27 January 2024

Only in Oz* (19): John D. Loudermilk - Callin' Doctor Casey (1962)

 Another in my series of posts about tracks that were more popular in Australia than in their countries of origin. See also: Only in Melbourne

*Again, a case of Only in Oz and NZ.

19. John D. Loudermilk - Callin' Doctor Casey
(John D. Loudermilk)
USA 1961

RCA Victor single (USA) #47-8054
RCA single (Australia) #101322, New Zealand #4/60304

US charts: #83 [Billboard]
Australian charts#4 [#6 Sydney, #2 Melbourne, #10 Brisbane, #10 Adelaide, #6 Perth]
New Zealand charts: #9 [Freeman]


Doctor Casey was the fictional neurosurgeon in Ben Casey, a popular TV series that debuted in the US in October 1961 and ran until 1966. Callin' Doctor Casey was released in June 1962 during Ben Casey's peak ratings of 1961-1963. 

This is not any kind of official tie-in with the series. The lovesick singer is calling on Dr Casey to mend his broken heart. The deep voice that answers, "Ye-e-es?" is a comical Ben Casey that sounds nothing like the character played by Vince Edwards. (Is it a parody of some old horror movie star? Boris Karloff maybe? Bela Lugosi?)

There was clearly something about the songwriting of John D. Loudermilk that appealed to Australians.

At least three Loudermilk compositions recorded by others also did better in Australia than in the US: 

Mark Dinning - Top Forty, News, Weather And Sports1 (1961, #81 USA#17 Australia)

Sue ThompsonJames (Hold The Ladder Steady) (1962, #17 USA, #6 Australia, #15 NZ)

Sue Thompson - Paper Tiger (1964[USA]-1965, #23 USA, #3 Australia)2

Loudermilk's Midnight Bus was first recorded in the US by Billy Graves then by Loudermilk himself, but the song became better known in Australia, thanks to a classic local version:
Betty McQuade Midnight Bus (1961, #29 Australia [#6 Melbourne]; 1963 reissue, #69 Australia [#17 Brisbane, #1 Perth)  See my history of Midnight Bus.

As well as Callin' Doctor Casey, another of Loudermilk's own records was popular down under (especially in New Zealand):

John D. LoudermilkThe Language Of Love (1961, #32 USA#21 Australia, #8 NZ).

In fact, in a world where most songwriting credits went unnoticed, Loudermilk would have been known down here mainly as a singer. For connoisseurs of the fine print, he was an extraordinarily prolific and diversifying songwriter.

When he died in 2016, obituarists tried to summarise Loudermilk's huge songwriting repertoire in a few lines. Many started by mentioning two or three well-known and contrasting compositions, typically Tobacco RoadThen You Can Tell Me Goodbye or Indian Reservation

When I attempted a list of "better known recordings" of Loudermilk's songs I tried to keep it short but I ended up with 27. I wanted to convey the volume of familiar songs he had written, but I was also struck by the wide range of styles and ideas they took in. 

An economical way of dramatising Loudermilk's versatility is to pair one of his songs with another that is markedly different from it. Like this:

Top Forty, News, Weather And Sport (Mark Dinning)
Abilene (George Hamilton IV)

Talk Back Tremblin’ Lips (Johnny Tillotson)
Tobacco Road (The Nashville Teens)

Then You Can Tell Me Goodbye (The Casinos)
Norman (Sue Thompson)

The Language Of Love (John D. Loudermilk)
Indian Reservation (The Lament Of The Cherokee Reservation Indian) (Raiders, Don Fardon, Marvin Rainwater: title varies)

Thou Shalt Not Steal (Dick & DeeDee)
This Little Bird (Marianne Faithful)

Midnight Bus (Betty McQuade)
Callin' Doctor Casey (John D. Loudermilk)

Listen to the list on this playlist:

1. Top Forty, News, Weather And Sports 
was on Volume 3 of Glenn A. Bakers Hard To Get Hits, a series that includes the same premise as Only in Oz. 

Two other 
Sue Thompson records written by Loudermilk were hits both in the US and in Australasia: Sad Movies (Make Me Cry) (1961, #5 USA#6 Australia#2 NZ) and Norman (1961, #3 USA#4 Australia#1 NZ), later adapted in Australia as Norman-“Normie" (1966), a tribute to local pop idol Normie Rowe 

Essential reading:
Kees van der Hoeven's John D. Loudermilk site is the definitive, indispensable source where the ultimate aim is to document every Loudermilk song and recording. He must be getting close.

Further reading:
John D. Loudermilk at Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame.


paul kennedy said...

Since sales were dependent on airtime Melbourne radio must have had some announcers with the licence to play the tracks they wanted to push. (Personal note: I won a copy of Midnight Bus - Johnny Chester version - on 3UZ in some ring-up competition. Had to collect it personally from the station.)

Lyn Nuttall said...

Thanks Paul. I'm chuffed that you read this, and commented. I won Herb Alpert's LP "South of the Border" on a 3XY write-in competition when they were playing all albums. 1965, I think.

I'm sure that happened and it does explain some outliers: a deejay plugged a personal favourite. Also, the charts at that time were not based purely on sales data as they are now. Each station had its playlist, and each station in a city like Melbourne published its own chart. These were based on a number of factors including some sampling of record sales at selected stores and, well, whatever they reckoned! The charts we have now for the 60s have been collated retrospectively by averaging out those radio station surveys. It's all we have. I have tackled the subject here, as well as making a case for the value of these retrospectively collated charts: https://poparchivesblog.blogspot.com/2021/02/toppermost-of-poppermost-charts.html