Sonny Curtis grew up with Buddy Holly, played in the Crickets and shaped the future of rock & roll. Then he just never stopped working, as part of the Everly Brothers’ band, session musician, and songwriter. Everybody from Bing Crosby, Joan Jett, to the Dead Kennedys and The Clash have recorded his songs. Michael Shelley talks to one of the unsung heroes of rock & roll.

Sonny Curtis is one of my favorite songwriters. His songs have the rare balance of a unique point of view and a universal appeal, which explains why they have been covered so regularly and by everyone from The Kingsmen to Frank Sinatra Jr. to Joan Jett. He’s also one of the nicest and most humble performers I’ve ever talked with. He speaks with a soft Texas accent and comes across very down to Earth, almost as if he’s surprised you’re interested in him. If there’s any pride in him, it’s not of his accomplishments but of the hard work he’s put in to make it all happen.

His story is filled with events that on their own would be enough to rest on, but cumulatively taken they point to a career built on tremendous talent, the ability to collaborate, a love of music that shines through every project he’s involved with, and tenacity.

If he had just written “I Fought The Law,” “Walk Right Back,” “More Than I Can Say” and “Love Is All Around” (The Mary Tyler Moore Show theme) he would be more successful than 99% of songwriters, but I think Sonny Curtis had something instilled in him in his upbringing that always kept him searching for the next thing and a downright discomfort with down time.

Sonny Curtis’ solo version of “I Fought The Law” from the 1966  album 1st Of Sonny Curtis:

Although much of his work is well known, the in-between projects are just as interesting. He wrote and sang some of the most recognizable commercial jingles ever on television and radio. In search of a hit, he recorded a single about Batman (released under the name The Camps). In 1964, he co-wrote the song “A Beatle I Wanna Be” with neighbor Lou Adler and recorded the album “Beatle Hits Flamenco Guitar Style.” In 1970, he enrolled himself in the Sherman School of Music to learn arranging.

Sonny Curtis – “A Beatle I Want To Be,” a 1964 single written with, and produced by Sonny’s neighbor Lou Adler:

His last big hit was in 1989, when he co-wrote a number one record for Keith Whitley, “I’m No Stranger to the Rain.”

Though he’s accomplished so much, for many his most lasting legacy is tied to his part in the Buddy Holly story. The two met while still in high school, had their heads turned by Elvis and together helped shape the fusion of county and R&B that became rock & roll. Sonny’s guitar playing on early Holly recordings influenced countless future music makers. I once asked Sonny what he thought Buddy might be doing now if he had lived, Sonny took a long pause before answering “He was way ahead of the curve… he would have been one of the powerful forces in music.”

At age 81, Sonny is still active but has slowed down, preferring the role of grandfather. When we spoke, he’d just spent the evening with Crickets’ drummer Jerry Alison, and he reported that they spent the night “Telling the same old stories and laughing.”

PKM: Let’s start at beginning. What was your childhood like, where did you grow up?

Sonny Curtis: I grew up in Meadow, Texas. My childhood was really simple. Back in those days I think most everything was simple. It was incredibly small. The city limit sign said “Population 408,” but the town was full of kids my age, so I had plenty of playmates. I wasn’t a great student, but I was always able to sneak by. I had two brothers and three sisters. My dad was a cotton farmer. My folks were what you call lower-middle-class. I guess you would say they were good honest people.

PKM: Was there music in the house? Was there a radio or Victrola? What were your early musical influences?

Sonny Curtis: We never had a TV when I lived in the house, but we did have a good radio. Back in those days (Nashville radio station) WSM was a big old 50,000-watt station and it would come roaring in, because most other stations shut down at 6 p.m. so there was not much interference. We would sit around and listen to the Friday Night Frolics and the Grand Ole Opry on Saturday, and that was the main source of music. My heroes were Eddy Arnold and Hank Williams and that ilk, so I had plenty of influences, and of course we had a Victrola that played 78 records.

PKM: How did you get started playing music?

Sonny Curtis: My brothers played music and they got me started, and my aunt taught me to play “Little Brown Jug.” This was before I could reach across the neck [of the guitar], so she taught me how to play on just the top four strings.

PKM: Was there any black music around?

