Shifting commercial fortunes after his California pop rock heyday inspired singer songwriter John David (J.D.) Souther to pursue an acting career in the mid-80s. It's interesting to wonder how many fans of TV's Thirtysomething (who enjoyed him as John Dunaway on the show) knew that he had co-written some of the biggest pop hits of the 70s, including those by The Eagles ("Best of My Love," "New Kid In Town" and "Heartache Tonight") and Linda Ronstadt.
While Souther may have made his biggest impact on the country-rock sound behind the scenes or in a supporting role to some of the bigger pop names of the '70s, he also had an impressive and critically acclaimed series of solo albums. Born in Detroit, Souther was raised in Amarillo, TX, which may help explain his stylistic roots in both country and rock music.
In the mid-60s, with friends Charlie Bates and Steve Dodge, he formed a high school band called the Cinders. JD was the drummer and lead vocalist. The Cinders released two singles in both the UK and the US, and did their recording at Norman Petty's (Buddy Holly) studio in Clovis, NM. In 1967 Charlie and JD made the pilgrimage to Los Angeles. Charlie soon left to return to college, but JD stayed, working as a session musician and, like his contemporaries, trying to get something going. Through a girlfriend, he became friends and then roommates with Glenn Frey, and the two were signed to Amos Records to record an album under the name Longbranch Pennywhistle. Souther's connection with Frey ensured his ongoing collaborative role with the The Eagles as they achieved superstardom.
Prior to forming The Eagles, Frey had also played with Linda Ronstadt, and subsequently, Souther launched a working and personal relationship with her. He produced her 1973 album Don't Cry Now and performed background vocals on this recording and several others during the 70s.
David Geffen encouraged Souther to form The Souther Hillman and Furay band with Chris Hillman and Richie Furay, for two albums. Growing dissatisfied with the band's direction and reported internal squabbling, Souther released the Peter Asher-produced Black Rose, which featured performances by Joe Walsh, Lowell George and other country rock luminaries.
Disappointed by lackluster sales, Souther withdrew into session work for artists including Outlaws, Warren Zevon and Christopher Cross. In 1979, Souther tried again with You're Only Lonely which also featured a rotation of guest stars, like Jackson Browne, John Sebastian and Phil Everly.
Following critically acclaimed concerts in New York and California, the album's title hit the U.S. pop Top 10, performing even better on the country chart. Two years later a Souther/James Taylor composition, "Her Town Too", sung as a duet, almost reached the U.S. Top 10.
His subsequent acting career has also included roles in two independent films, To Cross the Rubicon and How to Make the Cruelest Month and appearances on the TV show Providence. As a songwriter, his tunes have been recorded by a veritable who's who of pop and country music, including Tom Jones, Crystal Gayle, Glen Campbell, Jimmy Buffett, Nitty Gritty Dirt Band, Crosby, Stills & Nash and Brian Wilson.
JD now lives in Nashville, where he raises horses, and has been playing out in the local clubs.