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Loonis McGlohon, 80; Wrote Hundreds of Songs

TIMES STAFF WRITER

Loonis McGlohon, a songwriter and pianist probably best known as the coauthor of two popular songs recorded by Frank Sinatra--"A Long Night” and “South to a Warmer Place"--has died. He was 80.

McGlohon died Jan. 26 at his home in Charlotte, N.C., after a nine-year battle with lymphoma.

The writer of hundreds of jazz and popular songs, including the cantata “A Child’s Christmas,” McGlohon also wrote the theme for his friend Charles Kuralt’s “On the Road” segment on television’s “CBS Evening News.”

Born in Ayden, N.C., McGlohon was the son of an auto mechanic and a schoolteacher. As a boy, he was enthralled by the big-band music of Artie Shaw, Benny Goodman and Woody Herman. He learned to play piano from the organist at his family’s church.

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He graduated from East Carolina University but dropped the only music course he took because he was making low marks. He did, however, improve his piano playing and embarked on a professional career, working a variety of local jobs. World War II put his career on hold when he served several years with the Army Air Forces.

After the war, he played briefly with the Jimmy Dorsey and Jack Teagarden orchestras. Then, from the early 1950s on, he became heavily involved in radio in the Charlotte area, where he became a well-known personality.

When he wasn’t doing radio, he was writing songs. And he began finding work as a piano accompanist for some of the leading singers of the day. Over the next four decades, those singers would include Helen O’Connell, Judy Garland, Mabel Mercer and Eileen Farrell.

In 1960, McGlohon began an association with composer Alec Wilder. Planning a local show of Wilder’s work, McGlohon contacted the eccentric composer, who had been living in the Algonquin Hotel in New York since he was a boy. After a period of correspondence, McGlohon sent him some original songs.

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Wilder was delighted with the music, sparking a partnership that lasted for the next two decades. They wrote “Blackberry Winter,” “Be a Child” and the two Sinatra songs, which were key elements of Sinatra’s “She Shot Me Down” album.

Some years ago, McGlohon had a regular National Public Radio program in which he collaborated with Wilder on a series based on Wilder’s book “The American Popular Song.” Wilder died in 1980.

McGlohon also wrote “The Wine of May,” “Where Is the Child I Used to Hold” and “Songbird,” which was widely recorded by artists such as jazz pianist George Shearing and cabaret singer Wesla Whitfield.

Active in Presbyterian churches in Charlotte, McGlohon was for decades a choir director and wrote religious songs such as “Teach Me Lord.”

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According to the Charlotte Observer, McGlohon also composed the occasional ditty for commercial dollars, including one called “I’m a Super Dooper Pooper,” for a firm packaging material on potty training.

The song became popular with adults, including David Letterman, who played it occasionally on his late-night television talk show.

McGlohon is survived by his wife, Nan; a son, Reeves; daughters Fan Smith and Laurie Shouse; and several grandchildren.


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