Thursday, May 20, 2010

Street Names: Tobacco Road

Nashville Teens Tobacco Road

The Nashville Teens: Tobacco Road


Tobacco Road is not the song you think it is. Everything you think you know is wrong.

For one thing, this hit version is not original but a cover. It was written in 1960 by John Loudermilk, who was not known by that name but as Johnny Dee or as a cousin of the Louvin Brothers, two men whose last name was not Louvin. His version was not the hard-driving pop tune heard here, either, but a folk song about his home town, Durham, North Carolina.

This version became a hit in 1964 for the Nashville Teens. They weren't from Nashville, or from North Carolina, or even from the United States. They were, in fact, a British Invasion band. I suspect they weren't teens, either. This hit didn't lead the group to further success – they were a one-hit wonder band who started and ended as a backup band for other artists. Reportedly, the studio version of this song had a non-Teen playing guitar – Jimmy Page.

Tobacco Road is not a real road. These days it refers to the tobacco-growing areas of North Carolina and particularly the sport-minded universities found there: Duke, NC State, UNC, and Wake Forest (whose student athletes generally hail from the other 49 states, not NC). Tobacco Road isn't originally a North Carolina term: it was first used as the title of a novel set in Georgia.

And my name isn't really Geoviki.

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