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Johnny Tillotson
Born April 20, 1939 (1939-04-20) (age 70)
Jacksonville, Florida, United States
Genres country, pop
Occupations singer, songwriter
Instruments singing
Years active Since 1957

Johnny Tillotson (born April 20, 1939, Jacksonville, Florida) is an American singer and songwriter. He enjoyed his greatest success in the early 1960s, when he scored several Top Ten hits including "Poetry In Motion" and the self-penned "It Keeps Right On A-Hurtin'."


Life and career

He was the son of Doris and Jack Tillotson, a country music disc jockey, and was raised from the age of 9 in Palatka, Florida.[1] He began to perform at local functions and on his father's radio station as a child, and while attending Palatka Senior High School developed a local reputation as a talented singer.[2] He became a regular on the Toby Dowdy regional TV show in Jacksonville, and then had his own TV show on WDGA-TV.[3] In 1957, while studying at the University of Florida, he entered a national talent contest and won through to the final round in Nashville, Tennessee, where he was heard by Archie Bleyer, owner of the independent Cadence Records.[4] Bleyer signed Tillotson to a three-year contract, and issued his first single, "Dreamy Eyes" / "Well I'm Your Man" in September 1958. Both songs had been written by Tillotson, and both made the Billboard Hot 100, "Dreamy Eyes" peaking at # 63. After graduating in 1959 with a Bachelor's Degree in Journalism and Communications, Tillotson moved to New York City to pursue his music career.[1][2][5]

From late 1959, a succession of singles - "True True Happiness," "Why Do I Love You So," and a double-sided single covering the R&B hits "Earth Angel" and "Pledging My Love" - all reached the bottom half of the Hot 100. His biggest success came with his sixth single, the up-tempo "Poetry in Motion", written by Paul Kaufman and Mike Anthony, and recorded in Nashville with session musicians including saxophonist Boots Randolph and pianist Floyd Cramer. Released in September 1960, it went to # 2 on the Hot 100 in the US, and # 1 on the UK Singles Chart in January 1961. On Bleyer's advice, Tillotson focused primarily on his recording career, but also appeared on television and began to be featured as a teen idol in magazines. His follow-up record, "Jimmy's Girl," only reached # 25 in the US charts and # 43 in the UK; after that, "Without You" returned him to the US Top Ten but failed to make the UK charts.[1] He also toured widely as part of Dick Clark's Cavalcade Of Stars.[4]

Early in 1962, Tillotson recorded a song he had written himself, "It Keeps Right On A-Hurtin'," inspired by the terminal illness of his father. It became one of his biggest hits, reaching # 3 in the US pop chart and becoming the first of his records to make the country music charts, where it peaked at # 4. It earned him his first Grammy nomination, for Best Country & Western Recording, and was later recorded by over 100 performers including Elvis Presley and Billy Joe Royal, whose version was a country hit in 1988.[2] Tillotson then recorded an album, It Keeps Right On A-Hurtin', on which he covered several country standards including Hank Locklin's "Send Me the Pillow You Dream On" and Hank Williams' "I Can't Help It (If I'm Still in Love with You)," which also became hit singles. He continued to record both country-flavored and pop songs in 1963, and "You Can Never Stop Me Loving You" and its follow-up, the Willie Nelson song "Funny How Time Slips Away," both made the Hot 100. He also appeared in the 1963 movie Just for Fun.[1]

With the demise of the Cadence label, he formed his own production company and leased his recordings to MGM Records, starting with his version of the recent country # 1 song by Ernest Ashworth, "Talk Back Trembling Lips," which became Tillotson's last top ten hit, reaching # 7 in January 1964. He earned his second Grammy nomination for "Heartaches by the Number," nominated for Best Vocal Performance of 1965. He also sang the theme song for the 1965 Sally Field television comedy Gidget. While his fortunes waned with changing musical tastes in the late 1960s, he continued to record, before moving to California in 1968 to embark on an acting career in a variety of minor roles.[1] He appeared in the 1966 camp comedy The Fat Spy starring Jayne Mansfield, which was featured in the 2004 documentary The 50 Worst Movies Ever Made (#46).

