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Roots rockstar, John Mellencamp, (or John Cougar Mellencamp) is back on tour and bringing his heartland rock live to fans. Over the years, Mellencamp has released 23 studio albums, 22 Top 40 hits in the US, nominated for 13 Grammy Awards, and won one of those nominations. He has been inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and will be inducted to the Songwriters Hall of Fame this coming year. Johnny Cash has even called Mellencamp “one of the 10 best songwriters”. Make sure to get your John Cougar Mellencamp tickets to see one of the best rock stars/songwriters live in concert!

Early Life

John Mellencamp was born in 1951 in Seymour, Indiana. He was born with a spina bifida which caused him to be hospitalized for quite some time as an infant. Doctors did not think he would survive but against all odds he had a full recovery. At age 14, him and his friends started a cover band called Crepe Soul. From an early age it was clear that Mellencamp had a passion and talent for music. When Mellencamp was just 18 years old, he eloped with his pregnant girlfriend, Priscilla Esterline. He then enrolled in a two-year community college while working various jobs to support himself. After graduating he continued to work blue-collar jobs in Seymour but that did not last very long. His passion for music and drive for success influenced Mellencamp’s decision to move to New York City in search of a record deal. It was there that Mellencamp met David Bowie’s manager, Tony DeFries.

Johnny Cougar

It was DeFries who decided to change Mellencamp’s name to Johnny Cougar. According to Mellencamp, he had not approved this decision and was unaware of the change until it showed up on the cover of his first album, Chestnut Street Incident (1976), released by MCA Records. Chestnut Street Incident was pretty much a flop and in 1977 MCA dropped Mellencamp. Four years later Mellencamp signed with Riva Records. The first album he released with Riva was A Biography (1978). It was not released in the United States but was quite successful in Australia and the UK. Mellencamp’s third studio album was released worldwide and ended up being a success in the U.S. The album was self-titled John Cougar and included the hit song “I Need a Lover”. “I Need a Lover” was number 1 in Australia and peaked at number 28 in the U.S. Mellencamp continued to produce hit songs. His next album, Nothin’ Matters and What If It Did, included songs “This Time” and “Ain’t Even Done With the Night”, numbers 27 and 17 respectively on the charts.

It was Mellencamp’s fifth studio album that was considered his breakthrough. American Fool was released in 1982 and included top hits “Hurts So Good” and “Jack & Diane”. “Hurts So Good” peaked at number 2 in the U.S. and won a Grammy Award for Best Male Rock Vocal Performance. “Jack & Diane” was also extremely successful: it was a number 1 song for four weeks in a row.

John Cougar Mellencamp

In 1983, Mellencamp decided to add his real last name to his stage name to make it John Cougar Mellencamp. The first album he released with his new name was Uh-Huh which became a top 10 album and included hits like “Pink Houses” and “Crumblin’ Down”. This same year Mellencamp embarked on his first headlining tour. Two years later Mellencamp continued to produce hitmakers with the album Scarecrow (1985). Scarecrow included a number of successful tracks including “Lonely Ol’ Night”, “Small Town”, R.O.C.K. In the U.S.A.”, and “Rumbleseat” – all Top 40 songs.

After the release of Scarecrow, Mellencamp co-founded Farm Aid with Willie Nelson and Neil Young. Farm Aid is an organization which holds annual benefit concerts, created to support struggling American family farms.

The next album Mellencamp released was The Lonesome Jubliee, which had a different sound from his previous albums. The Lonesome Jubliee included hit songs “Paper in the Fire”, “Cherry Bomb” and “Check It Out”. Mellencamp continued to churn out music, dropping his next album Big Daddy in 1989. This was the last album Mellencamp would release with the name “Cougar” on it.

John Mellencamp

Whenever We Wanted (1991) was the first studio album that Mellencamp released with the name “John Mellencamp”. The album included Top 40 hits “Get a Leg Up” and “Again Tonight”. While shooting the music video for “Get a Leg Up”, Mellencamp met model Elaine Irwin who eventually married and had two children with.

In 1993, Mellencamp dropped Human Wheels which peaked at number 7 on the album charts but did not have any significant hit songs. His next album Dance Naked (1994) proved to be more popular with the hit cover of Van Morrison’s “Wild Night”. “Wild Night” peaked at number 3 on the Billboard Hot 100, becoming one of his biggest hits in years. Mellencamp went on another tour this year but had to cut it short due to heart complications. He had a heart attack which prompted him to start taking more care of his body.

After taking care of his health, Mellencamp was back in the studio and released Mr. Happy Go Lucky in 1996. This album featured “Key West Intermezzo (I Saw You First)” which peaked at number 36 on the Top 40. “Key West Intermezzo (I Saw You First)” would be Mellencamp’s last Top 40 song.

A New Record Label

In 1998, Mellencamp signed with Columbia Records. The first album released with his new record label was self-titled John Mellencamp. The following album, Rough Harvest (1999), included covers of his own songs and covers of songs by Bob Dylan and the Drifters. Mellencamp’s first few albums of the new millennium included Cuttin’ Heads (2001) and Trouble No More (2003).

For a few years Mellencamp was very involved with politics and supporting various causes included the John Edwards campaign. He returned to the studio to record his first original material in over five years. The final product was Freedom’s Road (2007) which peaked at number 5 on the Billboard 200.

2008 – Present

In 2008, Mellencamp started to work with producer T Bone Burnett for his 18th studio album, Life, Death, Love and Freedom. The album debuted at number 7 on the Billboard 200 and ended up being one of the most praised albums of his career. Mellencamp was still going strong when he released another album produced again by T Bone Burnett. The album was No Better Than This (2010) and peaked at number 10 on the Billboard 200.

Almost 40 years after releasing his first album, Mellencamp showed no signs of retiring. In 2014 the rock star released Plain Spoken and promoted it with a 120-show North American tour. The most recent album released by Mellencamp is Sad Clowns & Hillbillies (2017). John Mellencamp is continuing to share his love of music on tour, regardless of his age. Make sure to get your John Mellencamp tickets to see the old time rock star live in concert!

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