Sonny Curtis: Not early on. When I first got mixed up with Buddy Holly and Bob Montgomery, we played all the contemporary country music that was on the radio. Then, all of a sudden, Elvis came along! Elvis came to Lubbock about four times before he got so big they couldn’t contain him, and the very first time, I think it was January the 6th of 1955, he blew us all away. Elvis really turned our heads around. He was on The Louisiana Hayride, and KWKH, which broadcast The Hayride, had what they called back then a race records program called Stan’s Record Rack, and as I recall it came on at midnight every night. Buddy and I used to go out and turn the radio on in the car and listen to this black music. They played great stuff and we of course fell in love with it, especially Buddy. Then all the sudden black music began to spread. Of course, Elvis was a big proponent of that as well.

I’ll tell you one thing that did have an early influence on me was Mexican music, because there were quite a few Mexican people who lived in Meadow and there were a couple of Mexican cafes, and man they played that great Mexican polka music. I used to go out on the porch at night and they’d turn it up so loud I could hear it, because one of the cafes was just across the street and a hundred yards or so down the block.

PKM: So how old were you when you met Buddy Holly?

Sonny Curtis: I think it would have been sometime in 1952, that would put me right at about fourteen or fifteen. We were both still in school and he was grade ahead of me as I recall.

PKM: Where you brought together by music right away?

Sonny Curtis: Music brought us together, but the story is that I had a friend named Olan Findley and his dad was the postmaster in Meadow and he got a better job in Lubbock, so they moved and Olan would come back to Meadow, because Lubbock was only 30 miles away and we used to hitchhike all the time. So, Olan told me about these two guys, he said “Man, you need to meet these two guys Buddy and Bob. They really sing and pick well.”

He had told them about me, and not to come on I hope, but I had gained a little bit of notoriety in the area because there was this guy who was an organist who had a TV program every afternoon. He heard me play when we were on the same gig one night and he said “I want you to be on my show.” Of course, there were only two TV stations in Lubbock, and everybody watched TV that had one. Buddy and Bob knew of me from that program. So, I went out to Lubbock and Olan took me to Bob Montgomery’s house. Bob’s parents ran a gin café. When I say that I mean it was right next to a cotton gin, and we waited in that cafe with Bob’s mother for Bob to get off the school bus, and when he did we drove over to Buddy’s. One thing I remember about that first meeting is that Buddy had black hair but at some point he had dyed it blond and it was growing out and I remember thinking of a black and tan coonhound when I saw Buddy the first time. I’ve always said it was like we were friends before we met, we just kind of said hello and skipped the small talk and got our guitars and started picking right away. That was my introduction to Buddy Holly and Bob Montgomery, who was a real good friend of mine forever, till he died a couple years ago.

PKM: Did you start playing gigs together? And were you playing fiddle sometimes?

Sonny Curtis: I did play fiddle back then, I can’t imagine why. Buddy and Bob were really huge bluegrass fans, so we did a lot of bluegrass stuff, and Buddy even played a four-string banjo. He played with a flat pick and couldn’t really emulate the Earl Scruggs style that well, but we played bluegrass songs and I played the fiddle.

PKM: What kind of gigs did you guys have?

Sonny Curtis: A lot of freebies! We played anywhere anyone would have us. When I was still in school, I’d play Kiwanis Club luncheons, Lions Clubs, things like that. There was guy named Dave Stone who owned a country radio station called KDAV, and he had a radio show called Sunday Party and Buddy and Bob and I played that just about every week. We’d play teen nights at the clubs in Lubbock and Brownsville. We played live remotes on the radio from a grocery store parking lot or automobile dealer parking lot.
 


I’ve always said it was like we were friends before we met, we just kind of said hello and skipped the small talk and got our guitars and started picking right away. That was my introduction to Buddy Holly and Bob Montgomery, who was a real good friend of mine forever, till he died a couple years ago.


 
PKM: Have I got this right, that in ‘54 or ‘55, before you saw Elvis, Buddy made some demos at Norman Petty’s in Clovis, New Mexico that you played on?

Sonny Curtis: Yes, I believe they even released some of those on an album called Holly in the Hills.

