Amoeblog

Happy 75th Birthday John D Loudermilk!

Posted by Whitmore, March 31, 2009 09:57pm | Post a Comment

Today is the 75th birthday of a legendary songwriter most people have never heard of, but as the story so often goes, you may not know the name but you know the song. The songs of John D. Loudermilk have been recorded by hundreds and hundreds artists over the last fifty plus years. From Rockabilly greats like Arnie Derksen, Marvin Rainwater, Jimmy Newman, and Billy Lee Riley to Country Music Hall of Famers like Webb Pierce, George Jones, Kitty Wells, Brenda Lee and Hank Williams Jr. to soul, jazz and funk artists like Nina Simone, Ramsey Lewis, Brother Jack McDuff, William Bell, Solomon Burke and even James Brown. In the rock world Loudermilk’s songs have been recorded by everyone from Jerry Lee Lewis to Jefferson Airplane to Jimi Hendrix and The Jayhawks.
 
John D. Loudermilk was born in Durham, North Carolina March 31, 1934. He wasn’t the only family member with some musical chops; his cousins are Ira and Charlie Loudermilk, better known to country music fans as the Louvin Brothers.  
 
In the mid 1950’s Loudermilk got his start recording some of his own material on the Colonial Record label based in North Carolina under the stage name Johnny Dee. After signing with Columbia Records, he began using his own name and had a Top 20 hit in the UK with "Language of Love" in 1962. Though he continually recorded many solo albums and singles into the 1980’s, his lasting mark on music history is that of a solid first class tunesmith. Loudermilk not only could write some serious songs for serious people but he had an unusually successful career on the novelty side of things.
 
Starting in late 1956, Loudermilk’s songwriting career took off with "A Rose and a Baby Ruth" -- a top 10 country hit in 1956 for "George Hamilton and the Country Gentlemen." (Later to be covered by, of all people, John Fahey!) Later that same year Eddie Cochran recorded Loudermilk’s "Sittin' in the Balcony," becoming Cochran’s first top 20 single, which has since become something of a rockabilly standard. In 1959 Loudermilk scored his first huge international hit with the song “Waterloo” as recorded by Stonewall Jackson, which hit the top of the US Country charts but also saw chart action around the world.
 
But no doubt, Loudermilk's signature song is “Tobacco Road.” He likes to say it’s partly autobiographical, but I suspect that’s just good old fashion bullshit. Tobacco Road is a section in East Durham near to where Loudermilk grew up. There, bails of tobacco are rolled down the way to the warehouse, hence the name. According to almost everything I’ve ever read about it, Tobacco Road did have something of a bad ass reputation, and was known as quite the unsavory neighborhood and a part of town where after dark even the police department avoided entering. This song was a huge hit during the first British invasion, sung by the Nashville Teens in the summer of 1964. What works so perfectly in their version is the harsh, desperate spin they put to the lyrics and melody. It still sounds raw today. “Tobacco Road” has since been covered dozens of times from a wide variety of artists like Richard 'Groove' Holmes, the Blues Magoos, Jimi Hendrix and even David Lee Roth recorded a Spanish version, “La Calle Del Tabaco,” in 1986. Actually, any garage band worth its beans has rocked this classic tale of woe … I believe it's required playing.
 
Another top 40 pop-rock classic, "Indian Reservation," was originally written by John Loudermilk in 1959 and recorded by Marvin Rainwater, as "Pale Faced Indian." Later on Loudermilk reshaped some of the lyrics and released it in the mid 1960s as "The Lament of The Cherokee Reservation Indian." In 1969 Don Fardon shortened the title to "Indian Reservation" and scored a mammoth worldwide hit everywhere except here in the states, which was very fortunate for The Raiders featuring Mark Lindsay. Two years later their version mimicked Fardon’s interpretation almost note for note and scored a huge hit in the US. According to lore, Loudermilk was once asked by Casey Kasem of American Top 40 Radio about the back story of “Indian Reservation.” Loudermilk concocted a tall tale about being rescued by Cherokee Indians after crashing his car in a blinding blizzard only to be held captive by his rescuers. He was finally released once he promised he would write a song telling of their plight. The story appeared several times on the show; Kasem is quoted as saying, "one of the most incredible stories we've ever told on AT40." I bet!
 
One of my favorite John D. Loudermilk songs is “Torture.” Originally a top 20 hit for Kris Jensen in 1962, there is a slightly obscure 1980 version released as a single by the French cult artist Hermine Demoriane. I love her version! She sounds a bit like Nico, but pulls out a bit more drama in the delivery. I know very little about Hermine except she was supposed to be married to the English poet Hugo Williams and performed in the film Jubilee (1977). And though I don’t believe much of anything I read on the internet -- actually very little, and that includes my own blog -- Hermione supposedly studied and practiced tightrope walking and wrote a book about it called Tightrope Walker.
 
In 1969 Loudermilk temporarily tripped out, got hip and underground, and released the soon to be classic, neo-psych album The Open Mind of John D Loudermilk. Finally in recent years it has been re-released on CD. I recommend it, though it is ever so slightly peculiar, but in just … I don’t know … that peculiar, peculiar way.
 
