Johnny Tillotson

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Johnny Tillotson
Johnny Tillotson 196
Johnny Tillotson, 1965.
Background information
Born(1939-04-20) April 20, 1939 (age 75)
Jacksonville, Florida
Genrescountry, pop
Occupationssinger, songwriter
Years active1957 - Present
LabelsCadence Records
MGM Records
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This article is about the 1950s and 1960s singer. For the former Archbishop, see John Tillotson.
Johnny Tillotson
Johnny Tillotson 196
Johnny Tillotson, 1965.
Background information
Born(1939-04-20) April 20, 1939 (age 75)
Jacksonville, Florida
Genrescountry, pop
Occupationssinger, songwriter
Years active1957 - Present
LabelsCadence Records
MGM Records

Johnny Tillotson (born April 20, 1939 in Jacksonville, Florida) is an American singer and songwriter. He enjoyed his greatest success in the early 1960s, when he scored nine top-ten hits on the pop, country and adult contemporary Billboard charts including "Poetry In Motion" and the self-penned "It Keeps Right On a-Hurtin'". He also sang "Yellow Bird", an adaptation of the Haitian song.

Tillotson was inducted in the Florida Artists Hall of Fame in 2011.[1]


Johnny is the son of Doris and Jack Tillotson, who owned a small service station on the corner of 6th and Pearl in Jacksonville, and acted as the station's mechanic. At the age of nine, Johnny was sent to Palatka, Florida[2] to take care of his grandmother. He returned to Jacksonville each summer to be with his parents when his brother Dan would go to his grandmother. Johnny began to perform at local functions as a child, and by the time he was at Palatka Senior High School he had developed a reputation as a talented singer.[3] He became a regular on the Toby Dowdy regional TV show in Jacksonville, and then had his own TV show on WFGA-TV.[4] In 1957, while Tillotson was studying at the University of Florida, a local disc jockey, Bob Norris sent a tape of Johnny's singing to the Pet Milk talent contest, and was chosen as one of six National finalists. This gave Johnny the opportunity to perform in Nashville, Tennessee, on WSM the Grand Ole Opry, which led Lee Rosenberg, a Nashville publisher, to take a tape to Archie Bleyer, owner of the independent Cadence Records.[5] 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 were 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.[2][3][6]

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 on his recording career, also appearing on television and was featured as a teen idol in magazines. His follow-up record, "Jimmy's Girl," 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.[2] He toured widely with Dick Clark's Cavalcade Of Stars.[5]

Early in 1962, Tillotson recorded a song he wrote, "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 was 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 covered by over 100 performers including Elvis Presley and Billy Joe Royal, whose version was a country hit in 1988.[3] Tillotson then recorded an album, It Keeps Right On A-Hurtin', on which he covered 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 country-flavored and pop songs in 1963, and "You Can Never Stop Me Loving You" and the 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.[2]

With the demise of the Cadence label, he formed a production company and moved to MGM Records, starting with his version of the recent country charted No. 1 song by Ernest Ashworth, "Talk Back Trembling Lips," reached # 7 in January 1964 on Billboard's Hot 100. He earned his second Grammy nomination for "Heartaches by the Number," nominated for Best Vocal Performance of 1965, which reached No. 4 on the Adult Contemporary Charts. 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. Besides concert and recording he appeared in several films. 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). He also appeared in Just for Fun, a British music film; the Japanese movie Namida Kun Sayonara, after his number 1 Japanese hit of the same name; and the made-for-TV The Call of the Wild.

In the 1970s, he recorded for the Amos, Buddah, Columbia and United Artists labels.[3] He appeared in concert, 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 80s that his hits in South East Asia had him appear in Thailand, Singapore and Malaysia, Australia and New Zealand on a regular basis with tours in Japan and Hong Kong. In 1990 he signed with Atlantic records and again charted briefly with "Bim Bam Boom."

