Tobacco Road writer John D Loudermilk dies aged 82
Nashville songwriter was best known for two songs that became huge hits for rock bands
The Nashville songwriter John D Loudermilk, whose songs were hits for George Hamilton IV, Eddie Cochran, the Everly Brothers, Marianne Faithfull, Glen Campbell and many more, has died at the age of 82.
His death on Wednesday at home in Christiana, Tennessee, was made public via Facebook by his friend and fellow songwriter Bobby Braddock. He had suffered a heart attack.
Loudermilk was also a recording artist who began his career as a performer in the 1950s, but his greatest success came when his songs were recorded by others – his first big hit came in 1957, when Cochran recorded Sittin’ in the Balcony.
Although he was a Nashville songwriter, primarily composing with mainstream country stars in mind, his songs were versatile and adaptable enough to have been recorded by distinctly uncountry artists including Marilyn Manson and David Lee Roth.
His two most famous songs, in fact, became hits for rock bands. Tobacco Road, which Loudermilk recorded on his own in 1960, was covered by the English group the Nashville Teens in 1964 and became a huge hit, and then a staple for garage bands around the world. It has been recorded more than 200 times, including versions by, Lou Rawls, Jefferson Airplane, Eric Burdon and War, Rare Earth and David Lee Roth.
The Pale Faced Indian, recorded by Marvin Rainwater in 1959, was revamped by Paul Revere and the Raiders in 1971 as Indian Reservation (The Lament of the Cherokee Reservation Indian), and captured the post-hippy mood of guilt over the treatment of America’s first peoples, giving the Raiders their only US No 1 single. The song was later covered by the UK punk band 999, who reached No 51 in the UK charts with it.
In 1961, Loudermilk told the Tennessean newspaper in Nashville about the inspiration behind his songwriting. “I’m looking for the most different thing I can find,” he said. “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 baby sitter. You’ve got to be looking all the time.”