In the 1970s, he recorded for the Amos, Buddah, Columbia and United Artists labels.[2] He also turned to nightclub work, appearing at the Copacabana in New York and in major hotels in Las Vegas and elsewhere, and continued to tour in Europe and the Far East. In 1996, he estimated that he was performing 230 days a year.[1][5]




Year Album US
1959 This Is Johnny Tillotson
1960 Johnny Tillotson (EP)
1962 It Keeps Right On a-Hurtin' 8
1963 You Can Never Stop Me Loving You
1964 Talk Back Trembling Lips 48
The Tillotson Touch
She Understands Me 148
1965 That's My Style
Johnny Tillotson Sings
1966 No Love at All
The Christmas Touch
Johnny Tillotson Sings Tillotson
1967 Here I Am
1969 Tears on My Pillow
1970 Johnny Tillotson
1977 Johnny Tillotson
2009 Victoria's The Little Merboy


Year Album US
1962 Johnny Tillotson's Best 120
1968 The Best of Johnny Tillotson
1972 The Very Best of Johnny Tillotson
1977 Greatest
1984 Scrapbook
1990 All the Early Hits - and More!!!!


Year Single Peak chart positions Album
US US R&B US Country US AC CAN UK[6]
1958 "Dreamy Eyes" / "Well I'm Your Man"* 63 / 87* Johnny Tillotson (EP)
"I'm Never Gonna Kiss You" (with Genevieve) Single only
1959 "True True Happiness" 54 Johnny Tillotson (EP)
1960 "Why Do I Love You So" 42 This Is Johnny Tillotson
"Earth Angel" / "Pledging My Love"* 57 / 63*
"Poetry in Motion" 2 27 1
1961 "Jimmy's Girl" 25 43
"Without You" 7 Johnny Tillotson's Best
1962 "Dreamy Eyes" (re-issue) 35
"It Keeps Right On a-Hurtin'" 3 6 4 31 It Keeps Right On a-Hurtin'
"Send Me the Pillow You Dream On" 17 11 5 21
"What'll I Do?" 106
"I'm So Lonesome I Could Cry" 89
"I Can't Help It (If I'm Still in Love With You)" 24 8 41
1963 "Out of My Mind" 24 11 34 Greatest
"You Can Never Stop Me Loving You" 18 4 Judy, Judy, Judy
"Talk Back Trembling Lips" 7 6 Talk Back Trembling Lips
"Funny How Time Slips Away" 50 16 It Keeps Right On a-Hurtin'
1964 "I'm a Worried Guy" 37 Talk Back Trembling Lips
"Please Don't Go Away" 112
"I Rise, I Fall" 37 The Tillotson Touch
"Worry" 45 5 36
"She Understands Me" 31 4 25 She Understands Me
1965 "Angel" 51 33 Johnny Tillotson Sings
"Then I'll Count Again" 86 - That's My Style
"Heartaches by the Number" 35 4 14
"Our World" 70 23 Johnny Tillotson Sings
1966 "I Never Loved You Anyway"
"Country Boy" Johnny Tillotson Sings Tillotson
"What Am I Gonna Do" No Love at All
"Open Up Your Heart" Single only
"Christmas Country Style" The Christmas Touch
1967 "Tommy Jones" Here I Am
"Don't Tell Me It's Raining"
"You're the Reason" 48 The Best of Johnny Tillotson
1968 "I Can Spot a Cheater" 63 Singles only
"Why So Lonely"
"Letter to Emily"
1969 "Tears on My Pillow" 94 Tears on My Pillow
"Joy to the World"
"Raining in My Heart"
1970 "Susan" Singles only
"I Don't Believe in If Anymore"
1971 "Apple Bend" Johnny Tillotson (1970)
"Welfare Hero"
"Make Believe" Singles only
1973 "Your Love's Been a Long Time Comin'"
"If You Wouldn't Be My Lady"A
"I Love How She Needs Me"
1974 "Till I Can't Take It Anymore"
1975 "Mississippi Lady"
"Right Here in Your Arms"
1976 "Summertime Lovin'" Johnny Tillotson (1977)
1977 "Toy Hearts" 99
1979 "Poetry in Motion" (re-issue) / "Princess Princess" 67 Singles only
1984 "Lay Back in the Arms of Someone" 91
  • A"If You Wouldn't Be My Lady" peaked at #77 on the RPM Country Tracks chart in Canada.


  1. ^ a b c d e f "Biography by William Ruhlmann". Retrieved 10 February 2009. 
  2. ^ a b c d Biographical article at
  3. ^ Television appearances at
  4. ^ a b Interview with Tillotson by Gary James
  5. ^ a b Biography on official Johnny Tillotson website
  6. ^ Roberts, David (2006). British Hit Singles & Albums (19th ed.). London: Guinness World Records Limited. p. 560. ISBN 1-904994-10-5. 

External links


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