Songwriter John D. Loudermilk Dead at 82
John D. Loudermilk has died. The songwriting great penned several classic tunes, including “Then You Can Tell Me Goodbye,” “Tobacco Road” and “Indian Reservation.” He was 82.
Loudermilk had songs cut by country legends like the Everly Brothers, Johnny Cash and Glen Campbell, but also across other genres. Artists as varied as David Lee Roth, James Brown and Linda Ronstadt performed his tunes over the past 60 years.
The Durham, S.C. native had his first hit just after high school with a poem he wrote called “A Rose and a Baby Ruth,” which he set to music and performed on the air while working at a TV station. George Hamilton IV, a college student at the time and also from South Carolina, recorded the song in 1956 and scored a Top 10 hit on the pop charts. Just months later, the Tennessean reports, Eddie Cochran, a rock 'n' roll act, recorded Loudermilk’s “Sittin’ on the Balcony” and notched a Top 20 hit. Loudermilk had previously recorded the song under the name Johnny Dee and charted in the Top 40 himself.
"I'm looking for the most different thing I can find. Everybody's writing 'I love you truly.' You've got to find something new,” Loudermilk told the Tennessean in 1961. "I talk to drunks at the bus station, browse through kiddie books at the public library (and) get phrases from college kids and our babysitter. You've got to be looking all the time."
Perhaps Loudermilk's most well-known hit, “Tobacco Road,” was recorded by the Nashville Teens, which earned him accolades both in the U.S. and overseas. It’s been recorded more than 200 times in the last 50 years, including the most recent version this year by Shawn Colvin and Steve Earle.
Loudermilk was inducted into the Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame in 1976 and has also been made a member of the North Carolina Music Hall of Fame. He won a Grammy Award for Best Album Notes for the liner notes he wrote in his record Suburban Attitudes in Country Verse. The Country Music Hall of Fame included Loudermilk in its “Poets and Prophets” series, which honors songwriters whose work has made a significant impact on the genre.
Loudermilk was also celebrated earlier in 2016 at the Franklin Theatre outside Nashville with a tribute show from Emmylou Harris, Rodney Crowell and Bobby Braddock.
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