Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Cherokee Nation Will Return

On his year-end roundup of the biggest hits of 1971, Casey Kasem told a story about a songwriter named John D. Loudermilk (a cousin to the Louvin Brothers, who were born Loudermilk), who at some point near the tail end of the 1950s was driving through western North Carolina in the middle of winter when his car got stuck in a snowdrift. Trapped in the middle of nowhere, he decided to spend the night in his car, until he was unceremoniously dragged out by four Indians of the Cherokee tribe.

The Cherokees held Loudermilk hostage for several days, sacrificing his car by pushing it over a cliff and, in an eerie foreshadowing of A Man Called Horse, torturing Loudermilk by piercing his skin with needles. He told the Indians he was a writer, so they said they'd let him go if he'd write a song that told the world of the indiginities heaped upon the Cherokee tribe. Loudermilk said no, so it was back to the torturing. Finally he relented, and was released so that he could write a song called "The Pale Face Indian." Or so Casey said.

A gentlemen from Wichita named Marvin Rainwater cut Loudermilk's song in 1959, and it stiffed. In 1968, a British pop singer name of Don Fardon (no, he wasn't in Grand Funk Railroad; that was Mark Farner) recorded the same song with somewhat different lyrics under the title "(The Lament of the Cherokee) Indian Reservation," and this time it hit, going all the way to the Top Twenty.

Finally, in 1971, the same song was covered by a group heretofore known as Paul Revere (yes, that was his real name) and the Raiders, but at that time known as the Raiders; their first hit under the newly abbreviated moniker was the slightly retitled "Indian Reservation (The Lament of the Cherokee Reservation Indian)." In July 1971, it became the first Number One hit for the Raiders under any sort of name.

You know what? I don't believe a word of it. Oh, I believe everything that comes after Marvin Rainwater makes his record, but the whole business about John D. Loudermilk being kidnapped by Indians: No. Maybe Loudermilk needed to come up with a story to explain to his wife where he'd been for five days. Or Casey had a lot of airtime to fill; maybe his staff made up the story. Anyway, I pass it along to you, the reader, to do with what you will.


Joe Bill Loudermilk said...

OK, you're late. John already admitted he made it up on the spot with the interview with Kasim. Any one who knows John, knows he likes a tall tale.
Joe Bill Loudermilk

Anonymous said...

Well I heard he was with Jim Morrison and a Shaman when it happened. ;)