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Johnny Tillotson (born April 20, 1939, Jacksonvillemarker, Floridamarker; raised in Palatkamarker) is an Americanmarker singer and songwriter. Tillotson 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.marker and around the world, that kept him steadily working well into the 21st century.


He was the son of Jack Tillotson, a country music disc jockey, and Doris Tillotson. When Tillotson was nine, he moved 40 miles to the smaller Florida town of Palatka. He got his first exposure as a singer on his father's radio station while he was still a child. His primary interest was country music, although 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 Floridamarker, 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 Citymarker 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.marker and #1 on the UK Singles Chart.

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 a rendition of the 1959 hit "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 comedy Gidget. 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. He was featured in the 1966 camp comedy The 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).

He 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 on Atlantic Records, "Bim Bam Boom," co-written by Tillotson's former guitarist and music director, John Beland, who would go on to achieve his own chart success as one half of the hit country duo the Burrito Brothers.

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 globe.




  • 1962: Johnny Tillotson's Best (U.S. #120)
  • 1968: The Best of Johnny Tillotson
  • 1972: The Very Best of Johnny Tillotson
  • 1977: Greatest
  • 1984: Scrapbook
  • 1990: All the Early Hits - and More!!!!


Year Title Album U.S. Pop U.S. R&B U.S. Country U.S. Easy listening UK Singles Chart
1958 "Dreamy Eyes" Johnny Tillotson (EP) 63
1958 "I'm Never Gonna Kiss You"
(duet with Genevieve)
1959 "True True Happiness" Johnny Tillotson (EP) 54
1960 "Why Do I Love You So" This Is Johnny Tillotson 42
1960 "Earth Angel" This Is Johnny Tillotson 57
1960 "Poetry in Motion" This Is Johnny Tillotson 2 27 1
1961 "Jimmy's Girl" This Is Johnny Tillotson 25 43
1961 "Without You" Johnny Tillotson's Best 7
1962 "Dreamy Eyes" (reissue) Johnny Tillotson's Best 35
1962 "It Keeps Right On a-Hurtin'" It Keeps Right On a-Hurtin' 3 6 4 31
1962 "Send Me the Pillow You Dream On" It Keeps Right On a-Hurtin' 17 4 5 21
1962 "What'll I Do?" It Keeps Right On a-Hurtin' 106
1962 "I'm So Lonesome I Could Cry" It Keeps Right On a-Hurtin' 89
1962 "I Can't Help It (If I'm Still in Love With You)" It Keeps Right On a-Hurtin' 24 41
1963 "Out of My Mind" Greatest 24 34
1963 "You Can Never Stop Me Loving You" Judy, Judy, Judy 18 4
1963 "Talk Back Trembling Lips" Talk Back Trembling Lips 7 6
1963 "Funny How Time Slips Away" It Keeps Right On a-Hurtin' 50
1964 "I'm a Worried Guy" Talk Back Trembling Lips 37
1964 "Please Don't Go Away" Talk Back Trembling Lips 112
1964 "I Rise, I Fall" The Tillotson Touch 37
1964 "Worry" The Tillotson Touch 45 5
1964 "She Understands Me" She Understands Me 31 4
1965 "Angel" Johnny Tillotson Sings 51
1965 "Then I'll Count Again" That's My Style 86 4
1965 "Heartaches by the Number" That's My Style 35 4
1965 "Our World" Johnny Tillotson Sings 70
1966 "I Never Loved You Anyway" Johnny Tillotson Sings
1966 "Country Boy" Johnny Tillotson Sings Tillotson
1966 "What Am I Gonna Do" No Love at All
1966 "Open Up Your Heart"
1966 "Christmas Country Style" The Christmas Touch
1967 "Tommy Jones" Here I Am
1967 "Don't Tell Me It's Raining" Here I Am
1967 "You're the Reason" The Best of Johnny Tillotson 48
1968 "I Can Spot a Cheater" 63
1968 "Why So Lonely"
1968 "Letter to Emily"
1969 "Tears on My Pillow" Tears on My Pillow
1969 "Joy to the World" Tears on My Pillow
1969 "Raining in My Heart" Tears on My Pillow
1970 "Susan"
1970 "I Don't Believe in If Anymore"
1971 "Apple Bend" Johnny Tillotson (1970)
1971 "Welfare Hero" Johnny Tillotson (1970)
1971 "Make Believe"
1973 "Your Love's Been a Long Time Comin'"
1973 "If You Wouldn't Be My Lady"
1973 "I Love How She Needs Me"
1974 "Till I Can't Take It Anymore"
1975 "Mississippi Lady"
1975 "Right Here in Your Arms"
1976 "Summertime Lovin'" Johnny Tillotson (1977)
1977 "Toy Hearts" Johnny Tillotson (1977) 99
1979 "Poetry in Motion" (re-issue) / "Princess Princess" 67
1984 "Lay Back in the Arms of Someone" 91


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