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John D. Loudermilk

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John D. Loudermilk
Birth nameJohn Dee Loudermilk Jr.
Also known as
  • Johnny Dee
  • Ebe Sneezer
Born(1934-03-31)March 31, 1934
Durham, North Carolina, U.S.
DiedSeptember 21, 2016(2016-09-21) (aged 82)
Christiana, Tennessee, U.S.
GenresCountry, pop
Occupation(s)Singer, songwriter
Years active1950—2016

John Dee Loudermilk Jr. (March 31, 1934 – September 21, 2016) was an American singer and songwriter. Although he had his own recording career during the 1950s and 1960s, he was primarily known as a songwriter.

His best-known songs include "Indian Reservation", a 1968 hit for UK singer Don Fardon and a U.S. No. 1 hit in 1971 for The Raiders. He wrote "Ebony Eyes", a 1961 U.K. No. 1 and U.S. No. 8 for the Everly Brothers; "Tobacco Road", a 1964 Top 20 hit in both the U.S. and the U.K. for the Nashville Teens; "This Little Bird", a U.K. No. 6 for Marianne Faithfull in 1965; and "Then You Can Tell Me Goodbye", a U.S. Top Ten hit in 1967 for the Casinos and No. 1 country hit for Eddy Arnold the following year.

Early life and career[edit]

Loudermilk was born in Durham, North Carolina, to Pauline and John D. Loudermilk Sr., an illiterate carpenter.[1][2] The family were members of the Salvation Army. He was influenced by the singing of the Christian Church. His cousins Ira and Charlie Loudermilk were known professionally as the Louvin Brothers.[3] Loudermilk was a graduate of Campbell College (now Campbell University), a private North Carolina Baptist Convention-owned college in Buies Creek, North Carolina.

As a young boy, Loudermilk learned the guitar, and while still in his teens wrote a poem that he set to music, "A Rose and a Baby Ruth". The owners of local television station WTVD, where he worked as a graphic artist, allowed him to play the song on-air, resulting in country musician George Hamilton IV putting it on record in 1956. It spent 20 weeks on the Billboard magazine pop chart, reaching No. 6.[4]

After Eddie Cochran had his first hit record with Loudermilk's "Sittin' in the Balcony", Loudermilk's career path was underway.[5]

Loudermilk recorded some of his own songs—including "Sittin' in the Balcony", which reached No. 38 on the pop charts in 1957—as "Johnny Dee", for the North Carolina-based Colonial Records label.

In 1958, he signed with Columbia Records and recorded five unsuccessful singles to 1959, including the original version of "Tobacco Road".[6] In 1961, he signed with RCA Victor, where he had a number of hits:

  • "Language of Love" (US No. 32, UK Top 20) in 1961
  • "Thou Shalt Not Steal" (US No. 73) in 1962
  • "Callin' Doctor Casey" (US No. 83) in 1962
  • "Road Hog" (US No. 65) in 1962

It was as a songwriter that Loudermilk made his mark. In 1963 he wrote another all-time hit for George Hamilton IV, "Abilene". Working out of Nashville, Tennessee, Loudermilk became one of the most productive songwriters of the 1960s and 1970s, penning country and pop music hits for the Everly Brothers, Johnny Tillotson, Chet Atkins, the Nashville Teens, Paul Revere & the Raiders, Johnny Cash, Marianne Faithfull, Stonewall Jackson, Kris Jensen, and Sue Thompson. His song "The Pale Faced Indian" (later known as "Indian Reservation") was a hit in the 1970s; and "Tobacco Road" was a hit in the 1960s and 1970s for, among others, the Nashville Teens, Blues Magoos, Eric Burdon & War, and David Lee Roth. Several singers recorded "Midnight Bus"; Loudermilk commented that the best was by Betty McQuade from Melbourne, Australia.[7]

After suffering from prostate cancer and respiratory ailments, Loudermilk died on September 21, 2016, at his home in Christiana, Tennessee. He was 82. The actual cause of death was a heart attack, according to his son Michael.[2][8][9]

The John D. Loudermilk Collection is in the Southern Folklife Collection of the Wilson Library of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.[10]

"Indian Reservation"[edit]

