Pop Archives

Betty McQuade - Midnight Bus (1961)

(John D. Loudermilk)
Australia Australia
#6 Melbourne [#17 Brisbane #1 Perth]

Did not chart in Brisbane and Perth until 1965 on the Go!! label, four years after the initial release on Astor. Also recharted in Melbourne in 1965, peaking at #39.

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.

Thanks Kees.

Billy Graves - Midnight Bus (1959)

(John D. Loudermilk)
Original version

Billy Graves 1958

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.

Further reading: Dick Flood – aka Okefenokee Joe – has had a long and varied career. See Dick Flood at Wikipedia and his website okefenokeejoe.com.

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.

John D. Loudermilk - Midnight Bus (1960)

(John D. Loudermilk)
#27 Brisbane

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 notable exceptions are his own recordings of Sittin’ In The Balcony (as Johnny Dee, 1957, #38 USA), Language Of Love (1961, #32 USA, #13 UK, #21 Australia), and Callin’ Dr Casey (1962, #4 Australia).

In my hometown of Durham, the Midnight Bus, that’s the way the kids used to elope. Now back before everybody had a car and those who either got pregnant or wanted to get married early, they just got on the bus and went down to South Carolina ’cause you could marry at 14 down there. So they’d get on the bus and get married and come back, the next day to tell all their friends, “Look, we’re married, ha ha!”

John D. Loudermilk, as told to Kees van der Hoeven

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 (selected chart placings):
 • George Hamilton IVA Rose And A Baby Ruth (1956)
 • Johnny Dee (= Loudermilk) – Sittin’ In The Balcony (1957)
 • Eddie CochranSittin’ In The Balcony (1957)
 • Stonewall JacksonWaterloo (1959, co-wr. Marijohn Wilkin)
 • Johnny FergusonAngela Jones (1960)
 • Mark DinningTop Forty, News, Weather And Sports (1961, #81 USA, #17 Australia);
 • The Everly BrothersEbony Eyes (1961)
 • Sue ThompsonSad Movies (Make Me Cry) (1961, #5 USA, #46 UK, #6 Australia, #2 NZ)
 • John D. LoudermilkThe Language Of Love (1961, #32 USA, #13 UK, #21 Australia, #8 NZ)
 • Betty McQuadeMidnight Bus (1961); Australian cover version
 • Sue ThompsonNorman (1961, #3 USA, #4 Australia, #1 NZ); See also Norman-“Normie”
 • Sue ThompsonJames (Hold The Ladder Steady) (1962, #17 USA, #6 Australia, #15 NZ)
 • John D. LoudermilkCallin’ Dr Casey (1962, #83 USA, #4 Australia, #9 NZ);
 • George Hamilton IVAbilene (1963)
 • Johnny TillotsonTalk Back Tremblin’ Lips (1963)
 • The Nashville TeensTobacco Road (1964) many other versions including the original by Loudermilk (1959)
 • George Hamilton IVFort Worth, Dallas Or Houston (1964)
 • The NewbeatsEverything’s Alright (1964)
 • Sue ThompsonPaper Tiger (1964[USA]-1965, #23 USA. #30 UK, #3 Australia)
 • Dick & DeeDeeThou Shalt Not Steal (1964)
 • Marianne FaithfulThis Little Bird (1965)
 • The CasinosThen You Can Tell Me Goodbye (1967), many other versions
 • George Hamilton IVBreak My Mind (1967)
 •  Roy OrbisonBreak My Mind (1969), many other versions
 • Marvin RainwaterPale Faced Indian (1959)
 • Don Fardon(The Lament Of The Cherokee) Indian Reservation (1968)
 • RaidersIndian 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 #21 with Language Of Love (1961, #16 Sydney, #11 Melbourne, #17 Brisbane, #14 Adelaide);
 • Had a #4 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 Melbourne);
 • Charted in Brisbane with his version of Midnight Bus (1960, #27 Brisbane) 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 (#81 Billboard), but it did better down here: #22 Sydney, #24 Melbourne, #16 Brisbane, #13 Perth | #17 Australia.

Sue Thompson had four Top 10 hits in Australia with Loudermilk compositions: Sad Movies (Make Me Cry) (1961, #6 Australia), Norman (1962, #4 Australia), James (Hold The Ladder Steady) (1962, #6 Australia), and Paper Tiger (1964[USA]-1965, #3 Australia). 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.

Johnny Chester & Jigsaw - Midnight Bus (1972)

(John D. Loudermilk)
Australia Australia
Later version
#32 Sydney #7 Melbourne #28 Adelaide

Single on Fable. Produced by Johnny Chester, string arrangement by Peter Jones.

Listen at YouTube

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.

Glass Hamilton Young - Midnight Bus (1995)

(John D. Loudermilk)
Australia Australia
Later version

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.  

See also Milesago's pages on 18th Century Quartet, Cam-Pact, Daddy Cool and The Vibrants, and Keith Glass's website.

Audrey Arno - Der letzte Bus (Midnight Bus) (1959)

(John D. Loudermilk - Peter Lach)
Germany Germany

B-side on Polydor by German singer-actress (1942-2012), German lyrics by Peter Lach.

Listen at YouTube