PKM: You were still teenagers. Were you thinking you would make a demo and get signed and become professional musicians? Was that the plan?

Sonny Curtis: We had a hard time planning ahead for lunch but, yes, music was our lives, absolutely. That’s all we wanted to do, and for Buddy and Bob and me, that was definitely our existence.

PKM: The Clovis studio would prove huge in the development of that very special Buddy Holly sound. How did you find that place? Why go to New Mexico?

Sonny Curtis: It was kind of the only thing happening. Norman Petty had The Norman Petty Trio and he was quite successful. He had some huge records on his own label and was a real good businessman with connections in New York, and we were drawn to that. When we first started going over there, we made acetates. We’d record a song and get an acetate disc of it, and as I recall it was two dollars, which was pretty hard to afford, but I made records over there on my own and made records with Buddy, and I’m sure he made records on his own.

PKM: Do you still have any of those acetates around?

Sonny Curtis: I don’t. I had three or four and when Buddy died, and of course I was a pallbearer at his funeral along with J.I. (Crickets drummer Jerry Ivan Allison), Joe B. (Crickets bassist Joe B. Mauldin) and Don Guess (Holly’s early bass player). I remember when his dad asked me if I’d serve as a pallbearer, of course I said yes. I remember thinking about those acetates and I thought, “Man, they should have those,” and I rounded up all those acetates that I had and I took them up to Mr. and Mrs. Holly and gave them to them.

Sonny Curtis – “The Real Buddy Holly Story” (1980):

PKM: That was very kind of you. So, Buddy got signed to a record contract pretty quickly. In 1956 you guys were recording with Owen Bradley in Nashville. Were you guys scared?

Sonny Curtis: Not really. We were jumping up and down. Elvis was making it real big and Carl Perkins and people like that, and I think Nashville felt they were a little bit behind and they wanted someone like that, I think that probably played into how we got our deal.

PKM: I’ve always wondered what they were expecting. Were they expecting country records or rock & roll records? Did they try to change you or did they let you do your thing?

Sonny Curtis: I don’t think Owen Bradley, the good old boy that he was, I don’t think he was all that interested. I think he kind of turned the microphones on and pointed. As good a guitar player as Buddy was, and destined to become a rock & roll trailblazer, they didn’t let him play guitar, at least on the first record that we made. I played lead guitar and (Nashville session ace) Grady Martin played rhythm guitar. Don Guess played stand-up bass and (session ace) Buddy Harmon played drums. Buddy just stood in the corner and sang and I wondered, “What in the world?”

PKM: Those first records really didn’t set the world on fire. What was Buddy’s reaction to that?

Sonny Curtis: Well of course being still teenagers and very naive we went back to Lubbock thinking, “My goodness, we have arrived! Our record is coming out and all we got to do is start waiting for the checks to roll in!” That, of course, didn’t happen, but we went back to Nashville and we recorded “That’ll Be The Day” and a few others. I remember that Owen Bradley didn’t like “That’ll Be The Day.” So I think Buddy was disappointed, as we all were, but we didn’t really know what to do about it, because we were very inexperienced, especially in the studio.

PKM: They were so wrong about “That’ll Be The Day.” It became a huge hit record, but by the time it reached number one, you had left the band, right?

Sonny Curtis: Yeah, I left in August of 1956 and I’m not going to deny that teenage egos got involved, but Buddy got to wanting to play lead more and delegated me to the rhythm section. Also, I happened to get a gig with Slim Whitman on the road, and he was a big huge star at the time, so I took the gig and I officially left the group. Not long after that, I got a gig up in Nashville on the Philip Morris Country Music Show.

PKM: Buddy died in February 1959, but The Crickets had parted ways with Buddy before that, and they got you back in the group and started to record. I love those Crickets records, but it’s interesting that without the focus on a guy with a huge personality, like Buddy, there were a lot of different types of music going on. When you look back at that time, making those records and moving to Los Angeles, are you happy with the catalog of the band after Buddy?