In May 1991 his 22 year old daughter Kelli was killed in a car accident which devastated Johnny as well as his surviving son and family.

Johnny recorded for Charity in 1990s several Christmas songs with Freddy Cannon and Brian Hyland for the Children's Miracle network, produced by Michael Lloyd. "Come On A Sleigh Ride With Me" written by Michael is a new Christmas favorite. He also recorded with Tommy Roe and Brian Hyland, again for Michael Lloyd for Rudolph The Red Nose Reindeer The Movie (1998), "We Can Make It."


In 2006 he was honored by the University of Florida College of Journalism and Communications with the Alumni of Distinction award. At that time fewer than one hundred persons had been so honored.

In 2008 Johnny Tillotson was honored to be inducted into the Hit Parade Hall Of Fame. []

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 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.



1959This Is Johnny Tillotson
1960Johnny Tillotson (EP)
1962It Keeps Right On a-Hurtin'8
1963You Can Never Stop Me Loving You
1964Talk Back Trembling Lips48
The Tillotson Touch
She Understands Me148
1965That's My Style
Johnny Tillotson Sings
1966No Love at All
The Christmas Touch
Johnny Tillotson Sings Tillotson
1967Here I Am
1969Tears on My Pillow
1970Johnny Tillotson
1977Johnny Tillotson
2009Victoria's The Little Merboy


1962Johnny Tillotson's Best120
1968The Best of Johnny Tillotson
1972The Very Best of Johnny Tillotson
1990All the Early Hits - and More!!!!


YearSinglePeak chart positionsAlbum
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"54Johnny Tillotson (EP)
1960"Why Do I Love You So"42
"Earth Angel" / "Pledging My Love"*57 / 63*This Is Johnny Tillotson
1961"Poetry in Motion"2271
"Jimmy's Girl"2543
"Without You"7Johnny Tillotson's Best
1962"Dreamy Eyes" (re-issue)35
"It Keeps Right On A-Hurtin' "36431It Keeps Right On a-Hurtin'
"Send Me The Pillow That You Dream On"1711521
"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)"24841
1963"Out of My Mind"241134Greatest
"You Can Never Stop Me Loving You"184Judy, Judy, Judy
"Talk Back Trembling Lips"76Talk Back Trembling Lips
"Funny How Time Slips Away"5016It Keeps Right On a-Hurtin'
1964"I'm a Worried Guy"37Talk Back Trembling Lips
"Please Don't Go Away"112
"I Rise, I Fall"37The Tillotson Touch
"She Understands Me"31425She Understands Me
1965"Angel"5133Johnny Tillotson Sings
"Then I'll Count Again"86-That's My Style
"Heartaches by the Number"35414
"Our World"7023Johnny Tillotson Sings
1966"Hello Enemy"128Single only
"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"4824The Best of Johnny Tillotson
1968"I Can Spot a Cheater"63Singles only
"Why So Lonely"
"Letter to Emily"
1969"Tears on My Pillow"11994Tears 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"127Johnny Tillotson (1970)
"Welfare Hero"
"Make Believe"Singles only
1973"Your Love's Been a Long Time Comin'"
"If You Wouldn't Be My Lady"77
"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"67Singles only
1984"Lay Back in the Arms of Someone"91
2010"Not Enough"25Single only


  1. ^ Johnny Tillotson Florida Artists Hall of Fame
  2. ^ a b c d "Biography by William Ruhlmann". Retrieved 10 February 2009. 
  3. ^ a b c d Biographical article at
  4. ^ Television appearances at
  5. ^ a b Interview with Tillotson by Gary James
  6. ^ Biography on official Johnny Tillotson website
  7. ^ Whitburn, Joel (2011). Top Pop Singles 1955–2010. Record Research, Inc. p. 899. ISBN 0-89820-188-8. 
  8. ^ Roberts, David (2006). British Hit Singles & Albums (19th ed.). London: Guinness World Records Limited. p. 560. ISBN 1-904994-10-5. 

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