A well-known story surrounding one of Loudermilk's songs is that, when he was asked by the Viva! NashVegas radio show about the origins of the Raiders' hit song "Indian Reservation", he fabricated the story that he wrote the song after his car was snowed in by a blizzard and he was taken in by Cherokee Indians.[11] A self-professed prankster,[1] he spun the tale that a Cherokee chieftain, "Bloody Bear Tooth" asked him to make a song about his people's plight and the Trail of Tears, even going so far as to claim that he had later been awarded "the first medal of the Cherokee Nation", not for writing the song, but for his "blood"; further fabricating that his "great-great grandparents, Homer and Matilda Loudermilk" were listed on the Dawes Rolls.[11] Had this tall tale been true, he would have been a citizen of the Cherokee Nation, which he was not.[11]

In spite of the song's title, neither the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians, nor the United Keetoowah Band of Cherokee Indians, nor the Cherokee Nation of Oklahoma communities (the only federally-recognized Cherokee tribes) are known as "reservations".

Notable compositions[edit]



Year Album Label
1961 Language of Love RCA
1962 Twelve Sides of John D. Loudermilk
1966 A Bizarre Collection of the Most Unusual Songs
1967 Suburban Attitudes in Country Verse
1968 Country Love Songs
1969 The Open Mind of John D. Loudermilk
1970 The Best of John D. Loudermilk
1971 Volume 1-Elloree Warner
1979 Just Passing Through MIM


Year Single Chart Positions Album
US Country US
1957 "Sittin' in the Balcony" 38 single only
1961 "Language of Love" 32 Language of Love
1962 "Thou Shalt Not Steal" 73
"Callin' Dr. Casey" 83
"Road Hog" 65
1963 "Bad News" (b/w "Guitar Player(Her and Him)") 23 singles only
1964 "Blue Train (Of the Heartbreak Line)" 44 132
"Th' Wife" 45
1965 "That Ain't All" 20
1966 "Silver Cloud Talkin' Blues" A Bizarre Collection of the Most Unusual Songs
"You're the Guilty One" single only
1967 "It's My Time" 51 Suburban Attitudes in Country Verse
1968 "Odd Folks of Okracoke" single only
1969 "Brown Girl" The Open Mind of John D. Loudermilk
1971 "Lord Have Mercy" Volume 1-Elloree
1979 "Every Day I Learn a Little More About Love" Just Passing Through

Guest singles[edit]

Year Single Artist US Country
1967 "Chet's Tune" Some of Chet's Friends 38



  1. ^ a b Sweeting, Adam (September 27, 2016). "John D Loudermilk obituary". The Guardian. Retrieved November 22, 2016.
  2. ^ a b Schudel, Matt (September 22, 2016). "John D. Loudermilk, Nashville songwriter of 'Tobacco Road,' dies at 82". The Washington Post. Retrieved September 23, 2016.
  3. ^ Paul Kingsbury; Laura Garrard; Daniel C. Cooper; John Rumble, eds. (December 16, 2004). The Encyclopedia of Country Music. Oxford University Press. p. 1241. ISBN 978-0-19-984044-1.
  4. ^ Whitburn, Joel (2004). The Billboard Book of Top 40 Hits: Eighth Edition. Record Research. p. 273.
  5. ^ Unterberger, Richie. "John D. Loudermilk Biography". AllMusic. All Media Network. Retrieved April 26, 2015.
  6. ^ van der Hoeven, Kees. "John D. Loudermilk Website". Ihesm.com. Retrieved April 26, 2015.
  7. ^ Cashmere, Paul (December 29, 2011). "Betty McQuade Dies at 70". Noise11.
  8. ^ William Grimes (September 22, 2016). "John D. Loudermilk, Who Wrote 'Tobacco Road' and 'Indian Reservation,' Dies at 82". The New York Times. Retrieved September 23, 2016.
  9. ^ Juli Thanki (September 22, 1016). "Songwriter John D. Loudermilk dead at 82". The Tennessean. Retrieved September 23, 2016.
  10. ^ "John D. Loudermilk Collection, 1950-1991". finding-aids.lib.unc.edu. Retrieved November 6, 2017.
  11. ^ a b c "The Story Behind 'Indian Reservation'" on Viva! NashVegas on YouTube
  12. ^ Connie Francis (1987). "Rocksides (1957 - 64)". CD Liner Notes (Media notes). Polydor Records. 831 698-2.

External links[edit]