Saturday, 20 April 2013
Johnny Tillotson born 20 April 1939
Johnny Tillotson (born April 20, 1939, Jacksonville, Florida) is an American singer and songwriter. Tillotson enjoyed his greatest success in the early 1960s when he scored a series of Top Ten hits including "Poetry in Motion" and the self-penned "It Keeps Right on a-Hurtin'." In total, he placed 30 singles and albums in the Billboard charts between 1958 and 1984, most of them in the pop chart, though he also reached the country, R&B, and easy listening charts. His string of hits allowed him to establish a performing career both in the U.S. and around the world, which kept him steadily working well into the 21st century.
Tillotson's father was a country music disc jockey and Johnny himself was appearing on local radio from the age of nine. His parents encouraged his talent by giving him first a ukulele and then a guitar, and he was influencedby the singing cowboys (Gene Autry, Roy Rogers) and country singer Hank Williams. He appeared regularly on Tom Dowdy's television show, from which he was recommended to Archie Bleyer, the owner of Cadence Records. When the Toby Dowdy show went off the air, Johnny was given his own show, while still attending the University of Florida.
During his teens, Johnny began writing songs and in 1957, a local D.J. submitted a tape of Johnny's singing to the National Pet Milk Talent Contest. Johnny was chosen as one of the 6 national winners from this tape, which gave him the opportunity to perform on WSM radio in Nashville, Tennessee, where he was to receive his biggest break. Miss Lee Rosenberg, a Nashville music publisher, was so impressed with Johnny, she took his tape to Archie Bleyer, the owner of Cadence Records. Bleyer recorded Johnny singing his own composition, "Dreamy Eyes", which went to the top of the local Florida charts in 1958. After graduating with a Bachelor of Science Degree in Journalism and Communications in 1959, Johnny moved to New York to pursue a full time music career.
Although his roots were in country music, he was encouraged to revive the R&B ballads "Never Let Me Go", "Pledging My Love" and "Earth Angel". In 1960 he released the classic teen-ballad "Poetry In Motion", which went to number 2 in the USA and number 1 in the UK. The b-side, "Princess, Princess", was popular in its own right and the equal of many of his later hits.
Tillotson's follow-up, "Jimmy's Girl", was less successful but he went to number 3 in the USA with "It Keeps Right On A-Hurtin'", a self-penned country ballad. The song has been recorded by over 100 performers including Elvis Presley.
Tillotson's baby-face and slight frame made him an ideal teen-idol for the early 60s, but his musical preference was country music. He had further success by reviving the country songs "Send Me The Pillow You Dream On" and "I Can't Help It (If I'm Still In Love With You)". In the movie Just For Fun he sang "Judy, Judy, Judy", which he wrote with Doc Pomus and Mort Shuman. His ballad "You Can Never Stop Me Loving You" was a US Top 20 hit, but Kenny Lynch's version was preferred by UK record-buyers.
A spell in the US Army prevented Tillotson from capitalizing on his success, but when he signed with MGM Records he was determined to become a country performer. "Talk Back Trembling Lips" was a country and pop hit, but his subsequent records - "Worried Guy", "I Rise, I Fall", "She Understands Me", "Heartaches By The Number" - only reached the Top 40.
Tillotson moved to California in 1968, and in the 1970s, he recorded for the Amos, Buddah, Columbia and United Artists labels. He also performed in concerts, appearing in theaters, at State Fairs and Festivals, and in major hotels in Las Vegas and elsewhere.
In the early 1980s he charted briefly with "Lay Back In The Arms Of Someone" on Reward Records and it was during the 80's that his hits South East Asia had him appearing in Thailand, Singapore and Malaysia, Australia and New Zealand on a regular basis along with tours in Japan and Hong Kong. In 1990 he signed with Atlantic records where he again charted briefly with "Bim Bam Boom."
After a decade long absence in 2010 Johnny released a single "Not Enough" which is a tribute to the Military, Police, Fire and all uniformed personnel of the United States. It reached # 1 on the Indie country chart and the top 25 on the New Music weekly charts and was also a breakout single on the Music Row chart in Nashville. Johnny continues to write and perform in concert.
On March 23, 2011 Johnny Tillotson was inducted into the Florida Artists Hall of Fame alongside painter James F. Hutchinson. This is the highest honor that the State of Florida bestows on an individual citizen. Only 48 others have been so honored to date. Their plaques are on permanent display in the Florida State Capitol. The 30-track compilation All His Early Hits - And More!!!!, which was released in the UK by Ace Records in 1990, is the best introduction to his work and includes an early version of "Poetry In Motion". (info mainly from NME)