John D. Loudermilk gained some attention as a singer in the 50's, 60's and 70's but it is through his songwriting that he has made significant contributions to twentieth century music, primarily in pop and country. He has written many, many popular songs with which the general public is familiar, although in many cases unaware of the composer.
John D. Loudermilk was born in Durham, North Caroliina in 1934. He was exposed to his family's activities with the Salvation Army and choir music at his local church. As a small child he would bang the drum for the Salvation Army. He also learned to play a guitar, trumpet, saxophone, and ukelele, although later in life he mostly confined himself to playing guitar. At age 12 he made his television debut with Tex Ritter, and had a radio show the following year, billing himself as Johnny Dee. He graduated from Campbell University in Buies Creek, North Carolina, and began working at television station WTVD in Durham.
He wrote a song titled A Rose And A Baby Ruth and performed it on the television station. Another up-and-coming singer/songwriter from North Carolina, George Hamilton IV, picked up on the song and was the first to record it. The Hamilton recording of A Rose And A Baby Ruth reached the top ten on the national pop chart in 1956 and John D. Loudermilk had written his first hit song, at the age of 22.
Loudermilk wrote another song, Sittin' In The Balcony, and recorded it himself on the Colonial label in 1956, as Johnny Dee (he would make other recordings that year under the name Ebe Sneezer, and later recorded under his own name). Loudermilk's version of Sittin' In The Balcony would become his first top forty pop hit as an artist, in 1957. But it was another version of the same song, recorded by Eddie Cochran, that would be an even bigger hit on the national pop chart around the same time.
Loudermilk moved to Nashville to attempt a career in the music business, but he was prepared to return to work at his father-in-law's hardware store in North Caroliina if things did not work out. But things did work out. He started working for Jim Denny at Cedarwood Music and later moved to Acuff-Rose. Loudermilk continued writing songs. Many were picked up by both country and pop artists; sometimes a particular composition would be recorded by dozens of different artists. The hits started coming, one after another... Waterloo (Stonewall Jackson), Bad News (Johnny Cash), Let's Think About Living (Bob Luman), Stayin' In (Bobby Vee), Talk Back Trembling Lips (Ernie Ashworth), Angela Jones (Johnny Ferguson), Thou Shalt Not Steal (Dick and Deedee), Ebony Eyes (Everly Brothers), Tobacco Road (Nashville Teens), Indian Reservation (Paul Revere and the Raiders), and Then You Can Tell Me Goodbye (The Casinos) among many others.
In 1961, recording under his own name this time, Loudermilk had his second and last top forty pop hit in the USA with his self-composed Language Of Love, this time on the RCA label. Around the same time Sue Thompson began a string of hits when she recorded a number of songs written by Loudermilk, including Sad Movies (Make Me Cry), Norman, James (Hold The Ladder Steady), and Paper Tiger on Acuff's Hickory label. Perhaps Loudermilk's most noted composition is Abilene, a hit for George Hamilton IV in 1963. One of the most prolific songwriters of the 60's and 70's, a wide variety of artists put Loudermilk's songs on vinyl, among them Mark Dinning, Lonnie Donegan, Boxcar Willie, Brenda Lee, Johnny Tillotson, Kitty Wells, Chet Atkins, Pat Boone, Dodie Stevens, Anne Murray, Johnny Nash, and Marianne Faithfull. He wrote hundreds of songs, some not as popular or as well known as others. An attempt has been made to list all of them, and it is posted at www.ihesm.com.
John D. Loudermilk took on a persona that is bigger than life. He became a very popular peformer, despite his dislike for touring. Most of the time when performing he would simply take the stage with his guitar and little else. He has always been very well received in Great Britain. In 1976 Loudermilk was inducted into the Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame. He has continued performing on into the twenty-first century.
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