“Tobacco Road” to “Indian Reservation”

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Of the many hits charted by Paul Revere & the Raiders, the largest was 1971’s”Indian Reservation (The Lament of the Cherokee Reservation Indian).” It’d be the sole number one for the band, who had scored huge hits such as”Just Like Me,””Kicks” and”Hungry.”By comparison, the Nashville Teens was a one-hit miracle band that just made the Top 20 in 1964 using the hard-edged”Tobacco Road.” Despite its title, the group proved to be a British Invasion band produced by Mickie Most, who honed the noise of the Animals’ and Herman’s Hermits’ series of strikes.Growing up in Durham, North Carolina in the 1930s and 40s supplied the inspiration for Loudermilk’s two biggest hits. Loudermilk has said that Durham had a poor side of town that encouraged him to compose a Southern poverty tune in the tradition of one of his idols, blues guy and protest singer Josh White.Tobacco Road was the rough and tumble part of city where large wooden barrels of tobacco were rolled down to the river and loaded onto barges. The region attracted the type of rowdy element shunned by Durham’s upstanding citizens.Initially listed as a folk song by Loudermilk in 1959,”Tobacco Road” went nowhere. But other musicians, from Lou Rawls to Edgar Winter to the Jefferson Airplane, caught on immediately and released their own variations. Best known is the Nashville Teens’ hard-hitting performance that featured two lead singers, Arthur Sharp and Ray Phillips. John Hawken played the driving piano along with Led Zeppelin’s Jimmy Page, then a sought-after session performer, played guitar on the studio track.Growing up, Loudermilk’s family was a part of the Salvation Army church. Singing on the roads introduced the boy to performing; his mother’s missionary work with Cherokee Indians advised his 1959 tune,”The Pale Faced Indian.”The song tells the story of this”Trail of Tears”: the removal of the Cherokee Nation to bookings in what is now Oklahoma. An estimated four million Cherokee died on the thousand-mile forced travel over land and water in the 1830s. In 1971, lead singer Mark Lindsay of this now-renamed Raiders considered the song for a solo release, but the band would capture a variation that relied upon Fardon’s arrangement. “Indian Reservation” became Columbia Records’ biggest selling only at the time.

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