Another unsung songwriter hero has passed away. Very much like Albert Hammond, he wrote many songs that became hits for other artists and only had one solitary UK hit in their own right. His hits for other include the top 10 hits, Angela Jones (Michael Cox), Ebony Eyes (Everly Brothers), Stayin’ In (Bobby Vee), Tobacco Road and Google Eye (Nashville Teens), This Little Bird (Marianna Faithful) and Indian Reservation (Don Fardon). His name is John D. Loudermilk and his only solo hit was Language of Love which reached number 13 in 1962.
He was born in March 1934 and was one of those singer/songwriters you couldn’t easily pigeonhole. He wrote folk, country and pop hits. His mother was a missionary, and his dad was a carpenter who was a key figure in the building of Duke University, as well as several tobacco factories, which is probably what inspired Tobacco Road. When he was seven years old, his mother taught him ukulele his father had made out of a cigar box. At the age of 13 he changed his name to Johnny Dee and began performing on local radio stations which is where he met the husband and wife songwriting duo Boudleaux and Felice Bryant who encouraged him to write songs.
Over the next 60 years his songs were covered by artists as diverse as Glen Campbell, James Brown, The Barron Knights, Tracy Ullman, Sandy Posey, Linda Ronstadt and 999.
He explained his writing in an interview with the Tennessean in magazine in 1961, “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. 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.”
John was inducted into the Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame in 1976 and was also made a member of the North Carolina Music Hall of Fame. In 1968, he won a Grammy Award for Best Album Notes for the liner notes he wrote in his 1967 album Suburban Attitudes in Country Verse.
One of his first successes was The Pale Faced Indian as originally recorded by Marvin Rainwater in 1959 – this song became a US number one hit for Paul Revere and the Raiders in 1971 and a UK number three for Don Fardon.
He changed his name to John D. Loudermilk, but, like Billy J Kramer, the middle initial didn’t stand for anything at all.
Loudermilk was also celebrated earlier in 2016 at the Franklin Theatre outside Nashville with a tribute show from Emmylou Harris, Rodney Crowell and his friend and fellow songwriter Bobby Braddock, the man who broke the news via Facebook. Loudermilk’s son, Mike, confirmed that the cause of death was a heart attack.