Johnny Tillotson was born on April 20,
1939 so in celebration of his birthday, he was been selected as this month's spotlight
Johnny 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, that kept him steadily working well into
the 21st century.
He got his first exposure as a singer on his father's radio station while he was
still a child Although his primary interest was country music, he was inspired when he saw Elvis Presley
perform in Jacksonville on May 13, 1955, just after he had turned 14.
While still in high school, Tillotson was making records and performing on
stage; as a student at the University of Florida, he had his own musical variety show on regional television.
Following graduation in 1959 with a Bachelor's Degree in Journalism and Communications, he signed with Cadence
Records and moved to New York City to pursue his music career.
Cadence's owner Archie Bleyer issued Tillotson's first single in September 1958,
combining two of the singer's own compositions, the ballad "Dreamy Eyes" and the up-tempo "Well I'm Your
Man." "Well I'm Your Man" charted first, peaking at number 87 in the Billboard Hot 100 in October, but
"Dreamy Eyes" followed, topping out at number 63 in January 1959. (The simultaneously released "I'm Never Gonna
Kiss You," a duet with Genevieve, a singer on the Jack Parr TV show, did not chart.)
The next release was in August 1959; "True True Happiness," petered out at number
54 in September, and "Why Do I Love You So," followed in December and reached number 42 in February 1960. Next,
Bleyer tried having Tillotson cover a couple of old R&B hits, combining The Penguins' "Earth Angel" and
Johnny Ace's "Pledging My Love" but both peaked in the bottom half of the Hot 100 in May.
In 1960, he recorded his first big hit, a composition entitled "Poetry in Motion"
(written by Anthony/Kaufman), that went to #2 on the Billboard Hot 100 in the U.S. and #1 on the UK Singles
Tillotson became a "crossover" artist. Several of Tillotson's songs were
successful on both the country music charts and pop charts. He earned a Grammy Award nomination for another of
his own compositions, "It Keeps Right On a-Hurtin," which was a U.S. #3 hit, and also for the cover of the song
"Heartaches by the Number," nominated for Best Vocal Performance of 1965.
He also appeared in the 1963 film Just for Fun and sang the theme song for the
1965 Sally Field television comedyGidget. He had his last Top 10 U.S. hit in 1964
with "Talk Back Trembling Lips", which reached #7, just prior to the British invasion which curtailed
Tillotson's major hit making days. Tillotson was featured in the 1966 camp comedyThe Fat Spy starring
Jayne Mansfield, Jack E. Leonard, Phyllis Diller and Brian Donlevy. This film was featured in the 2004
documentary The 50 Worst Movies Ever Made (#46).
Tillotson stayed with MGM Records through to 1968, then signed to Jimmy
Bowen's Amos Records label, which had him cover Little Anthony & the Imperials' "Tears on My Pillow" in
1969. The same year, he scored a country hit as a songwriter, when Ernest Tubb and Loretta Lynn took their
duet on "Who's Gonna Take the Garbage Out" into the country Top 20. Tillotson had stints at Buddah Records
(1971-1972), Columbia (1973-1975), and United Artists (1976-1977), the last producing a country chart entry
with "Toy Hearts." Another country chart entry came in 1984 with "Lay Back (In the Arms of Someone)" on Reward
Records. In 1990, Tillotson released a single, "Bim Bam Boom," on Atlantic.
In 1996, he estimated that he was performing 230 days a year. He continued to
tour into the 21st century, launching his own website, and sold new CDs such as Love Songs and Standards, the
archival collection The Early Years, and The Golden Hits.
In a career spanning more than 40 years, Tillotson has recorded 26 singles that
made it onto Billboard's charts, and performed at venues across the United States and other places around the