Betty McQuade (1941-2011) originally emigrated to Brisbane from Scotland, but worked in Melbourne from 1960 as vocalist for The Thunderbirds, and later appeared on the Go!! TV show in the mid-60s.
Definitive killer version was recorded in Australia by Scottish born Betty McQuade, with a great back-up by Melbourne’s Thunderbirds. A rock & roll classic.Kees van der Hoeven, John D. Loudermilk aficionado and commentator
References, further reading: 1. Betty McQuade page at First Decade of Rock [archived]. 2. Commentary on McQuade’s and others’ versions at Kees van der Hoeven’s John D. Loudermilk website. 3. First Wave discography: notes on Betty McQuade.
Songs Written By John D. Loudermilk also lists these Australian versions of Midnight Bus:
• The Swordsmen (1966) self-titled LP by mid-60s Melbourne covers band that “specialised in playing at parties” (liner notes).
• Bobby & Laurie (1987), recorded especially for album The Very Best Of… by popular Melbourne duo.
• The McQuades (1992), on mini-album Time Flies by early-90s Melbourne band.
• X (2003 entitled Midnite Bus), on CD album Evil Rumours Live At The Basement by Sydney punk band.
• The Level Spirits (2011): on album Double Crosser by Melbourne “soul garage” band.
Sheet music for Midnight Bus was published in Australia with Col Joye on the cover even though he appears not to have recorded it.
Single on Monument March 1959 by singer-guitarist William Speddin Graves, born 1933 in Frankford, Delaware. After graduating from Carson Long Military Academy in Pennsylvania he served in the US Army where he was mentored by bandleader Don Stallard. He also played for the troops in The Panhandlers, an army band led by Dick Flood.
Back in civilian life from 1956, Graves performed regularly on radio (WRIC in Richlands VA) and on TV (WHIS-TV in nearby Bluefield WV).
He and army music buddy Dick Flood then formed a duo as The Country Lads. They became regulars on TV shows Town And Country Jamboree and The Jimmy Dean Show, and released a couple of singles 1957-58. Billy Graves had a minor solo hit with The Shag (Is Totally Cool) (1958, #53 Billboard, YouTube)
After The Country Lads split up, Graves led Wanda Jackson’s band, then worked in Nashville as a session musician and songwriter before going into A&R and production at Capitol Records in Nashville. From 1967, while still at Capitol, he managed the Nashville arm of music publishers Ardmore & Beechwood.
Dick Flood of The Country Lads was co-writer of the Billy Graves A-side The Shag (Is Totally Cool) and the writer of Midnight Bus’s B-side.
Sources: 1. Margie Higgins, “The Country Lads: A Pattern of Personality”, On The Trail magazine, April 1958. pp. 46-48, digital copy at Internet Archive (author was president of the Country Lads fan club). 2. “‘Shag’ written by friend of Graves”, Billboard, 2 February 1959, p. 14, PDF at World Radio History. 3. Display ad for Columbia Records: The Country Lads, Billboard 11 Nov 1957, p. 114, digital copy at Google Books. 4. Music industry publications from 1960s; email me for details.
Some sources credit Loudermilk and Marijohn Wilkin as songwriters, but this seems to be an error. See, for example, the original Billy Graves record and the BMI listing, both of which cite only Loudermilk.
B-side of Tobacco Road, single on Columbia.
This recording by the composer is not the original version of Midnight Bus. It came out after the release by Billy Graves (1959, see below).
John D. Loudermilk (1934-2016), from Durham, North Carolina, is renowned for the wit and musicality of his songwriting. His best-known songs were made popular by other artists, but exceptions are his own recordings of Sittin’ In The Balcony (as Johnny Dee, 1957, #38 USA) and Language Of Love (1961, #32 USA, #13 UK).
Loudermilk also told Kees that he had no idea his record had charted in Brisbane, and he was not aware of Betty McQuade’s version and the impact it had in Australia.
