Johnny Tillotson (b. April 20, 1938) is a veteran singer-songwriter and former teen idol with a great deal of crossover appeal who became famous during the early 1960s. Over his long career, the versatile, clear-voiced tenor has made his mark in a variety of music genres spanning pop/rock, country, and easy listening. Born in Jacksonville, Florida, he began performing as a child in public and on the radio. By his late teens, he had become a regular on a local TV country music variety show hosted by Toby Dowdy. Soon after, Tillotson landed his own weekly show which he juggled successfully with his studies at the University of Florida where he graduated in 1959 with a Bachelor of Science Degree in Journalism and Communications. While in college, he began writing songs and a local deejay sent a tape of his singing to the Pet Milk talent contest. Tillotson big break came when he was chosen as one of six national finalists, which gave him the opportunity to perform on Nashville's WSM radio and brought him to the attention of publisher Lee Rosenberg. She was so impressed that she took a tape to Cadence Records owner, Archie Bleyer, who signed him to a contract.
Johnny Tillotson made his debut in 1958 on the Pop/Rock charts with the self-penned "Dreamy Eyes"/"Well I'm Your Man," both of which were minor hits. "Dreamy Eyes" later recharted in late 1961 and became a Top 40 hit the following year. After several more minor hits that included covers of The Penguins' "Earth Angel" (1960) and Johnny Ace's "Pledging My Love" (1960), Tillotson's fame took off in late 1960 with "Poetry In Motion," an upbeat, romantic rocker written by Paul Kaufman and Mike Anthony which reached #2 on the Billboard Hot 100 and also became an international hit, topping the U.K. charts.
Tillotson had his first major crossover success in 1962 with the self-penned ballad, "It Keeps Right On A-Hurtin'," which became a Top 5 hit on the Pop/Rock and Country charts, made the R&B Top 10, and earned him his first Grammy nomination. He had another crossover success soon after with his cover of Hank Locklin's "Send Me The Pillow You Dream On" (1962), a Top 20 hit on both the Pop/Rock and Country charts which became the first of many hits to also make the Adult Contemporary Top 5. Tillotson's long string of hits included several other country covers, "I Can't Help It (If I'm Still In Love With You)" (1962 b/w "I'm So Lonesome I Could Cry"), "Talk Back Trembling Lips" (1963), and "Heartaches By The Number" (1965), the latter of which earned him his second Grammy nomination. Other top hits included "Jimmy's Girl" (1961), "You Can Never Stop Me Loving You" (1963), "She Understands Me" (1964), and the self-penned "Without You" (1961) and "Out Of My Mind" (1963). His final Pop/Rock chart hit came in 1971 with "Apple Bend," and he had several minor hits on the Country charts thereafter through 1984. Tillotson also sang the theme for "Gidget," the 1965 TV sitcom starring Sally Field. Titled "(Wait 'Til You See) My Gidget," this song was the B-side of the 1965 hit, "Our World."
At the height of his commercial fame, Johnny Tillotson toured widely with Dick Clark's Cavalcade of Stars and made a number of TV and movie appearances. He received the BrandLaureate International Legendary Award in 2014 and was inducted into the Hit Parade Hall of Fame (2008), the Florida Artist Hall of Fame (2011), and the America's Pop Music Hall of Fame (2014). Tillotson has continued to perform and record actively to the present day.
- For more info about Johnny Tillotson and his touring schedule, visit johnnytillotson.com.
- Johnny Tillotson remembers his time with Dick Clark's Cavalcade of Stars and discusses other topics in an interview with Gary James on classicbands.com.
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- Angel 1965
- Dreamy Eyes 1958
(This song recharted in 1961.)
- Earth Angel 1960
(This song was previously a hit for the Crew-Cuts (1955), the Penguins (1955), and Gloria Mann (1955) and later also became a hit for the Vogues (1969) and New Edition (1986).)
- Funny How Time Slips Away 1963
(This song was previously a hit for Jimmy Elledge (1961) and later also became a hit for Joe Hinton (1964), Dorothy Moore (1976), and the Spinners (1983). (Alternate title: "Funny"))
- Heartaches By The Number 1965
(This song was previously a hit for Guy Mitchell (1959) and Ray Price (1959).)
- I Can't Help It (If I'm Still In Love With You) 1962
(This song was previously a hit for Margaret Whiting (1958) and Adam Wade (1960) and later also became a hit for B.J. Thomas (1967) and Al Martino (1969).)
- I Rise, I Fall 1964
- It Keeps Right On A-Hurtin' 1962
- Jimmy's Girl 1961
- Our World 1965
- Out Of My Mind 1963
- Pledging My Love 1960
(This song was previously a hit for Johnny Ace (1955), Teresa Brewer (1955), and Roy Hamilton (1958).)
- Poetry In Motion 1960
- Send Me The Pillow You Dream On 1962
(This song was previously a hit for Hank Locklin (1958) and the Browns (1960) and later also became a hit for Dean Martin (1965).)
- She Understands Me 1964
(This song later also became a hit for Bobby Vinton (1966, as "Dum-De-Da").)
- Talk Back Trembling Lips 1963
- Why Do I Love You So 1960
- Without You 1961
- Worried Guy 1964
- Worry 1964
- You Can Never Stop Me Loving You 1963
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