Daily Archives: May 8, 2011

John D. Loudermilk

Well, hang on to your hats with this one.  A singer, songwriter and multi-talented musician who had a very brief Singing career.  Meanwhile, look at the songs he wrote:

  • A Rose and a Baby Ruth” (a hit for George Hamilton IV)
  • Break My Mind” (covered by Glen Campbell, Linda Rondstadt, Roy Orbison and Gram Parsons)
  • Ebony Eyes” (a hit for The Everly Brothers)
  • Google Eye” (a hit for The Nashville Teens)
  • The Great Snowman
  • I’ll Never Tell” (recorded by Roy Orbison)
  • Indian Reservation” (a hit for Don Fardon and later for Paul Revere and The Raiders; also included in “Indian Outlaw”)
  • Let’s Think About Living” (a hit for Bob Luman)
  • Norman” (a hit for Sue Thompson)
  • Paper Tiger” (a hit for Sue Thompson)
  • Sad Movies (Make Me Cry)” (a hit for Sue Thompson)
  • Talk Back Trembling Lips” (a hit for Johnny Tillotson)
  • The Language of Love
  • Then You Can Tell Me Goodbye” (a hit for The Casinos)
  • This Little Bird” (a hit for Marianne Faithfull and The Nashville Teens)
  • Thou Shalt Not Steal” (a hit for Dick and Dee Dee)
  • Tobacco Road” (a hit for Lou Rawls, The Nashville Teens; also recorded by Edgar Winter’s White Trash, David Lee Roth among  others)
  • Top 40, News, Weather and Sports” recorded 1961 by Mark Dinning
  • Torture” (a hit for Kris Jensen)
  • Turn Me On
  • Waterloo” (a hit for Stonewall Jackson)
  • Windy and Warm
  • You Call It Joggin”  (I Call It Runnin’ Around)” (recorded by Mose Allison)

John D. Loudermilk

Video: 1984 BBC Tobacco Road
1.  Sittin’ In the Balcony (under the name Johnny Dee/ Colonial 430/ April 1957/ #38
1.  Sittin in the Balcony/ Eddie Cochran
2.  Language of Love/ RCA Victor 7938/ December 1961/ #32

Although his music isn’t exactly what you might call weird, John D. Loudermilk is one of the most unusual figures of early rock & roll. He became much more famous as a songwriter than a performer (although he made plenty of records), his material was incredibly erratic.

His songs could range from the most mindless, sappy pop to such things as a hard-bitten, bluesy tune that rang with as much authentic grit as a Mississippi Delta blues classic; that tune being “Tobacco Road,”.

Lou Rawls – Tobacco Road (1963)
The Nashville Teens – Tobacco Road (1964)

Loudermilk wrote plenty of other songs too, in a lengthy career that saw him straddling the fields of rock, pop, and country. Originally striving to be a performer in a very mild pop/rockabilly style, he found his first success as a songwriter, when George Hamilton IV took “A Rose and a Baby Ruth” into the Top Ten in 1956.

Recording as Johnny Dee, Loudermilk made a few singles for the small Colonial label in North Carolina. The best and most successful of these was “Sittin’ in the Balcony,” which made the Top 40 in 1957. Eddie Cochran‘s cover, based closely on Loudermilk‘s version (though performed with more force and style), stole most of Johnny Dee‘s thunder when it outsold the original by a wide margin, making the Top 20.

Johnny Dee changed his name back to John Loudermilk when he signed with Columbia in 1958, and also decided to concentrate on songwriting when he relocated to Nashville, eventually working for Chet Atkins at RCA.

Although Loudermilk had a pleasantly passable voice, his early records aren’t worth much, often purveying material that was mindlessly lightweight or, worse, idiotically humorous (“Asiatic Flu“).

Tobacco Road” on the other hand was a different story — a stark, stomping tale of hard-bitten Southern poverty, it had a strong blues flavour that was virtually absent from most of his material. It took a one-shot British Invasion group, the Nashville Teens, to fully realize the song’s menace in their magnificent, hard rocking 1964 cover, which made the U.S. Top 20. The song was also covered by Lou Rawls, the Jefferson Airplane, Edgar Winter, and others.

In the late ’50s and early ’60s, he supplied material for country stars, teen idols, and pop/rock singers, including “Waterloo” (Stonewall Jackson), “Angela Jones” (Johnny Ferguson), “Ebony Eyes” (the Everly Brothers), “Norman” (Sue Thompson), and “Abilene” (George Hamilton IV).

johnD-angela

In the mid-’60s, he was briefly in vogue in Britain: the Nashville Teens did both “Tobacco Road” and “Google Eyes” (the latter of which was a hit in the U.K., though a flop stateside), and Marianne Faithfull had a British hit with the moody “This Little Bird.”

Loudermilk continued to record on his own, though more as an afterthought than a specialty, reserving most of his focus for writing songs for other performers. Much of his material followed a faint-hearted, goofy pop/novelty thread, which made his somber efforts seem all the more incongruous.

His last big songwriting success was another of his serious-minded tunes, “Indian Reservation,” which topped the charts for Paul Revere & the Raiders in 1971 (it had previously been a hit for British singer Don Fardon).

John Loudermilk withdrew from professional activities to spend most of the ’80s and ’90s studying ethnomusicology. ~ Richie Unterberger, All Music Guide

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