To appreciate the full Loudermilk repertoire in detail, browse the 6 pages of Songs Written by John D. Loudermilk at Kees
van der Hoeven’s JDL website. These are probably the better known recordings of his compositions:
• George Hamilton IV – A Rose And A Baby Ruth (1956)
• Johnny Dee (= Loudermilk) – Sittin’ In The Balcony (1957)
Eddie Cochran – Sittin’ In The Balcony (1957)
• Stonewall Jackson – Waterloo (1959, co-wr. Marijohn Wilkin)
• Johnny Ferguson – Angela Jones (1960)
• Mark Dinning – Top Forty, News, Weather And Sports (1961); hit in Australia
• The Everly Brothers – Ebony Eyes (1961)
• Sue Thompson – Sad Movies (Make Me Cry) (1961)
• John D. Loudermilk – The Language Of Love (1961); Top 20 Australia
• Betty McQuade – Midnight Bus (1961); Australian cover version
• Sue Thompson – Norman (1962); ; hit in Australia. See also Norman-“Normie”
• Sue Thompson – James (Hold The Ladder Steady) (1962)
• John D. Loudermilk – Callin’ Dr Casey (1962); hit in Australia
• George Hamilton IV – Abilene (1963)
• Johnny Tillotson – Talk Back Tremblin’ Lips (1963)
• The Nashville Teens – Tobacco Road (1964) many other versions including the original by Loudermilk (1959)
• George Hamilton IV – Fort Worth, Dallas Or Houston (1964)
• The Newbeats – Everything’s Alright (1964)
• Sue Thompson – Paper Tiger (1964); hit in Australia
• Dick & DeeDee – Thou Shalt Not Steal (1964)
• Marianne Faithful – This Little Bird (1965)
• The Casinos – Then You Can Tell Me Goodbye (1967), many other versions
• George Hamilton IV – Break My Mind (1967)
Roy Orbison – Break My Mind (1969), many other versions
• Marvin Rainwater – Pale Faced Indian (1959)
Don Fardon – (The Lament Of The Cherokee) Indian Reservation (1968)
Raiders – Indian Reservation (The Lament Of The Cherokee Reservation Indian) (1971)
John D. Loudermilk’s songs in Australia
Loudermilk was familiar in Australia as a recording artist:
• Charted Top 20 with Language Of Love (#16 Sydney, #11 Melbourne, #17 Brisbane, #14 Adelaide);
• Had a hit with Callin’ Dr Casey (1962, #6 Sydney, #2 Melbourne, #10 Brisbane, #10 Adelaide, #6 Perth);
• Just made the Top 40 in Melbourne with Road Hog (1962, #38);
• Charted in Brisbane with his version of Midnight Bus (1960, #27) with Tobacco Road on the B-side.
Australians liked Loudermilk’s composition Top Forty, News, Weather And Sports (1961) with its good-humored references to current songs, events and personalities (I had President Ike up at the mike/ Singing, Are You Lonesome Tonight…). Recorded by Mark Dinning, it wasn’t a hit in the US, but it did better down here: #22 Sydney, #24 Melbourne, #16 Brisbane, #13 Perth.
Sue Thompson had four Top 10 hits in Australia with Loudermilk compositions: Sad Movies (Make Me Cry) (1961), Norman (1962), James (Hold The Ladder Steady) (1962), and Paper Tiger (1965). Only the first two charted Top 10 in the US.
Donna Gaye’s minor Australian hit Norman-“Normie” was Norman rewritten as a tribute to a local pop star.
And of course there was Betty McQuade’s version of Midnight Bus, a classic Australian record.
Single on Fable. Produced by Johnny Chester, string arrangement by Peter Jones.
Melbourne singer, guitarist and songwriter Johnny Chester started out with the Chessmen in the late 50s, performing at dances he organised in the northern suburbs. Signed to Melbourne’s W&G label, he had a number of Top 10 hits in Melbourne from 1961. He became a disc jockey with Top 40 station 3UZ in 1966, and built a successful national career in country music from the 1970s. His website is at www.johnnychester.com.
For more on Johnny Chester, see his Shakin’ All Over at this site.
On the album Songs The Radio Taught Us.
Keith Glass (18th Century Quartet, Cam-Pact), Mick Hamilton (The Vibrants), and Gary Young (Daddy Cool) are all experienced Australian artists whose CVs cover numerous Australian bands over several decades.
Glass and Hamilton first met at school and teamed up again in the 90s. They issued three albums with Gary Young as well as an album as a duo.