Sonny Curtis: Buddy wanted to move to New York, he was more of a visionary. J.I. and Joe B. didn’t want to leave Lubbock because they said there was no place in New York to ride their motorcycles. They were still teenagers. J.I. says it was probably because they all start getting married. Buddy married Maria Elena and J.I. married Peggy Sue, and when wives get involved… J.I. thinks that might have spoiled the broth a little bit. But looking back on those records… just before we went to New York, I wrote “I Fought The Law” and we were kind of desperate for new songs. We always had a little guitar in the backseat, and on the road to New York I said, “How about this?” and I played “I Fought The Law”, and they said “Man, that’s a song!” I had written it as a country song, so we started transcribing it with the straight eight feel, and J.I. put those gunshots on the front and voilà, we had a rock & roll song.

PKM: “More Than I Can Say” is from about the same time.

Sonny Curtis: J.I. and I sat in the back seat and wrote “More Than I Can Say” on the way to New York! It’s funny about those sessions, we were so naive and inexperienced that we used to not even count songs off! J.I. would just play the drum beats on the front of a song and we would all just start. This was at Bell Sound in New York, and we just knew when to come in.

PKM: Wasn’t there a producer or engineer there who said, “Hey boys, usually somebody counts the song off?”

Sonny Curtis: There was a producer, but he just sort of stopped by the studio on the way home or something like that.

PKM: Jerry Alison is really an amazingly inventive drummer. I don’t think he gets enough recognition.

Sonny Curtis: You’re right. I don’t know if J.I. gets the credit he deserves. He was like a scientist making up new experiments.

PKM: Let’s talk about your songwriting. I assume “I Fought The Law” is your most perpetual money earner. I was looking on IMDb and that song is in a ton of movies and television shows and, of course, it’s been covered by hundreds of bands. How long did it take to write?

Sonny Curtis: You’re right, it is my best copyright. It’s really strange, I don’t know where my head was… I wrote that on a sand-stormy afternoon in Slaton, Texas. Just kind of out of something to do, I used to write songs. I didn’t consider myself a songwriter, but I just would try to write a song if I didn’t have anything else shakin’. I would just love to sit around and pick, but that song only took me fifteen or twenty minutes. Of course you can listen to the lyrics and tell that you don’t have to be a rocket scientist… I think it just kind of fell off my head and what’s really kind of frightening about that song is that I don’t think I ever wrote it down, I just had it in my head.

PKM: That’s a real well spent 20 minutes!

Sonny Curtis: Absolutely, and I have always appreciated that young guy I was who wrote that.
 


We always had a little guitar in the backseat, and on the road to New York I said, “How about this?” and I played “I Fought The Law”, and they said “Man, that’s a song!” I had written it as a country song, so we started transcribing it with the straight eight feel, and J.I. put those gunshots on the front and voilà, we had a rock & roll song.


 
PKM: I don’t want to get too deep into your business, but I assume the royalties from just one song like that can buy a nice car every year or a small house or a good vacation… how do you describe that?

Sonny Curtis: It’s very very good. In the last year or two, it was on a number one album in Australia and a big single as well. It was copyrighted in 1960, I believe, and after fifty-six years the rights reverted back to me. I’m retired and not in the publishing business so I shopped it around, and Sony made me a pretty good deal. As a matter fact, there were other companies interested. So, yes, that song has been very lucrative.

PKM: There’s a restlessness that I detect in the character who is telling the story in a lot of your songs. Was that you back then, or was that just a persona you would take on to write songs?

Sonny Curtis: I guess it was kind of both. It was me back then, but also… it’s hard to talk about… I guess I was just trying to write a good song back then.

PKM: “Walk Right Back” is a song that so many people have done and when I’m looking at a list of the people who have covered your songs it strikes me how wide the range is, from Bing Crosby and Perry Como to The Everly Brothers and Gary Lewis. I think that says something about the universal nature of your songwriting. Everybody can bring their own thing to those songs, which makes them very special.

Sonny Curtis: I appreciate that. I hope that’s what I achieved. I heard Paul McCartney say, “It’s always very flattering when somebody records one of my songs,” and that comes from Paul McCartney, and that’s kind of my feeling. The Dead Kennedys said, “I fought the law and I won.” The Dead Kennedys is about as far out as you can get, and from Bing Crosby to the Dead Kennedys is a long way. I’ve always appreciated the fact that a lot of people could relate to my songs.

