Passings: Singer/Songwriter John D. Loudermilk (1934 - 2016)

by VVN Music

John D. Loudermilk, who wrote such classics as Indian Reservation, Tobacco Road and Then You Can Tell Me Goodbye, died on Wednesday after a battle with bone cancer. He was 82.

Fellow songwriter and friend Bobby Braddock wrote a tribute on Facebook:
JOHN D'S SOUL HAS ASCENDED: That's the text message I got from Dixie Gamble yesterday about the death of our mutual friend, John D. Loudermilk. John D. left an incredible trail of mega hits over several decades, going back to the 1950s; country, pop, and R&B. His uncommon brain was filled with amazing words and powerful music -- or vice versa. He wrote most of his many hits by himself. His list of evergreens includes one of the best love songs ever written, Then You Can Tell Me Goodbye. Here are some others, listed alphabetically, and this just scratches the surface. People of a certain age will look at these titles and see some of the music of their lives. Abilene, Angela Jones, A Rose and a Baby Ruth, Bad News, Blue Train, Break My Mind, Ebony Eyes, Google Eye, The Great Snowman, I Wanna Live, Indian Reservation, Norman, Paper Tiger, Sad Movies (Make Me Cry), Sittin' in the Balcony, Talk Back Trembling Lips, Tobacco Road, Turn Me On, and Waterloo. He was also a first-rate musician and singer, making some enduring records, earlier ones recorded under the name of Johnny Dee.

This bigger-than-life North Carolinian with the soft, friendly voice, was no ordinary man. Over the years, I have known him to hold just about every religious and political view imaginable. In conversation, you were never quite sure if he was telling you the most profound thing in the world or pulling your leg. (He tricked nationally-syndicated DJ Casey Kasem into believing that he was inspired to write the big pop hit "Indian Reservation" after being picked up in a snowstorm by Indians who took him to their reservation and begged him to write a song about their plight.) Always backing him up was closest friend and co-conspirator, Susan, his lovely Louisiana bride of 48 years. When I first met John D. nearly forty years ago at a small party, he was wearing a brown business suit and tie, and had a little mustache, and I thought he looked like the father in some 1930s comedy film. Within a few minutes he was standing on his head doing yoga, just as natural as if he had been dipping Ritz crackers in the pimento cheese.

A Grammy winner and member of the Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame, John D. Loudermilk was 82. My condolences go to Susan and all of John's family (for years I've been friends with his guitar virtuoso son, Mike). It was pretty well known that John's days were numbered, so a few months ago Dixie put together a wonderful tribute show at the Franklin Theater in neighboring Williamson County. There must have been fifty country stars, songwriters, and musicians there to perform a Loudermilk song at this musical love fest that is scheduled to air soon on PBS. John D. was there with Susan, on the front row of the packed house, all smiles, taking it in. What a sendoff. Rest in peace John D. Loudermilk, and thank you for some of the best American music ever written.
Loudermilk was born in Durham, NC into a family that were members of the Salvation Army and included Ira and Charlie Loudermilk of The Louvin Brothers.

In the mid-50's, while still a young man, he put his poem A Rose and a Baby Ruth to music. The song was picked up by George Hamilton IV and became his first hit followed shortly thereafter by Eddie Cochran's recording of John's song Sittin' in the Balcony.

Over the next thirty years, his songs would hit the top ten of various charts thirty times (see below) including five versions of Then You Can Tell Me Goodbye and two each of Talk Back Trembling Lips, Tobacco Road and Indian Reservation.

Loudermilk also recorded his own records, first as Johnny Dee and then under his own name. While he never reached the top ten with his own recordings, he did chart ten times over the years including Language of Love (1961 / #32 Pop), Bad News (1963 / #23 Country) and That Ain't All (1965 / #20 Country). He also recorded nine studio albums.

John D. Loudermilk was inducted into the Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame in 1976 and the North Carolina Music Hall of Fame in 2011.

Top ten hits written by John D. Loudermilk:

  • A Rose and a Baby Ruth - George Hamilton IV (1956 / #6 Pop)
  • Sittin' in the Balcony - Eddie Cochran (1957 / #18 Pop / #7 R&B)
  • Grin and Bear It - Jimmy Newman (1959 / #9 Country)
  • Waterloo - Stonewall Jackson (1959 / #4 Pop / #1 Country / #11 R&B)
  • Amigo's Guitar - Kitty Wells (1960 / #5 Country)
  • Angela Jones - Michael Cox (1960 / #7 U.K.)
  • Ebony Eyes - Everly Brothers (1961 / #8 Pop / #25 Country / #25 R&B)
  • Stayin' In - Bobby Vee (1961 / #33 Pop / #4 U.K.)
  • Sad Movies (Make Me Cry) - Sue Thompson (1961 / #5 Pop / #1 Adult Contemporary)
  • Norman - Sue Thompson (1961 / #3 Pop)
  • Abilene - George Hamilton IV (1963 / #15 Pop / #4 AC / #1 Country)
  • Talk Back Trembling Lips - Ernest Ashworth (1963 / #1 Country)
  • Talk Back Trembling Lips - Johnny Tillotson (1963 / #7 Pop / #6 AC)
  • Bad News - Johnny Cash (1964 / #8 Country)
  • Fort Worth, Dallas or Houston - George Hamilton IV (1964 / #9 Country)
  • Tobacco Road - Nashville Teens (1964 / #14 Pop / #6 U.K.)
  • Google Eye - Nashville Teens (1964 / #10 U.K.)
  • This Little Bird - Marianne Faithfull (1965 / #32 Pop / #7 AC / #6 U.K.)
  • Merry Gentle Pops - Barron Knights (1965 / #9 U.K.)
  • Break My Mind - George Hamilton IV (1967 / #6 Country)
  • Then You Can Tell Me Goodbye - Casinos (1967 / #6 Pop / #28 U.K.)
  • I Wanna Live - Glen Campbell (1968 / #36 Pop / #18 AC / #1 Country)
  • Then You Can Tell Me Goodbye - Eddy Arnold (1968 / #84 Pop / #6 AC / #1 Country)
  • Indian Reservation - Don Fardon (1970 / #3 U.K.)
  • Indian Reservation - Paul Revere & the Raiders (1971 / #1 Pop / #11 AC)
  • Don't Pull Your Love / Then You Can Tell Me Goodbye - Glen Campbell (1976 / #27 Pop / #1 AC / #4 Country)
  • Then You Can Tell Me Goodbye - Toby Beau (1979 / #57 Pop / #7 AC)
  • Tobacco Road - David Lee Roth (1986 / #10 Rock)
  • Indian Outlaw - Tim McGraw (1994 / #15 Pop / #8 Country)
  • Then You Can Tell Me Goodbye (1996 / #4 Country)

1 comment

Wil Greene said...

You forgot "Road Hog". Charted at #65 in 1962. Great tune!

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