Move Them Niggers North.

Few of Rebel’s songs address subjects besides race. These exceptions include (Federal Aid Hell!) The Money Belongs to Us, which is critical of U.S. federal aid programnes, and Keep a-Workin’ Big Jim, which is about the efforts of Louisiana district attorney Jim Garrison to solve the John F. Kennedy assassination. Later, Reb Rebel Records released two of these songs on an album titled for segregationists only.

The Canadian recording of Jimmy C. Newman’s rendition of Rebel’s song “Lâche pas la patate” (sometimes referred to as “The Potato Song”) was made in 1974.

Rebel’s songs achieved some level of popularity in certain Southern juke joints, although they never received airplay on the radio. Over time, Trahan mostly moved on from this venture. However, with the advent of the Internet, Rebel experienced a renewed wave of fame.

In 2001, Rebel enlisted the help of fan Brad Herman as his new manager. He proceeded to record and release a new track, titled: Infidel Anthem, which conveyed the notion of America taking decisive action against Osama bin Laden following the events of September 11, 2001. This song gained attention after Rebel made an appearance on “The Howard Stern Show”, during which he promoted the song.

Rebel severed ties with Herman but still managed to release two albums in 2003.

A compilation CD of his works simply displays an image of a hooded member of the Ku Klux Klan alongside a depiction of the Confederate battle flag. The cover of the album It’s the Attitude, Stupid! showcases a hooded Klansman holding an MP3 player adorned with a Confederate flag design and wearing headphones.

Rebel claims that he only ever gave one Johnny Rebel song a performance. He claimed that while performing in Kaplan, Louisiana, a member of the audience asked for a Rebel song. He complied after making sure there were no black individuals present.

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Johnny Rebel Songs

Here are some of the songs Rebel has released:

  • “Alabama Nigger”
  • “Nigger Hatin’ Me”
  • “Who Likes a Nigger?”
  • “Kajun Ku Klux Klan”
  • “Still Looking for a Handout”
  • “Coon Town”
  • “In Coon Town”
  • “Some Niggers Never Die (They Just Smell That Way)”
  • “Stay Away from Dixie”
  • “Ship Those Niggers Back”
  • “Move Them Niggers North”
  • “Johnny Reb”
  • “I’m a Good Old Rebel”

Johnny Rebel’s Net Worth

According to reports, Rebel was said to have had a net worth of $2 million at the time of his death.

Johnny Rebel Family

Rebel is the son of Elizabeth Breaux Taylor and Homer Trahan. After his parents divorced, he moved with his mother to Crowley, Louisiana, where he developed an interest in music and was gifted his first guitar at the age of 12. He graduated from Crowley High School in 1956.

Rebel was married just once. He and his wife, Ann, enjoyed 56 years of partnership and became parents to four children: Raye, Randal, Rhonda, and Rhett.

The singer harboured scepticism about being in the public gaze. As a result, there are limited family specifics and visuals accessible to the media. The late country musician purportedly passed on ownership of his driving school to his son in 2008.

Johnny Rebel age

Rebel was born on September 25, 1938. He died on September 3, 2016, at the age of 78.

Johnny Rebel Instagram

Johnny Rebel did not have an active presence on Instagram while he was alive.

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