#404: Language Of Love by John D Loudermilk
John D. Loudermilk was born in Durham, North Carolina, in 1934. Although he had a middle initial, D, the “D” wasn’t short for any middle name. His father was an illiterate carpenter, John D Loudermilk Sr. When John D. Jr. was, seven his dad gave him a ukulele made from a cigar box. Young John D Jr. learned to play guitar in his youth and began to write poems and songs. His poetry was inspired after he began to read the works of Kahlil Gibran. In his late teens, in the early 50’s, John D Jr. wrote a poem titled “A Rose And A Baby Ruth.” It concerned a teenage couple who have a quarrel and the boy gives his girlfriend a rose and a Baby Ruth candy bar to make up. Loudermilk put notes to the poem and played the sung version on a local TV station. This caught the attention of country singer, George Hamilton IV. The song was published in 1956 and became a Top Ten hit on both the Country and Pop charts on Billboard Magazine. The following year, Loudermilk penned “Sittin’ In The Balcony” for Eddie Cochran. Once that became a hit, Loudermilk’s songwriting career was launched. He co-wrote “Waterloo,” a #1 country hit and #4 pop hit in 1959 for country singer, Stonewall Jackson.
In the early 60’s Loudermilk continued to have success as a songwriter. Sue Thompson had two Top Ten hits on the pop and country charts in 1961 written by Loudermilk: “Sad Movies (Make Me Cry)” and “Norman.” The Everly Brothers also scored a Top Ten hit in 1961 by John D. Loudermilk, titled “Ebony Eyes.” And Bob Luman had a Top Ten hit in Vancouver in 1961 by Loudermilk called “The Great Snowman.” The singer of “Teen Angel,” Mark Dinning,had a #6 hit in Vancouver in ’61 with “Top 40, News, Weather And Sports,” another Loudermilk composition. Loudermilk also had a Top 40 hit on the Billboard Hot 100 titled “Language Of Love.”
“Language Of Love” is a song written by John D. Loudermilk. The song’s verses offer images of what two lovers “speaking the language of love” look like. In the first verse a couple is parked in a car at night on Lovers Lane. All they are doing is watching the stars. In the second verse a couple is “sipping on a chocolate shake.” It seems to be the same chocolate shake, and so their faces are closer as they look into each others’ eyes. In the third verse two lovers are sitting next to each other in an English class. Although the teacher’s instruction is going over their heads, they are learning the A-B-C’s of speaking the language of love. Loudermilk offers a vocalizing of nonsense syllables to express this language as “Ooo-be do-be do-be doo.”
“Language Of Love” peaked at #1 in Calgary (AB) and Bozeman (MT), #3 in Vancouver (BC) and Springfield (MA), #6 in Los Angeles, Toledo (OH), Phoenix (AZ), and Halifax (NS), #8 in Denver and #10 in Toronto. When explaining his template for getting inspired to write a song, Loudermilk told The Tennessean, “I’m looking for the most different thing I can find. 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.”
In 1962, Loudermilk had several more hits recorded by other singers, including “If The Boy Only Knew” by Sue Thompson. Kris Jensen had a hit with “Torture”. Loudermilk also recorded several more songs he penned: “Angela Jones”, “Calling Dr. Casey” and “Road Hog”.
John Loudermilk had other songs on the US charts in 1962. “Thou Shalt Not Steal” was a minor hit in the USA and did not chart in Vancouver. However, in 1964 it was a Top 20 hit for Dick and Dee Dee. That same year Loudermilk’s 1960 composition, “Tobacco Road”, became a Top Ten hit in the UK for the Nashville Teens. Johnny Tillotson had a Top Ten hit in early 1964 with “Talk Back Trembling Lips” written by Loudermilk. And in 1965, another one of his songs, “This Little Bird”, became a Top Ten hit in Vancouver and the UK for Marianne Faithfull. In 1967, Loudermilk won a Grammy Award for Best Liner Notes for his album Suburban Attitudes in Country Verse. And a song he wrote in 1962, “Then You Can Tell Me Goodbye”, became a Top Ten hit for The Casinos. In March of 1968, Glen Campbell had a Top 40 hit and a #1 hit in Vancouver with Loudermilk’s tune, “I Wanna Live”. And in 1968, another of Loudermilk’s songs got critical acclaim when Don Fardon released “Indian Reservation”. The song was a #1 hit for Paul Revere And The Raiders in 1971.
In 1976, he was inducted into the Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame. In 2004, John D. Loudermilk’s song, “Turn Me On”, became a Top Ten hit in Canada for Norah Jones. In his eighth decade Loudermilk developed an interest in ethnomusicology. He died in 2016 at the age of 82.
June 19, 2020
Julie Thanki, “Songwriter John D. Loudermilk Dead at 82,” The Tennesseean, Nashville, TN, September 22, 2016.
“John D Loudermilk Obituary: Singer and Songwriter Best Known for Tobacco Road, a Big Hit for the Nashville Teens in 1964,” Guardian, September 27, 2016.
“C-FUN-Tastic 50,” CFUN 1410 AM, Vancouver, BC, November 11, 1961.
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