The Nashville Teens

Tobacco Road

Song Review by

"Tobacco Road" is a tough, nasty blues song that sounds as if it could have been written by a weathered Delta bluesman in the 1920s. However, it was in fact written by a country-oriented songwriter more known for lightweight ditties along the lines of George Hamilton IV's "A Rose and a Baby Ruth" and the Everly Brothers' "Ebony Eyes," as well as the weird "Indian Reservation," eventually a huge hit for Paul Revere & the Raiders. It took the Nashville Teens to make "Tobacco Road" into an international hit in 1964, and though it was their only international hit, it was a classic that reinterpreted the Loudermilk composition from the ground up. As originally recorded by Loudermilk on a 1960 single, "Tobacco Road" was a sparsely arranged tale of rural poverty with a thumping beat played on low guitar strings, connected by a lighter and jazzier bridge, and occasionally decorated by bluesy guitar figures. Loudermilk's voice wasn't too forceful, though, and a remake on his 1962 12 Sides of album was far inferior and far too jaunty. Somehow the song made its way to the Nashville Teens, who transformed it into a grinding blues-rocker that made the British Top Ten and the American Top Twenty. The Nashville Teens' version starts with a downright evil blast of curling blues-rock guitar and barroom piano. The thumping beat and ominous ascending two-chord riff is drawn out exponentially on the verses, both by virtue of percussion that pounds like a chain gang hammer and a dual lead vocal. That lead vocal is especially effective at the end of the verses, when all the instruments cease and the pair of singers moan in forlorn gospel-like tones, drawing out the word "road" to many syllables. The bridge is an effective contrast to the verses, changing into an upbeat boogie as the group declares their love for "Tobacco Road" despite all its dust and dirt, as it's their home. All the instruments drop out again at the end of the verse for the vocalists to sing-chant "Tobacco Road," the cue for the creepy riff that started the track to re-enter. John Hawken (later of Renaissance) unleashes a superb boogie piano solo in the instrumental break, and the song ends on an exciting note after another run through the bridge, leading back to the main riff and a thumping heartbeat rhythm on the fade. The Nashville Teens never again came close to the brilliance of "Tobacco Road," though they did record a couple of other Loudermilk songs for singles ("Google Eye" and "The Little Bird"). It was far from the last time the public heard "Tobacco Road," however, as the song was covered many times in the ensuing years. Some of the most notable versions include ones by the Jefferson Airplane, who put a folk-rockish one on their first album; the Blues Magoos, who gave it a berserk psychedelic treatment; Chicago bluesman Junior Wells; and Lou Rawls, who did a soulful blues-jazz version as the title track of a 1963 LP, prior to the Nashville Teens' cover.

