John D. Loudermilk, a Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame member whose hits included “Abilene,” “Waterloo,” “Indian Reservation” and “Then You Can Tell Me Goodbye,” died Wednesday (Sept. 21) at his home in Christiana, Tennessee. He was 82.
Loudermilk was born March 31, 1934 in Durham, North Carolina. He began his musical journey singing in church. When he was 12, he won a spot in a Charlotte, North Carolina, talent contest of which Tex Ritter was the host. A year later, he had his own radio show on WTIK in Durham, North Carolina.
He first realized his gift for songwriting in 1955 when a poem he had written, “A Rose and a Baby Ruth,” found its way to singer George Hamilton IV. Hamilton turned it into a Top 10 pop hit in 1956 and would go on to record such Loudermilk-penned classics as “Abilene” and “Break My Mind.”
Loudermilk had some success as a recording artist in his own right. Singing as Johnny Dee, he had a minor pop hit with his song, “Sittin’ in the Balcony.” He also lodged five singles on the country chart, the highest one being the Top 20 “That Ain’t All.”
He was cousin of the Louvin Brothers — Ira and Charlie — whose original family name was Loudermilk.
Grand Ole Opry member Stonewall Jackson had his first No. 1 with Loudermilk’s “Waterloo,” co-written with Marijohn Wilkin.
Moving fluidly between country and pop, Loudermilk achieved particular success with “Tobacco Road,” which was recorded by artists as diverse as the Nashville Teens, Lou Rawls, Jefferson Airplane and David Lee Roth, and “Break My Mind,” covered by Anne Murray, Sammy Davis Jr., Glen Campbell, Linda Ronstadt, Roy Orbison, Gram Parson and Jerry Lee Lewis, among several others.
His “Then You Can Tell Me Goodbye” was a No. 1 country tune for Eddy Arnold and a Top 10 pop hit for the Casinos.
Ernie Ashworth had the biggest hit of his career with Loudermilk’s “Talk Back Trembling Lips.”
Other notable songs in Loudermilk’s catalog include “Sad Movies Make Me Cry,” “Bad News,” “Ebony Eyes” and “I Wanna Live.” “Indian Reservation,” a pop hit for Paul Revere & the Raiders, was tagged at the end of Tim McGraw’s 1994 hit, “Indian Outlaw.”
Loudermilk was inducted into the Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame in 1976.
Funeral arrangements have yet to be announced.