John was born in Oxford, Mississippi. An only child, he grew up in several small Mississippi towns before settling down in Memphis, Tennessee, as a pre-teen.
In the second grade, in Grenada MS, John saw his first puppet show and was fascinated. He built a clown marionette. He was not to build another puppet for thirty years.
During his time at the Muppets, John and Jim Henson realized they had both lived in Leland MS and attended the same consolidated grade school when John was in the sixth grade and Jim in the first. Leland now has a small but charming Muppet Museum on the bank of Deer Creek supported by the Henson family.
While at Humes High School in Memphis, which Elvis later attended, John acted in school plays and church presentations and sang in various choruses, but his goal was to be a mathematics teacher.
At Southwestern at Memphis, now Rhodes College, he was recruited into his first Shakespeare play, caught the acting bug and changed majors. He performed in college productions, the Memphis Shakespeare Festival, studied dance, and designed and performed at the Memphis Little Theatre, now Theatre Memphis, and on local television channels, and for a newly organized local professional acting company, Twelve. He earned his bachelor’s degree at Memphis State, now the University of Memphis and his M.A. at the University of Arkansas in Fayetteville.
His first professional puppetry was assisting Tom Tichenor in his holiday specials for WKNO-TV. Tichenor had created and was performing in local children’s television programs both in Nashville and Memphis.
In New York, John acted in a number of off-off-Broadway shows before entering the Army for the end of the Korean war. At his discharge, he joined the Cherokee outdoor drama “Unto These Hills” as he headed back to Memphis to rejoin Twelve. When Tom Tichenor decamped to New York to create and perform the puppets for “Carnival,” the Broadway musical based on the movie “Lili” and directed by Gower Champion, John created a children’s TV show called “Treehouse,” which he co-wrote and on which he co-performed various Tichenor puppets.
Returning to New York, John began a career in children’s theatre where he met his soon-to-be wife. He was selected by Jim Henson and trained by Frank Oz to perform on the Ed Sullivan Special, “The Great Santa Claus Switch.” Hired as both performer and builder, he was with Henson Associates (HA!) for almost ten years, working on both coasts and in several international locations on a variety of specials, “Sesame Street,” and “The Muppet Show.”
At the conclusion of “The Muppet Movie,” filmed in Hollywood, Kermit Love, internationally known Muppet builder and theatre designer, enlisted John to be a member of a new children’s TV venture, “The Great Space Coaster,” to be taped in New York. John was hired as puppet segments producer and performer for the puppets Knock Knock and Edison. Jim Martin, Kevin Clash and Francis Kane were chosen as the remaining puppet performers.
John stayed with “The Great Space Coaster” for three seasons before becoming the puppet coordinator and performer of the title character in an NBC projected series, “Mr. Smith,” involving a genius orangutan and filmed at Paramount Studios in Hollywood.
On the west coast, he produced and puppeteered on various television pilots, notably “Alf,” and worked for Sid and Marty Krofft on the “D.C. Follies” series and in their live Las Vegas show, “Comedy Kings.” John also puppeteered for the Walt Disney Company on the TV series “Dumbo’s Circus” and “Adventures in Wonderland.” He ended his puppetry career with “Lost in Space,” with puppets created by Doug Lawrence of SpongeBob SquarePants fame.
John has an Emmy Award, an Emmy Honor and a Gold Label record from “The Muppet Show,” and an ACT Award for “The Great Space Coaster.”
Now in his early 80’s, he lives in New York with his wife of 47 years, Nancy McGeorge, former performer and current museum executive. His son, Scott Lovelady, is lead male singer with the 80’s cover band, RubixKube and his daughter, Kate, is Leader of the Ethical Society of St. Louis.
A romance fiction writer, he is also a Docent for the New York City Ballet and occasionally performs with the SAG-AFTRA Old Time Radio Players and for the play readings of the New York Ethical Society.
The resurrection of “The Great Space Coaster” by Jim Martin and its continued life through its many fans and enterprising loyal followers such as Scott Hoy, is a joy to him. Knock Knock gives an energetic wave of her fan and Edison a joyous swing of his snout. Cheers! To Everybody!
Now here are John’s thoughts on the cast of The Great Space Coaster
Chris Gifford — energetic
Emily Bindiger — lovely
Ray Stephens — enthusiastic
Kevin Clash — talented
Francis Kane — swell
Jim Martin — adventurous
Ken Myles — fleeting
Goriddle — great to work with
Baxter — dear
Speed Reader — fast
Edison — adorable
Knock Knock — brilliant (of course!)
Gary Gnu — relentless and loveable
M.T. Promises — towering
And finally John Lovelady — enormously lucky
Kermit Love — so knowledgeable
Jim Henson — fun and enterprising