The death was caused by a heart attack. This was confirmed by his ex-manager Jeff Tartakov. Johnston was born in Sacramento, California, and grew up in West Virginia. In the late 1970s, he began recording music on Sanyo's monophonic boom box, accompanying his singing with the piano and organ chord. Johnston's musical works gained some fame when he moved to Austin in the early 1980s. There he managed to attract the attention of the local press, and fans began to appear, the number of which grew since the musician had the habit of giving everyone he met with cassettes with his own music.