Originally framed as a folk song, "Tobacco Road" was a semi-autobiographical tale of growing up in Durham, North Carolina. Released on Columbia Records, it was not a hit for Loudermilk, achieving only minor chart success in Australia. Other artists, however, immediately began recording and performing the song.
The English group The Nashville Teens' rendering was a bold effort featuring prominent piano, electric guitar and bass drum parts and a dual lead vocal: Mickie Most produced it with the same tough-edged-pop feel that he brought to The Animals' hits. "Tobacco Road" was a trans-Atlantic pop hit in 1964, reaching number 6 on the UK singles chart and number 14 on the U.S. singles chart. While the Teens would have some further success in England, in the U.S. "Tobacco Road" became another one-hit wonder of the British Invasion. The Nashville Teens' cover version was featured at the close of episode 1 of season 4, "Public Relations", of the hit television show Mad Men on July 25, 2010.
In the 1970s, songwriters Nicky Chinn and Mike Chapman claimed to have been inspired by "Tobacco Road" while writing Sweet's "Blockbuster", after accusations of stealing the guitar riff from David Bowie's "Jean Genie".
"Tobacco Road" has been performed by a great number of other artists, often with slightly altered lyrics. Notable renderings include a soul one from Lou Rawls, a folk rock one from Jefferson Airplane on their debut album Takes Off, Mind Garage, a lengthy 17-minute version by Edgar Winter and his band, a sample on dead prez's Psychology, and others from Eric Burdon & War, Spooky Tooth, Status Quo, Bill Wyman and the Rhythm Kings, Steve Young, Love Affair,David Lee Roth, Aum, Tommy Cash, Blues Magoos, Blues Creation, Bobbie Gentry, Rare Earth, Jean-Jacques Goldman, Mud an unreleased version by Jimi Hendrix, Southern Culture on the Skids, Serbian rock bands Smak andDisciplin A Kitschme, and so on. It has been done as blues, country music, punk rock, or garage rock. In 2006 it was featured in the finale of the hit television show American Idol, and was performed on the show by contestant Phil Stacey in 2007 and Syesha Mercado in 2008.
In the late 1960s, the song became a staple of the Jackson 5's early shows, and was one of the four songs they performed at their audition for Motown Records in 1968.
On 1 February 1966, Lou Rawls performed the song as a medley with "Southside Blues", which was included on his album Live!.
In 1967, Eric Burdon & The Animals performed it on a German TV show.
In 1970 it was an Atlantic hit by Eric Burdon & War. This version runs for 14 minutes. Later, after they disbanded, they released another version featured on many compilations.
Jimi Hendrix's Last Recording - Jimi Hendrix with War - Tobacco Road - Live at Ronnie Scotts September 16, 1970, Jimi died September 18, 1970.
Serbian super-group "Smak" played 15 minute version of this song during their concerts in late seventies, in Eric Burdon style. In 1992 they held concerts in Belgrade and recorded and released their 12-minutes version on cd "odLIVEno".
"Tobacco Road" was also recorded by Hank Williams Jr. on his album Hog Wild (1995).
Also Jimmy Johnson made a cover on his CD Heap See.
Paul Revere & The Raiders Featuring Mark Lindsay also made a "Remix" of this song in their compilation CD The Legend of Paul Revere released May 6, 1990. Also listed in Wikipedia under 'Mark Lindsay' who was the lead singer of Paul Revere & The Raiders it states under Production Credits: "Tobacco Road" (1977), United Artists - Ritchie Lecea, exec. producer, single.