Oct. 18: Did you know today is the 142nd anniversary of Alaska becoming a U.S. territory? Yep, Russia handed over the keys in 1867 after we paid a cool $7 million. To celebrate, let’s listen to a couple of chart-topping Johnny Horton sagas from around the time Alaska became our 49th state.

Click to hear "When It's Springtime In Alaska"

Click to hear "When It's Springtime In Alaska"

Click to hear "North To Alaska"

Click to hear "North To Alaska"

Horton, the son of share-cropping parents, grew up shuttling between his native California and Texas as the family sought work. After a brief stay in a seminary, he began traveling the country, including the Alaska Territory. There, he began writing songs in earnest. Perhaps it’s no coincidence that two of his late ’50s-early ’60s story songs — and he had several, led by the smash crossover hit “Battle Of New Orleans” — were set in Alaska. “Springtime” went No. 1 on Billboard’s country chart in 1959, the same position “North” would reach a year later.

Read more about the hills and valleys in Horton’s influential career, and his early death in a Texas car crash, on his Allmusic.com biography. And check out his discography.

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