By 1966, bar none for strange, songwriter John D. Loudermilk had a passel of hits in his pocket. That ended recently; he died September 21, 2016.
Loudermilk’s legend is solid in pop, folk and country.
Many know him for ‘Indian Reservation‘ ‘Norman‘, ‘Tobacco Road‘ (Nashville Teens), ‘Ebony Eyes‘ (Everly Bros.), ‘Break My Mind‘ (Ronstadt), ‘Turn Me On‘ (Norah Jones), Sittin’ In The Balcony‘ (Eddie Cochran) and scores more.
I go back to the year I first heard of Loudermilk; 1966.
Fifty years ago my art-school boyfriend was a huge fan of Loudermilk’s nontraditional approach to life, love and romance in his lyrics.
Toss this up with my first job e.v.e.r. that same year, making Bicycle Playing Cards in Norwood, Ohio. Lots of young women going to college, newly-wed and otherwise, found a job there. Good pay, 19th-century Draconian architecture, a hierarchy of transplanted Appalachian ladies too strong-headed to be reckoned with.
A newly-wed named Judy Hughes working at the U.S. Playing Card Company with me would talk a lot about her husband who was in a singing group. But we knew lots of guys in singing groups….and well, we humored her at first. She’d come in every week and tell us that The Casinos “Then You Can Tell Me Goodbye” (Loudermilk’s tune) had hit #30 on the Billboard Charts. We were impressed, considering it was 1966 and we were living in the age of music explosions everywhere.
Judy said her husband’s group was going to really make it, she knew. He and his brothers had grown up singing in The Church of God, Over The Rhine, in Cincinnati. Church music, it always helps. And to note here: for years, even today….many thought and still think, The Casinos were a black singing group. Many more black performers are influenced by their church music than white performers. But The Casinos were their own. Once a day..and about every day, Judy would nicely remind us at work that her husband was going to hit it big up there. She’d tell us their shows were gaining in fame and popularity. We started to think the same…radio stations were playing it.
The last months of the year of 1966 went like this. Shows, charts, shows, charts, shows. We’d hear the Loudermilk tune constantly on local radio….Judy was the music weather-vane; reporting to us about the soar to fame across the nation.
In January, 1967, The Casinos’ song hit #6 on the Billboard charts.
High 5’s all day for Judy at work were in order.
We loved hearing the tune played on the radio; we were unabashedly smug knowing it was a hit from our Cincinnati. The next 3 years at my first job ever were a small dose of different after one of our own had hit the big time. Eventually The Casinos were inducted into the Rock n Roll Hall of Fame ‘One Hit Wonders’.
There’s a reason for that category. I get it.
I eventually married the art-student that first loved Loudermilk.
That same year Loudermilk’s 1969 funky, Steve Goodman, Jacques Brel-esque album, complete with a skull on the cover, was released.
Loudermilk achieved Nashville Songwriter’s Hall of Fame, gold records, and lauds and credits over his 82 years.
After that, the next thing we knew we were living on the land ourselves, wearing denim and planting seeds; Loudermilk wrote ‘Indian Reservation‘, an anthem for a people over and above the usual call of a song-writer.
Gene Hughes, the lead Casinos singer, died in 2004.
We all rise, float and yield; knowing music makes a claim on us in all its shapes and forms. Don’t forget that…take it with you. Fifty years is a long time ago.
Think on it a while; after that “Then You Can Tell Me Goodbye“.