Tobacco Road (song)

"Tobacco Road" is a blues song written and first recorded by John D. Loudermilk in 1960 that was a hit for The Nashville Teens in 1964 and has since become a standard across several musical genres.

"Tobacco Road"
Cover of the 1964 English single
Single by The Nashville Teens
from the album Tobacco Road
B-side"I Like It Like That"
ReleasedJune 26, 1964 (1964-06-26) (UK)
August 1964 (1964-08) (US)
LabelDecca (UK)
London (US)
Songwriter(s)John D. Loudermilk
Producer(s)Mickie Most
The Nashville Teens singles chronology
"Tobacco Road"
"Google Eye"
"Tobacco Road"
Cover of the 1972 German single
Single by Eric Burdon & War
from the album Eric Burdon Declares "War"
B-side"Tobacco Road: I Have A Dream"
Songwriter(s)John D. Loudermilk
Producer(s)Jerry Goldstein
Eric Burdon & War singles chronology
"Spill the Wine"
"Tobacco Road"
"Paint It Black"

Loudermilk original

Originally framed as a folk song, "Tobacco Road" was a semi-autobiographical tale of growing up in Durham, North Carolina. Released on Columbia Records, it was not a hit for Loudermilk, achieving only minor chart success in Australia. Other artists, however, immediately began recording and performing the song.

Nashville Teens hit

The English group The Nashville Teens' garage rock[1][2]/blues rock[3] rendering was a bold effort featuring prominent piano, electric guitar, and bass drum parts and a dual lead vocal. Mickie Most produced it with the same tough-edged-pop feel that he brought to The Animals' hits. "Tobacco Road" was a trans-Atlantic pop hit in 1964, reaching number 6 on the UK singles chart and number 14 on the U.S. singles chart. While the Teens would have some further success in the UK, in the U.S. "Tobacco Road" became another one-hit wonder of the British Invasion.

Later versions and uses

In the 1970s, songwriters Nicky Chinn and Mike Chapman claimed to have been inspired by "Tobacco Road" while writing The Sweet's "Blockbuster", after accusations of stealing the guitar riff from David Bowie's "Jean Genie".

The song became a hit for Edgar Winter on his debut album Entrance and he plays a 17-minute live version of the song on the double LP Roadwork from 1972.

"Tobacco Road" has been performed by a great number of other artists, often with slightly altered lyrics. Notable renderings include a soul one from Lou Rawls, a folk rock one from Jefferson Airplane on their debut album Takes Off, a lengthy 17-minute version by Edgar Winter's White Trash, a sample on dead prez's Psychology, and others from Eric Burdon & War, Spooky Tooth, Status Quo, Bill Wyman and the Rhythm Kings, Steve Young, Love Affair, Shocking Blue, David Lee Roth, Aum, Tommy Cash, Blues Magoos, Blues Creation, Bobbie Gentry, Rare Earth, Jean-Jacques Goldman, Mud, Mind Garage, an unreleased version by Jimi Hendrix, Southern Culture on the Skids, Serbian rock bands Smak and Discipline A Kitschme, and so on. It has been done as blues, country music, punk rock, or garage rock. In 2006 it was featured in the finale of the hit television show American Idol, and was performed on the show by contestant Phil Stacey in 2007 and Syesha Mercado in 2008.

In the late 1960s, the song became a staple of the Jackson 5's early shows, and was one of the four songs they performed at their audition for Motown Records in 1968.

On 1 February 1966, Lou Rawls performed the song as a medley with "Southside Blues", which was included on his album Live!.

In 1967, Eric Burdon & The Animals recorded it for a German TV show but it was not broadcast.

In 1970 it was an Atlantic hit by Eric Burdon & War. This version runs for 14 minutes. Later, after they disbanded, they released another version featured on many compilations.

Eric Burdon released some live recordings on "Access All Areas", "Official Live Bootleg #2", "Athens Traffic Live". An 11-minute live version from the early 1980s was released later.

Serbian super-group Smak played a 15 minute version of this song during their concerts in late seventies, in Eric Burdon style. In 1992 they held concerts in Belgrade and recorded and released their 12-minutes version on odLIVEno.

Roy Clark included the song on his 1986 album Rockin' in the Country. His version peaked at number 56 on the Billboard Hot Country Singles chart.[4]

"Tobacco Road" was also recorded by Hank Williams Jr. on his 1995 album Hog Wild.

Paul Revere & The Raiders also recorded a "remix" of this song for their compilation CD The Legend of Paul Revere released May 6, 1990.

Tennessee rockers Every Mother's Nightmare included the song on their 1993 Arista Records release, Wake Up Screaming.

Shawn Colvin and Steve Earle included the song on their 2016 duo album Colvin & Earle.

David Bowie refers to "Tobacco Road" in "Dirty Boys" on his album The Next Day.


  1. Stiernberg, Bonnie. "The 50 Best Garage Rock Songs of All Time". Paste. Retrieved 15 May 2016.
  2. Dave Marsh; James Bernard (1 November 1994). New Book of Rock Lists. Simon and Schuster. p. 14. ISBN 978-0-671-78700-4.
  3. "Tobacco Road" at AllMusic
  4. Whitburn, Joel (2013). Hot Country Songs 1944–2012. Record Research, Inc. p. 77. ISBN 978-0-89820-203-8.
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