Appears On

Year Artist/Album Label Time AllMusic Rating
Tobacco Road 1964 One Way Records 2:27
No Image 1974 New World Records
No Image 1978
Various Artists
London 2:27
No Image 1988
Various Artists
K-Tel Distribution
Classic Rock: Rock Renaissance, Vol. 3 1990
Various Artists
Time / Life Music 2:28
No Image 1991
Various Artists
Wisepack
Sounds of the Sixties: 20 Swinging Hits 1993
Various Artists
Telstar
Treasured Tunes, Vol. 1 1995
Various Artists
Stardust Records 2:30
Cool Beat: 20 Rock Classics from the Sixties 1995
Various Artists
Castle Music Ltd.
Happy Days: 100 Rock 'N' Roll Hits 1995
Various Artists
Madacy Distribution / Madacy 2:41
Wild Thing: 60s Rock Bands 1996
Various Artists
K-Tel Distribution 2:40
Sixties Generation: 1964 1997
Various Artists
St. Clair / Sixties Generation 4:32
1964: 20 Original Chart Hits 1997
Various Artists
A Time To Remember 2:31
20th Century Rocks, Vol. 7: '60s Rock Bands - Wild Thing 1997
Various Artists
K-Tel Distribution 2:42
Born to Be Wild [Madacy] 1997
Various Artists
Madacy 2:40
Rock n' Roll Reunion: Class of 64 1997
Various Artists
Madacy 2:40
No Image 1997
Various Artists
Crimson Productions
Rockin' Jukebox, 1964 1997
Various Artists
Excelsior Recordings 2:40
The Ultimate History of Rock 'N' Roll Collection 1997
Various Artists
K-Tel Distribution 2:40
The Ultimate History of Rock & Roll Collection, Vol. 7: The Great Bands 1998
Various Artists
K-Tel Distribution 2:42
60's Beat [Crimson] 1998
Various Artists
Crimson Productions
Wild Thing [Madacy] 1998
Various Artists
Madacy 2:40
Classic British Pop 60's 1998
Various Artists
Fine Tune 4:28
60's Generation 1998
Various Artists
Crimson Productions
Millennium Box Set 1999
Various Artists
Disky 2:26
No Image 1999
Various Artists
Disky
Hits of the '60s [Legacy Entertainment] 2000
Various Artists
Legacy 4:31
Sixties Generation: 1964-1965 2000
Various Artists
Boxsets 4:32
60's: Wild Things 2000
Various Artists
Direct Source 2:43
Rock Frenzy 2000
Various Artists
Direct Source 4:31
1964 Classic Rock 2000
Various Artists
Direct Source 2:43
British Rock: Changing of the Guard 2000
Various Artists
Madacy Distribution / Madacy 2:39
Classic Rock: Hits of 1964 2000
Various Artists
Direct Source 2:41
Power Trip 2000
Various Artists
Direct Source 4:31
Rock N' Roll Hits of the 60's 2000
Various Artists
Madacy Distribution / Madacy 2:41
60's Flower Power 2000
Various Artists
Direct Source 2:43
Rock N' Roll 60's Flashback 2000
Various Artists
Direct Source 2:10
British Invasion [Madacy] 2000
Various Artists
Madacy Distribution / Madacy 2:39
British Invasion, Vol. 1 [Madacy] 2000
Various Artists
Madacy 2:39
British Rock, Vol. 3 [Madacy] 2000
Various Artists
Madacy 2:39
No Image 2000
Various Artists
Disky 2:26
Rock N' Roll Reunion: 1960 to 1969 2000
Various Artists
Madacy Distribution 2:42
Totally Groovy 60's: 1963-1966 2001
Various Artists
EMI Music Distribution 2:26
Wolfman Jack's: Cruisin' Songs 2001
Various Artists
St. Clair 3:00
Complete Collection 2001
Various Artists
Disky 2:26
Hard to Find 45's on CD, Vol. 6: More Sixties Classics 2001
Various Artists
Eric Records 2:28
Wolfman Jack's: Teen Idols!/Cruisin' Songs/Surfin' Toons 2002
Various Artists
Boxsets 3:00
Jukebox Hits 1964 [Madacy] 2002
Various Artists
Madacy Distribution / Madacy 2:41
Up the Junction: 60 Original 1960's British Classics 2002
Various Artists
Disky 2:26
Forever Gold: Gold Collection: Songs of Summer 2002
Various Artists
St. Clair 4:30
Up the Junction [CD2] 2002
Various Artists
Disky 2:26
Ultimate British Invasion Collection 2003
Various Artists
Magada International / WEA International 2:26
Grooviest Hits Ever 2003
Various Artists
St. Clair 4:29
60s Rock n' Roll 2003
Various Artists
Madacy 4:30
Peace Protest: 20 Sixties Classics 2003
Various Artists
Crimson Productions 2:28
Rock N Roll Reunion 1964 2003
Various Artists
Madacy Distribution / Madacy 4:31
Original 60's Summer Album 2003
Various Artists
EMI Music Distribution 2:26
The British Are Coming 2003
Various Artists
Sanctuary 0:00
Rock 'N' Roll Drive 2003
Various Artists
Direct Source 4:27
British Are Coming, Vol. 3 2003
Various Artists
Sanctuary 2:29
Rock N' Roll Hits Of The 60s [Disc 3] 2003
Various Artists
Madacy 4:30
20 Best of Rockin' 60's 2004
Various Artists
Madacy Distribution / Madacy 4:29
Swinging Sixties [K-Tel UK] 2004
Various Artists
K-Tel Distribution 2:43
Complete Sixties 2005
Various Artists
EMI Music Distribution 2:28
The Pop Years 2005
Various Artists
K-Tel Distribution 2:43
Hits of the 60s: Those Were the Days [3 Disc] 2006
Various Artists
BMG / Delta 2:41
Greatest Hits of the 60's 2006
Various Artists
Disky 2:26
101 60's Hits [EMI] 2007
Various Artists
EMI Music Distribution 2:25
Where Were You: 1964 2007
Various Artists
EMI / EMI Music Distribution 2:26
Rockin' Back to Tobacco Road 2007 Dream Catcher Records / Secret Records 2:40
The Original 60's Box Set 2007
Various Artists
EMI 2:25
Top of the Pops 1964 2007
Various Artists
EMI 2:25
Pure: 60s [EMI] 2007
Various Artists
EMI Music Distribution 2:26
101 Driving Songs 2008
Various Artists
Virgin 2:25
Pure Driving Rock [3 Discs] 2008
Various Artists
EMI Music Distribution 2:27
101 Pirate Radio Hits 2009
Various Artists
EMI Music Distribution 2:25
60's Summer Party 2011
Various Artists
EMI Gold 2:25
100 Hits: Classic 60s 2011
Various Artists
100 Hits / EMI 2:26
100 Hits: Driving Rock [2011] 2011
Various Artists
Demon 2:26
Massive Hits! Sixties 2011
Various Artists
EMI / EMI Gold 2:25
Latest & Greatest Driving Rock Anthems 2014
Various Artists
USM Media 2:25
Guitar Heroes: 100 Great Guitar Classics
Various Artists
100 Hits / Demon Music Group / DMG 100 / EMI 2:26
Sixties Collection, Vol. 2
Various Artists
Going For A Song 4:30
The 60's Collection
Various Artists
Going For A Song 4:30
The Hits That Rocked the Airwaves
Various Artists
Universal 2:27