A racist lie about kidnapping and torture helped make a #1 hit in 1971

In the Summer of 1971, the song Indian Reservation, by Paul Revere and The Raiders, shot up the charts, hitting #1 on July 24.

And just about every time the song was played on the countdown of the internationally syndicated radio show, "American Top 40," host Casey Kasem would recount, with varying degrees of detail, the "incredible" story behind its writing.

Kasem would describe how songwriter John D. Loudermilk got caught in a snowstorm while driving in North Carolina, and was captured by Native Americans of the Cherokee Nation. They destroyed his car, and then tortured him, "such as piercing his spine with needles," for days. When the Native Americans found out he was a "respected songwriter," they said they'd only release him if he promised to write a song about the injustices inflicted on Native American people. When he refused, the painful torture increased and he realized he would be killed if he didn't comply. So he promised he would write the song. They released him, and he lived up to his word by writing the song that would become a #1 hit.

Here is one of Kasem's descriptions of Loudermilk's account, from July 31, 1971, the week the song dropped from the top spot to #2.

Years later, Loudermilk would admit the whole story was a lie.

Link to an article by Tom Breihan on Stereogum.com is here.

This, at least, was the story that Casey Kasem told on a 1971 episode of American Top 40, when Paul Revere & The Raiders' version of Loudermilk's song was taking the world by storm. It was a complete lie. None of it was true. Years later, Loudermilk — the man who wrote "Tobacco Road" and "Ebony Eyes," and a cousin of troubled country legends the Louvin Brothers — admitted that he'd made the whole story up. Loudermilk claimed that Kasem had called him at 3AM one night, needing a story to tell about the song. So Loudermilk came up with this ridiculous and racist-as-all-hell tall tale, and the completely credulous Kasem repeated the whole thing on the air.

I think Loudermilk was also lying when he said the story was fabricated spontaneously in the middle of the night when he answered the phone. Casey Kasem was a famous disc jockey and voice actor, and I truly doubt he himself was gathering information for his countdown radio show at 3am. I'll bet that his staff accepting public relations information was the extent of that show's investigative reporting. And I'll bet that Loudermilk deliberately concocted and spread the story, depicting Native Americans as sadistic savages, to gain publicity for his song.

And it worked.