Classic Rock Corner

JD Souther Brings His Many Hits (and Memories) to Tomball

JD Souther readies for the "All of the Hits. Some of the Stories" tour.
JD Souther readies for the "All of the Hits. Some of the Stories" tour. Photo by Jeremy Cowart
In 1979, JD Souther released the lush, plaintive ballad “You’re Only Lonely,” which hit #7 on the Billboard Top 100 and #1 on the Adult Contemporary charts. But it wasn’t on these shores that he first realized he had a giant hit on his hands.

“It had already peaked in the U.S. and Europe, but it was massive in Japan even more, and I couldn’t figure out why!,” he says from his home in Northern New Mexico with a fire going and his dogs nearby.

“It turns out that was when Sony had absorbed Columbia Records, and Sony was using it on commercials to advertise sound systems in a new Lexus or something. So, every 12 minutes on TV, this guy would open the door and ‘You’re Only Lonely’ would come out!”
Souther adds that he had to add a bunch of shows on the spot there due to demand. And there was something else. “I’d never been on a stage before where girls were screaming at us. That’s not the type of music I do! They were following us around in taxis! But it was fun for a couple of weeks.”

He’ll be playing that tune—along with plenty of other well-known numbers—on his current solo guitar-and-piano tour with the truth-in-advertising titled “All of the Hits. Some of the Stories.” Its inspiration comes from a decidedly non-musical source.
“I was a huge fan of Hal Holbrook’s one-man Mark Twain show and saw it [multiple] times over the decades. I just loved the transitions going from the stories of Twain to a comment of Hal’s to a performance as Twain,” he says. “I wanted to have that kind of latitude with my music. But I’ve got to be careful—I could go on for two hours!”

While he was born in Detroit, JD Souther spent the ages of 5 through 18 as a Texan in Amarillo. He “attended” Amarillo College—though by his own admission skipped most of it except for band and the class taught by a “brilliant” music teacher, Evan Tonsing.

“Instead of taking finals one year, I went to California where there was pot and naked girls and the ocean!” he says. “I just seemed preferable to sitting through a test that I wasn’t prepared for.” But all was forgiven a few years ago when the college invited Souther back to be honored as a “Distinguished Alumni”—even if his scholastic records couldn’t be found! He also played at a fundraising concert. “I wasn’t a natural student,” he laughs. “I was a natural daydreamer!”
After moving to Los Angeles in the late ‘60s, Souther played drums in Natty Bumpo with Norman “Spirit in the Sky” Greenbaum and also with Houston bluesman Bobby Doyle. (“Bobby sounded like Ray Charles. He was a killer musician and singer!”).

He then hooked up with fellow Motor City-bred singer/guitarist Glenn Frey in the duo Longbranch Pennywhistle, releasing one album. Souther also played open mic nights at the fabled Troubadour Club and got a solo deal while Frey hooked up with a singer/drummer named Don Henley to hatch the Eagles.

When 1971’s debut John David Souther didn’t exactly catch fire, manager and Asylum Records honcho David Geffen put him together in something of a Country Rock supergroup with Chris Hillman (Byrds, Flying Burrito Brothers) and Richie Furay (Buffalo Springfield, Poco). But the Souther-Furay-Hillman band never gelled as a group, and broke up after two records.
The Eagles career started taking off in a big way, and the band remained friends with Souther as well as pal, singer/songwriter Jackson Browne. Souther is even shown as a dead outlaw among band members on the back cover of 1973’s Desperado.

“It was the most fucking fun time in the world!” he says. “Take a bunch of guys in their ‘20s, turn them loose in Western costumes on a movie ranch set, give them a bunch of guns and movie horses and 1,500 rounds of blank ammunition and beer and weed. And we got to rob a bank!”

Souther would also co-write with various Eagles, penning giant hits like “Best of My Love,” “Victim of Love,” “New Kid in Town,” and “Heartache Tonight” (and later, Henley’s solo hit “The Heart of the Matter”).
Two years after “You’re Only Lonely,” his co-written song and duet with James Taylor “Her Town Too” was also a hit. And somewhere along the line John David Souther became J.D. Souther (inspired by classical composer J.S. Bach) and finally, JD Souther.

He also had a professional relationship with Linda Ronstadt writing, producing, recording, and performing with her (including duets “Faithless Love” and “Prisoner in Disguise”). They also had a romantic bond. As the story goes, when they first met, he cheekily asked her to make him dinner. She agreed, and the next night she served him…a peanut butter and jelly sandwich.

“I fell in love with her instantly. That was the funniest thing!” Souther says. “So, the next night I just took her to my house, and she moved in.”
I offer to Souther that I’ve been jealous of him for decades since Linda Ronstadt is my #1 celebrity crush. It’s probably about the billionth time he’s heard the sentiment.

“Yeah, her poster’s hanging on a lot of walls. She’s a lot of people’s #1 crush. She’s still mine! I just love her and I talk to her every month,” he says. “She’s a delightful soul. And considering what she has been through [medically] and what she’s lost for having the greatest voice of my generation, she’s remarkably upbeat!”

Over the next few decades, Souther sporadically released albums, wrote, and hung out at home or traveled. Often on skis or horses while also dabbling in acting (the TV show Thirtysomething, film Postcards from the Edge).

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Record cover
When he reemerged in 2008 with If the World Was You, it leaned very heavily toward jazz—his first music love—which continues through his most recent record, 2015’s Tenderness. He praises the “amazing” and “stone genius” jazz players on these efforts. The records are wonderful.

Recently, the 77-year-old Souther did a guest DJ hour on SiriusXM’s the Bridge Channel, playing some of his favorite tunes by famous friends and personal favorites like late bluesman Mose Allison. The Songwriters Hall of Fame inductee discussed how in addition to the lyrics and the music, there’s really one just-as-if-not-more important aspect to a great song: Sentiment.

“You can’t write a great song without a great deal of feeling behind it. It’s too much work. Or you can just get lucky now and then and a bunch of stuff rhymes and makes sense and maybe is profound,” he says. “I’m not in this to write stupid songs. I work really hard at this, and so did Don, Glenn, Jackson, and [Warren] Zevon. You’ve got to feel there’s something powerful behind it that people can relate to.”

Souther and Henley remain close. In fact, the pair were at Henley’s home this week watching the Grammys together. “You can imagine the comedy in that room! A lot of it was mindless spectacle. But it was delightful that both Bonnie [Raitt] and Harry Styles won,” he says.

Harry Styles?

“Yes!” Souther says. “My manager is also Harry Styles’ manager!” (That would be with Full Stop Management).
Finally, JD Souther is also a self-described “gentleman farmer” who has previously grown wheat on his land south of Nashville. Though he says he didn’t make any money on it and gave most of the crop away to neighbors. When it’s suggested that, given the economy today, he should start up again and shift to egg production, Souther is on board.

“That’s for sure! I was in Sprouts the other day, and they were out of eggs! They guy there said they were hard to come by this week!” he laughs. “But all we can grow up here in New Mexico is cactus!”

JD Souther plays 8 p.m. on Wednesday, February 15, at Main Street Crossing in Tomball, 111 W. Main. For information, call 281-290-0431 or visit The show is currently sold out but waiting list spots are open.

For more on JD Souther, visit
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Bob Ruggiero has been writing about music, books, visual arts and entertainment for the Houston Press since 1997, with an emphasis on classic rock. He used to have an incredible and luxurious mullet in college as well. He is the author of the band biography Slippin’ Out of Darkness: The Story of WAR.
Contact: Bob Ruggiero