Every No. 1 Country Single of the Eighties: Johnny Lee, “Lookin’ For Love”

“Lookin’ For Love”

Johnny Lee

Written by Wanda Mallette, Bob Morrison, and Patti Ryan

Radio & Records

#1 (3 weeks)

September 5 – September 19, 1980


#1 (3 weeks)

September 6 – September 20, 1980

Johnny Lee was born and raised in Texas, and had his own rock and roll band by the time he was in high school. After a stint in the military, he became a mainstay at Mickey Gilley’s night club, where Urban Cowboy was shot.  By the time he contributed to the soundtrack, he’d had a few minor chart hits for an independent label, some of which would be re-released and do quite well in the wake of “Lookin’ For Love.”

There isn’t much to say about “Lookin’ For Love” beyond this: It’s got a great hook, Lee sings it competently, and its connection to Urban Cowboy was enough to make Johnny Lee an A-lister for a couple of years.

Lee doesn’t get in the way of the song, which works to his favor. A more distinctive stylist might have done too much with it and ruined its simplicity, which is the greatest strength of the song itself and the hit recording of it.  It’s one of the defining records of this era, and its association with this particular phase of country music is honestly the most memorable thing about it.

We’ll see Lee again with his next single, as the momentum of this breakthrough hit was enough to make him a radio staple for a few years.

“Lookin’ For Love” gets a B.

Every No. 1 Single of the Eighties

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  1. I’m good friends with Johnny Lee’s brother. Spent time with him yesterday. He shared that despite some health issues, Johnny’s still doing about 2 shows a month at Gilley’s Theater in Branson. He was certainly big in the first half of the 80’s. My favorite of his is the #3 hit “ Picking Up Strangers”

  2. It’s kind of amusing to look back at the whole Urban Cowboy phenomena (or “fad”, for the more cynical) and think how distorted it supposedly made country music seem; and we may now realize that whatever damage, if any, it did wasn’t anywhere close to what the Bromeisters have been doing the last twelve years to it.

    And it’s funny to think that at the time “Lookin’ For Love” was a hit, when it got played on AM Top 40 radio (which was a lot, since it got up to #5 on that chart), it got played alongside, among other songs, “Another One Bites The Dust” by Queen. Now <i?that is a strange musical juxtaposition if ever there was one (IMHO).

    • I’ve been getting a kick out of this being the era where Olivia Newton-John stopped sending anything from her albums to country radio (Xanadu/Physical) and realizing that if she had kept it up, her songs still wouldn’t have sounded out of place at all.

  3. I feel like this is a song everyone knows even if they don’t know who sings it. A song I love to belt out and have even sung at karaoke a few times! I think I like it a bit more than you and would give it an A!

  4. Johnny Lee seldom offended but also rarely inspired any fierce loyalty. A solid ambassador of country music and a steady radio presence, but easy enough to move on from as well.

    I can’t imagine too many people naming him as their favourite country artist.

    All that said, this song is era-defining, if not iconic.

    • @ Peter Agreed. I got a Johnny Lee Greatest Hits album a few years back and like some of the songs but wasn’t crazy about them. This song and “Cherokee Fiddle” are prob my favorites from Johnny.

  5. One other comment I thought I’d share… I’m a fan of “Garden party” by Rick Nelson, he also wrote a version of it called “Country Party”. Johnny Lee recorded it and in 1977 it made it to #15 on BB Hot Country Songs. It’s about what you’d expect, but I’ve always liked it. Check it out if you like.

  6. I saw johnny Lee perform several times during the period 1995 – 2010. He was a pretty decent live performer who knew when to stay out of the way of the lyric and when to embellish. Plus, he was very fan-friendly sticking around to chat and sign autographs

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