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Johnny Jay Huhta

Johnny Jay Huhta

PILLAGER — John “Johnny Jay” Huhta, 77, of Pillager, died on Saturday, July 14, 2012 at his home. Services for Johnny Jay are planned for 11 a.m. Wednesday, July 18, 2012, at Lord of Life Lutheran Church in Baxter. Visitation will be held from 5-7 p.m. at Brenny Funeral Chapel in Baxter on Tuesday, July 17, 2012 and one hour prior to services at the church on Wednesday. Interment will take place at Minnesota State Veterans Cemetery near Camp Ripley.

Johnny Jay was born Oct. 9, 1934, in Duluth, Minn., the son of Wesley and Mae (Herrala) Huhta. Johnny Jay’s love of music started early. Before learning to play the guitar and banjo in high school, Johnny played the saxophone. At 17, he and his band, “The Sunnysiders” had a radio show in Duluth. He served his country for a time as a combat engineer in Korea, before returning stateside and returning to music. “Smokey Mac and The Yellowstone Valley Boys” recorded one of his songs. In 1956, he formed “The Shuffle Kings” with his younger twin brothers, Max and Mike. They played many night clubs in the Midwest area before settling in Nashville where they landed on tour with Hawkshaw Hawkins and Jean Sheppard. With the help of Ernest Tubb, Johnny Jay was signed by independent producers who recorded their songs. Mercury records acquired the masters and released “Tears” and “Sugar Doll” in the fall of 1957. In their Nov. 18, 1957, issue, Billboard Magazine picked these songs as potential hits in all three categories, country, pop and rhythm and blues. During his career he was able to share the stage with many, including: Johnny Cash, Tammy Wynette, Buddy Knox, Jim Reeves, Dave Dudley, Claude King, Wynn Stewart, and many more. Johnny Jay continued to write songs and occasionally perform throughout his life.

Johnny Jay will be missed by many, including his wife, Pat Huhta; children, Aaron (Judy Erno) Huhta, of Merrill, Wis., Jolene (Mardy Urban) Huhta, of Hurley, Wis., John Jr. (Shannon Dotson) Huhta, of Minneapolis, Wesley (Coleen) Asback, of Crandon, Wis., Jodell (Brad) Smith, of Pelican Lake, and Brittney (Joe Lenway) Mickelson, of Faribault; stepchildren, Bridget (Nathan) Morsching, of Morristown, Michael (Cindy) Muldoon, of Owatonna, John (Mary) Morris, of Waterville, Colleen (Brian) Morris, of Waterville, and Tim Muldoon, of Morristown; 30 grandkids; 15 great-grandkids; and brothers, Max and Mike. He was preceded in death by his father, Wesley; mother, Mae; daughters, Michelle Mullins and Jalene Huhta; sister, Donna Ruby; and his first wife, Darlene Brown.

Brenny Funeral Chapel and Cremation Services

(800) 824-5051