John Mellencamp – Heartland Rock

John Mellencamp – Heartland Rock

One of the most highly respected singer/songwriters of a generation with a career in music that has spanned more than 35 years! Back in the day, when he’s just starting out, he’s being promoted as a pop sensation. Thankfully that didn’t last long! Lucky for us, he embraces rock and roll and runs with it. Needless to say, this rocker has consistently produced some of the greatest and imaginative music from the beginning of his career in the mid-1970s and ever since. 


The Early Years 

Hailing from the heart lands, Seymour, Indiana. Music is with him right from the start when at the tender age of fourteen he forms his first band. Shortly after he ends up playing several local bands. (Trash, Snakepit Banana Barn, and the Mason Brothers). Needless to say, life takes a few turns for Mellencamp and at age 18, he marries his pregnant girlfriend and becomes a father in December 1970. Six months after he graduates from high school.


In 1972, he attends a two-year college, unfortunately, he does more partying and abusing pot and alcohol which some of us can relate to during our own college years! Despite this, he ends up playing in several local bands called the glitter-band Trash, named after a New York Dolls song. While working a day job installing phones. Despite the chaotic times in college, he gives up the drugs and alcohol and graduates college shortly after. It’s during this time that he decides head to New York to pursue a career in music where’s he’s determined to get a record contract.


Starting out, things didn’t go as well, as he thought. Yes, he got a record deal but for the first album, Chestnut Street Incident, an album full of covers as well as a few originals. There are issues with his name with the label with them suggesting “John Cougar” instead of using Mellencamp. Needless to say, the label gets their way. The album doesn’t sell enough records for them. So, they give another chance and he records “The Kid Inside” The follow up album but his manager, Tony DeFries decides against releasing the album, and the label MCA drops him from their roster.


Once again, luck is on his side and he draws interest with Rod Stewart’s manager Billy Gaff, who basically wants to give him a chance and takes him under his wing. But only on the condition that he records it in London. Mellencamp moves to London for a year to record, promote and tour for 1978’s “A Biography ” This originally has the hit song “I Need A Lover” that’s also a hit in Australia, then added to Cougar’s 1979 self-titled album where Pat Benatar does a cover for her debut “In The Heat of The Night” album.


In 1982, he releases his breakthrough album American Fool, featuring the singles “Hurt So Good”, “Jack & Diane”, “Hand to Hold on to”. He finally gets his time in the spotlight when he wins the Grammy Award for Best Male Rock Vocal Performance at the 25th Grammys. Maybe because it has a different sound to it? Either way, he finally got the recognition he deserves. Also, it’s the album that people could really connect with as well. It’s during this time that he also somewhat takes back his career and by 1982, he’s co-producing his albums. 


Being a Part of Farm Aid

After changing his name to John Cougar Mellencamp, he releases his breakthrough 1985 LP, “Scarecrow“.  Also, in 1985 Mellencamp establishes himself as the voice of America’s mid-west. Along with the plight of American farmers when he joins forces with Neil Young and Willie Nelson as a co-founder for Farm Aid. Farm Aid’s mission is to cultivate a vibrant, just, and resilient family farm-centered system of agriculture in America.


With music as our inspiration and farmers as our heroes, we envision a transformed America in which family farmers and citizens are active partners in a thriving food system that ensures farmers a fair living, justly nourishes people and communities, protects, and sustains natural resources, and secures a prosperous future for all. For Mellencamp, this is an important performance over the years. Because it’s where he grew up and see firsthand how tough things can really get for the farmers and their families.


While most know him as a singer, songwriter, you can now add being a Painter, Actor, Composer, Musical Theater. As well as being involved in politics and activism. Also teaming up with Bruce Springsteen on “Wasted Days” A new album, The Good Samaritan Tour Live Album. Lastly “Good Samaritan Tour Documentary” Coming This Summer! So, as you can see, Mellencamp is doing quite well, and all the projects seem to be falling into place finally. Check out his web-site for tour dates, projects & releases!





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