Johns took up the guitar at the age of nine and had his own band called the Devilles while a teen. In 1973, he moved to Atlanta where he was signed to General Recording Corporation who released his first single, the minor hit Early Morning Love (1974/#68 Pop/#79 Country). It was during this time that he also recorded his story of a one-night stand in the back of a van, but the company chose not to release it.
Chevy Van finally saw the light of day two years later via GRC Records and it went up to number 5 in the U.S., giving Johns a gold record.
Johns continued to record for labels like New World Records and Elektra, but it was his songs and not his recordings that were key for the rest of his life. Among his many songs that were hits by other were Common Man (John Conlee), America (Waylon Jennings) and Desperado Love (Conway Twitty).
On a personal level, Johns had battles with both alcohol and drugs and was married several times. He is survived by a sister.