John D. Loudermilk was inducted into the Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame in 1976.
 
Here is a small list of some of his other classic songs:
 
Angela Jones” -- Johnny Ferguson version peaked at #27 in Billboard's but the version to hear is by Milk and their bubble gum version from 1969
 
Break My Mind” -- covered by both Linda Rondstadt and Gram Parsons
 
Ebony Eyes” -- the Everly Brothers' perfect version was a huge tear-drop rock hit in 1961, reaching #8
 
Google Eye” -- kind of a ridiculous novelty song, though it was a big hit in France, sung in French by the neo Ye-Ye group Les Lionceaux
 
Norman” – Sue Thompson’s biggest hit peaked at #3
 
Sad Movies (Make Me Cry)” -- another big hit for Sue Thompson, this one reached #5 on the Billboard charts. This song was also a hit in France, this time for Sylvie Vartan in the French version: "Quand le film est triste." During her career, the Ye-Ye singer Vartan recorded several Loudermilk songs.
 
Talk Back Trembling Lips” -- A #1 hit by country singer Ernest Ashworth. This song has probably been covered a least a hundred times, and almost always by Country music artists.
 
Then You Can Tell Me Goodbye” -- an absolutely great and beautiful song, probably the most recorded tune of John Loudermilk. There may be as many as 200 versions floating around; the most successful version was by The Casinos in 1967.
 
This Little Bird” -- was once recorded by Marianne Faithfull in the mid sixties. Her version reached # 5 in the UK, but only #32 in the US. Later it was recorded by Nancy Sinatra and by Jewel.
 
Thou Shalt Not Steal” -- from 1964, a classic track, became one of Dick & Dee Dee’s biggest sellers
 
Turn Me On” -- Nina Simone did a great early version of this song, so incredibly laid back. Just a few years back, Norah Jones re-did it in a similar manner
 
Anyway, Happy 75th Birthday John D. Loudermilk!




(Wherein we chance upon something Slick.)

Posted by Job O Brother, March 23, 2009 06:16pm | Post a Comment
russian
Furvin Kryakutnoy, Russian inventor and possibly the inventor of the hot air balloon,
has nothing to do with this blog entry.

Here I am, again on my own. I can feel your pretty eyes on me, reading this, waiting to see what I have to say for myself. I am in the past – your past. By the time you read this, I will be gone. I will have scribbled my way through another witty and unnecessary blog.

But here in the past, dear reader, things do not seem so certain. I do not know, as yet (for example), what this entry will be about. Oh sure, it’s easy for you to scroll down the page and glean its general themes, but for someone like me who lives back in the time before this blog was written and done, all is mystery. All is uncertain. I do not even know who or what music or movies will first be mentioned.

Shall I leave it to chance? Shall I see what the Oracle that is YouTube has decided is an appropriate recommendation for me? (For those of you who don’t know, after you’ve used YouTube a bit, it begins to analyze what you tend to look for, then it offers suggestions of stuff you may enjoy, based on your history.) Here, then, is what YouTube thinks I will fancy:


…Huh.

…Well…

I’m not sure what to say. I can’t think of anything I’ve tried to find on YouTube that would justify this selection. Do they know something about me that I don’t? Some deeper insight unavailable to my conscious mind that only they, in their ability to collect and refine data, can provide?

(In which our hero returns from the Caribbean...)

Posted by Job O Brother, February 23, 2009 03:45pm | Post a Comment
titanic
I should've been so lucky...

I’ve just returned from a two week cruise in the Caribbean islands.

Stop right there! Undoubtedly your reaction is one of jealousy, but it’s unfounded – or would be, if the cruise you went on was the same as mine. Not so much a “luxury cruise” as it was… well… a floating Budget Inn. I was confounded gastronomically, degraded socially, and had an overall poopy time. You should be no more jealous of me than you would of some forgettable uncle who attended a dental convention one week in Sacramento. Olé.

One of the many, many awful attributes this cruise had was the piping of pop music in the halls; a convoluted mix that sounded as though it had been compiled by a twelve-year-old schoolgirl using her tape recorder and whatever radio station came in best. Now, even this is an improvement over, say, smooth jazz or Top 40 contemporary country, but they not only re-looped the same music (imagine hearing this every seventh hour!) but kept it playing all through the night! Had the cabins been sound-proof, this would’ve been fine, but they weren’t. So every night, I could hear the muffled beat of Kylie Minogue from the door, the thirty-something, sex-crazed, Italian couple making babies on the forward side, and what sounded like a TB ward on the aft. Olé.

My iPod became an important part of my survival kit, and I found myself gravitating towards easy-listening music; something to soothe the myriad ways in which my humanity was compromised. (Ever been molested by a shower curtain? It happened to me, daily. Ever eat a lasagna that tasted of peppermint candy and WD40? I have, now.)
spray
There's no amount of parmesan cheese that can help this.

