Johnny Tillotson grew up in Florida where he began with radio work and some small-time singing gigs before coming to the attention of Archie Bleyer, boss of New York’s Cadence label. A well-respected record man who took pains and time to develop his artists, Bleyer signed Johnny as a writer and artist. Having enjoyed great success with the Everly Brothers, he saw Johnny as a potential solo star of similar magnitude. Johnny’s debut release, ‘Dreamy Eyes’, reached #63, followed by three more hits before ‘Poetry In Motion’ became a huge international success, peaking at #2 in the USA and #1 in the UK. A stint in the Army from late 1961 interrupted things somewhat, but not enough to prevent ‘It Keeps Right On A-Hurtin’’ making #3.
Bleyer did not stand in Johnny’s way when his manager negotiated a new contract for him with the larger MGM label in 1963. ‘Talk Back Trembling Lips’, our lead track, became his first MGM Top 10 hit. With ‘Worried Guy’ also scoring well, Johnny was set for strong sales, but at that point the British Invasion spearheaded by the Beatles hit the US charts like a thunderbolt. By dint of the quality of his recordings and songwriting, Johnny survived the onslaught, aided to some extent by the fact he recorded in Nashville with all the advantages in musicianship that brought. His voice was professional and recognisable in much the same way as Rick Nelson’s, and like Rick he was able to maintain a good career, although he soon found himself in cabaret-styled venues rather than the teen concert circuit of which he’d been part.
The MGM contract allowed him to record his own fine material, although he also chose other good songs to cover, including ‘Blue Velvet’, ‘Rhythm Of The Rain’, ‘I Can't Stop Loving You’, ‘The Race Is On’, Bobby Darin’s ‘Things’ and a lovely supper-club run at Irving Berlin’s ‘Always’. He re-visited his early hero Hank Williams’ ‘Cold, Cold Heart’ and recorded a sparkling version of Don Gibson’s ‘Oh, Lonesome Me’ featuring some great guitar work.
With 30 tracks, this is a comprehensive compilation of Johnny’s fine MGM years that sits very well alongside his other CDs in the Ace catalogue.