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Loonis McGlohon was one of America’s most beloved songwriters and jazz pianists. Born in the small town of Ayden in Pitt County, North Carolina, Loonis Reeves McGlohon was enthralled as a boy by the big-band sound that permeated across the airwaves in the 1940s and learned to play piano from the organist at his family’s church. After graduating from East Carolina University, Loonis enlisted in the military and was assigned to the Army Air Force, where he became an official pianist.

Loonis McGlohon

After World War II ended, he became involved with broadcasting in Charlotte, working as the music director for WBT (AM) radio and WBTV (CBS affiliate). In 1945, Loonis married Nan Lovelace. The couple had three children: Reeves, Fan, and Laurie.

In addition to his radio work, he formed his trio for club and concert engagements, appearing across the US, including three times at Carnegie Hall and in Japan, China, Singapore, France, Italy, and the UK. Loonis accompanied several legendary singers, including Helen O’Connell and Judy Garland (1964-66), and was musical director for Mabel Mercer (1978-80) and Eileen Farrell (1981-96).

In 1978, Loonis joined longtime collaborator Alec Wilder to host American Popular Song for South Carolina’s ETV Radio, which received a Peabody Award. Loonis donated the recordings of this program to the Charlotte Mecklenburg Library.

Among the songs Loonis wrote with Wilder are Blackberry Winter, Be a Child, and While We’re Young. Loonis wrote both music and lyrics for the song Songbird. With Wilder, he also wrote music and lyrics for the former Land of Oz attraction.

For his hometown of Charlotte, McGlohon wrote the music for LeGette Blythe’s outdoor drama, The Hornet’s Nest, staged in 1968 at a new amphitheater at the University of North Carolina – Charlotte. The two principal songs were “This is the Day!” and “What Will the World Be Like!”

In 1980, Loonis’ longtime friend Frank Sinatra recorded two songs by McGlohon and Wilder, South to a Warmer Place and A Long Night. In 1985, Loonis was commissioned (with friend Charles Kuralt) to write a piece to celebrate North Carolina’s 400th birthday. The result was North Carolina Is My Home, a symphonic work with narration and vocals that became a recording, public TV broadcast, and book. He was inducted into the NC Music Hall of Fame in 1999.

Before his death from lymphoma in 2002, NationsBank Performance Place in Charlotte’s Spirit Square was named the Loonis McGlohon Theatre. His ashes are in the Carmel Presbyterian Church Columbarium, where he served as the church’s music director for many years.

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