I couldn’t get enough of Anita Kerr. For those of you unfamiliar with her, she’s a singer / composer / producer of large success but smaller fame, these days. Her hey-day was the 1960’s, where her talents were lent to many projects beside her own. Anyone who listens to country music from that period has almost certainly enjoyed her handiwork, whether you knew it or not.

Junior McCants

Posted by Whitmore, February 22, 2009 01:08pm | Post a Comment
Last weekend I found myself babbling on about rare 45’s at a dinner party. I couldn’t shut-up, though I think someone other than myself was listening ... Anyway, the subject -- as to be expected in these hard economic times -- was what is the most valuable record waiting to be rescued from someone’s garage. It’s not an easy answer; there are a lot of hoaxes and misinformation on valuable vinyl out there try me for your new love by junior mccantsin the serious record collecting world. I blame the recent rise of tantalizing yarns on bored muckrakers and conspiracy theorists having outgrown tall tales of Area 51, JFK, the Masons, and the New World Order as a viable entertainment option. Now they have moved on to Ebay auctions and hobbyists.
 
More often than not, a record which exchanges hands for an astronomical amount of cash sits in the genre known as Northern Soul, a style best described as a mid-tempo to slightly uptempo heavy-beat soul music that was danced to in Discothèques in Northern England from the early 1960’s till about the early to mid 70’s. Many of the recordings were heavily influenced by the Tamla/Motown sound and, if not exactly rare, these 45’s are at least hard to track down. Most of these singles were originally released in limited numbers on smaller labels in the US. Finding their way to UK nightclubs was nothing short of a miracle and usually required luck, perseverance and a round trip ticket to Detroit or Chicago. Clubs like the Twisted Wheel in Manchester, King Mojo in Sheffield, The Catacombs in Wolverhampton and the Golden Torch in Stoke-upon-Trent would go till the wee hours of morn, dancers and DJ’s hopped-up on amphetamines acrobatically cutting the rug in a mad, unhinged style that in some respects resembled later day break dancing.
 
Last October on Ebay, one of those never seen, legendary, Holy Grail of Northern Soul singles came up for auction -- Junior McCants' "Try Me For Your New Love" / "She Wrote It, I Read It" on King Records #6106 -- and went for an astounding ... wait... wait ... you’d better sit down for this ... $15,099.
 
That is not a typo, the bidding started at a very humble $9.99 but after 25 bids the price went Fibonacci-like. Most reasonable and fearful people are very suspicious of the authenticity of such a final bid. But if it’s true ... holy mother of friggin’ god!
 
I could find very little info on Junior McCants other than that he was from Cincinnati and he usually sang in a falsetto. This was his follow-up single to another great King release #6076; "The Boy Needs a Girl / Help My Love” from 1967 which failed to chart but did receive regional air play. On the liner notes to a Kent CD collection called King Northern Soul, it states that McCants died of a brain tumor at the age of 24. But I’ve also read that Junior McCants died in a motorcycle accident when he and King staff songwriter/producer/arranger Charles Spurling went out riding. According to the back story "Try Me for Your New Love" was pulled, in respect for McCants family’s wishes. Only a couple of white label promos saw the light of day, obviously at least one survived.
 
Inevitably another part of the “how much can a 45 be worth!?” question is always “what does an expensive record sound like?” This time I tried not to come off typically jaded and blasé at the dinner party with the usual reply: “not all that interesting.” The fact is, these McCants records are really pretty great, and besides, my New Year’s resolution was to reduce my cynicism --- actually reduce, reuse, recycle my cynicism ... I’ll save it for another day.
 
So here it is ... what 15 grand sounds like! So pop a couple of bennies, throw on your brogues or your black suede loafers and now groove to the left...


Serge in Paris

Posted by Whitmore, January 11, 2009 08:59pm | Post a Comment

There are four major cemeteries in Paris, and each has their big name resident bringing tens of thousand of visitors each year. The largest cemetery is in the eastern part of Paris, Pere-Lachaise, and the biggest draw there is probably Jim Morrison, Isadora Duncan, Oscar Wilde and Chopin. In the north, the 18th arrondissement section of the city is Montmartre Cemetery where the great dancer Vaslav Nijinsky is buried and the "Beethoven of the Guitar" Fernando Sor. Passy Cemetery in the 16th arrondissement is where Claude Debussy is interred and, for you silent movie buffs, Pearl White, the star of The Perils of Pauline serial. And finally there is the Montparnasse Cemetery in the south. There you can find the graves of playwrights Samuel Beckett and Eugène Ionesco, Dadaists Man Ray and Tristan Tzara and probably the most visited and garlanded grave in all of Paris: Serge Gainsbourg. His grave site is forever covered in flowers, cigarettes, metro tickets, personal notes and odd little objects that derive their significance from his lyrics. Earlier this week we spent two nights in our favorite fleabag-Henry Miller-down and out kind of hotel around the corner from Montparnasse. I stopped by one morning in the snow, said hello to Serge, took a couple of pictures and had a very respectful snowball fight with my son. This may sound more macabre then intended, but there’s nothing like a cemetery blanketed in snow.


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