Saturday, July 5, 2014



When Columbia Records signed Bruce Springsteen, John Hammond thought he’d found the “New Dylan.”

Dylan made such an impression on the folk music world (and modern music in general) that critics and fans have been looking for an artist who would live up to his genius and legacy for decades now.

Since Springsteen auditioned for Hammond with just an acoustic guitar, it is not hard to see why Hammond thought he’d found an artist similar to Dylan-check out the songs he demoed for Hammond in their acoustic versions on the Tracks collection.

Imagine Hammond’s surprise when Springsteen delivered Greetings From Asbury Park.

Countless artists have been labeled "the next Bob Dylan" through the years, but after Springsteen started finding success, first with Born To Run, and continuously up to the massive mainstream success of Born In The USA, labels also started looking for “the next Springsteen.”

This series is going to focus on some of the artists who have been tagged with that label, some who achieved mainstream success, some who did not.

And we’re starting with a kid from Indiana named Johnny Cougar.

You know him better as John Mellemcamp, but his manager insisted that Mellencamp's perform under the stage name Johnny Cougar, suggesting that the bumpy German name "Mellencamp" was too hard to market.

Mellencamp reluctantly agreed, although his first album (Chestnut Street Incident) flopped, the second (The Kid Inside) was not released until after Mellencamp’s breakthrough, and the third (A Biography) was only released overseas, although the song “I Need A Lover” was a hit Down Under.

After being dumped by MCA, Mellencamp (as John Cougar) signed with the tiny Riva Records label, releasing what most people think of as his debut, 1979's John Cougar, and adding “I Need A Lover” which charted at number 28.  The song was also covered by Pat Benatar on her debut album In the Heat of the Night.

In 1980, Mellencamp returned with the Steve Cropper-produced Nothin' Matters and What If It Did, which yielded two Top 40 singles — "This Time" (No. 27) and "Ain't Even Done With the Night" (No. 17).

In 1982, Mellencamp released his breakthrough album, American Fool, which contained the singles "Hurts So Good," an uptempo rock tune that spent four weeks at No. 2 and 16 weeks in the top 10, and "Jack & Diane," which was a No. 1 hit for four weeks. A third single, "Hand to Hold On To", made it to No. 19. "Hurts So Good" went on to win the Grammy Award for Best Male Rock Vocal Performance at the 25th Grammys. 

After that, Mellencamp added his surname to his albums, recording as 'John Cougar Mellencamp" until finally dropping 'Cougar' with 1991's Whenever We Wanted. 

His success continued through the 1990's and into the new millennium.

In 2006, his lent song "Our Country" to Cheverolet in what appeared to be selling out, but in the absence of radio airplay was a pretty shrewd promotional idea-the song was nominated for a Grammy.

Sadly, Mellencamp joined most other artists who drank the Kool-Aid, performing in support of our current Kenyan-In-Chief.

A new album is planned for 2014.


  1. Unfortunately, you have to divorce political considerations from most artists as much as you can. That said, I think Mellencamp never got bit by the pop bug like Springsteen did; and also, he stayed with straightforward, makes-sense lyrics. Rain On The Scarecrow remains to me one of the most powerful songs in history, and Pink Houses was a sleeper far better on repetition than on first impression. And he's a fellow hoosier!

    1. CW-

      The only thing I did not like about "Scarecrow" was the verse that implied the banker was evil for wanting the loan repaid.

      Mellencamp does have some classic tunes, and his recent output has been pretty good even if it hasn't sold.