Loudon Wainwright III

(Photo Credited: Wright Design 75 Photography)

Loudon Wainwright III was born on September 5, 1946 in Durham, NC, the son of Martha Taylor, a yoga teacher, and Loudon Wainwright Jr., a columnist and editor for Life magazine. The family would later move to Bedford, NY where Loudon III grew up.

Wainwright began writing his first songs in his early twenties. After playing folks clubs in New York and Boston for a short time, he was “discovered” by Milton Kramer and signed by Atlantic Records, who released his first album in 1970.

Literate, self-effacing and sometimes painful honesty has carved him out a distinguished career as one of the most original singer-songwriters, a six-string tragi-comedian with material that is by turns funny, heart-wrenching, and always deeply personal. 

 Once Wainwright ran over a dead skunk and wrote about it. That song which Wainwright claimed he penned in 15 minutes, was released as a single in 1972 by Columbia Records. It eventually went to number 16 on the Billboard charts and was number 1 in Little Rock, AK for 6 weeks. 

In 1974 Wainwright joined the cast of the TV show M.A.S.H. in the role of Capt. Calvin Spaulding, the singing surgeon. He has continued acting in both television and movies, with appearances in Undeclared, Parks And Recreation, the Aviator, Big Fish, The 40-Year-Old Virgin, and Knocked Up. Wainwright also composed the music to Knocked Up with fellow North Carolina native, Joe Henry.

 Wainwright won a Grammy in 2010 with High Wide & Handsome: The Charlie Poole Project, which celebrated the work of fellow NC Music Hall of Fame Inductee, Charlie Poole, a music pioneer. Loudon’s songs have been covered by numerous artists, including Johnny Cash, North Carolina native Earl Scruggs, Mose Allison, Bonnie Raitt, and his son Rufus Wainwright. 

In 2013, Loudon debuted his one-man show, Surviving Twin, at The Playmakers Repertory Theatre in Chapel Hill, NC. In 2018, the show premiered on Netflix, and was produced by Judd Apatow and directed by Christopher Guest.

In 2015 Wainwright received a Lifetime  Achievement Award  from BBC Radio 2 in the UK. 

In 2019, Loudon was invited by Scott Avett to perform at the opening of Scott’s art exhibit, INVISIBLE, at the North Carolina Museum of Art. The Avett Brothers, fellow NC Music Hall of Fame Inductees have also covered Wainwright’s “The Swimming Song” in recent years.

The title of Loudon’s 2017 memoir, “Liner Notes: On Parents & Children, Exes & Excess, Death & Decay, & a Few of My Other Favorite Things,” is a good way to sum up the work of Loudon Wainwright III.