PKM: Tell me about working with The Everly Brothers. You played guitar in their band on tour and also on a lot of recording sessions with them. What was it like working for them?

Sonny Curtis: Playing with the Everly Brothers was just a terrific experience. When they first started out, believe it or not, they didn’t have a band, they used pick-up bands. They’d have the Musicians Union provide them with a local band when they got to town, and they just had some disasters. One night in Florida, Buddy and J.I. and Joe B. were on the show, I wasn’t there, and the union was not able to get the Everlys a band, so Buddy said, “We’ll be your band tonight. We know all your stuff, no problem,” and evidently it just went down a storm and it was a real wake-up call for the Everlys, like “Wow, we’ve got to get us a band!” Then, after Buddy died, we were sort of rudderless and didn’t have much of a plan and wouldn’t have known how to implement one if we had one, and Don and Phil called J.I. and said, “Would you consider going on the road with us,” and J.I. said “You have to take our guitar player” and that’s how I got to play with The Everly Brothers.

The Everly Brothers cover Sonny Curtis’s song “The Collector”:

PKM: How long did that gig last?

Sonny Curtis: I got drafted and I had to go into the Army for two years. When I got out, I got back in the Crickets, but J.I. was having romantic reversals and had moved back to Texas, and Joe B. got a divorce and so the Crickets weren’t doing that much. I was writing songs and playing sessions, doing whatever I could, and going on the road playing with Don and Phil and boy that was a good band! Jim Gordon on the drums and Marshall Lieb on bass. Just the three of us and, boy, it felt good. It was magnificent to stand behind them and play those wonderful songs and hear that terrific harmony every night. It was just an experience that was indescribable. I loved it… standing back there and listening to those guys… they were so good!
 


The Dead Kennedys is about as far out as you can get, and from Bing Crosby to the Dead Kennedys is a long way.


 
PKM: Yeah, they were one in a million. Let’s talk about Jim Gordon. What a strange story. What happened to him is horrible, but what an amazing drummer. Did you know he was crazy back then? Was there any evidence that he was a crazy guy?

Sonny Curtis: No. As a matter fact, Jim and I roomed together on the road with the Everlys and they’d said before I joined that he had done some crazy teenage stuff, because he was really young, like he’d throw toilet paper out the hotel window. They told me those kind of stories, but by the time I got there he was really serious. He was trying to get started as a session drummer in L.A. I remember we were playing up in San Jose and we had a week booked up there, this would have been towards the end of ‘64 sometime, and everyday Jim Gordon would get up early and fly to L.A., because he had sessions booked. This was a money-losing proposition but he wanted to get started playing sessions in L.A. He’d fly down and fly back in time for the gig. He turned into one of the great session players of all time. I don’t know what made him crazy. You know what happened, I’m sure. He killed his mother… I think he got into drugs seriously, and that contributed to it. I don’t know the story personally, but it’s a tragedy what happened to him.

PKM: Must be a little bit chilling to know that you slept in the same hotel room as this guy.

Sonny Curtis: He was quite sane at the time and we got along great. We were friends. I remember we went on an Everlys tour of Europe and we were in Germany for a week and had some time off, and Jim and I took the Orient Express to Salzburg, Austria to look at where Mozart’s home was. We did that twice. We liked it the first time so much we did it again! We were just good buddies and it really saddens me. When he got with Derek and the Dominos, and I’m not disparaging Eric Clapton at all, but when he got with those guys, he got into heavy-duty drugs.

PKM: In the Summer of Love era, you were an interesting age because you were a little bit older than the college kids, but not as old as their parents who they kind of turned against. You were too old to be a hippie. Did you sympathize with what was going on with those kids?

Sonny Curtis: Not so fast! “I was too old to be a hippie”? I was right in the thick of all that. One thing though is I was seriously in the pursuit of income, because I was in the music business and I was doing everything I could to make a little money to get by. I wasn’t having any hard times, but I wasn’t getting rich either and we all sort of fell into that hippie movement. We grew our hair long. We never got into any kind of heavy drugs, but we did a bit of marijuana and that kind of stuff, but I never let it interfere with my gig. But I did identify with that and I think we were all pretty well against the Vietnam War. I was never a marcher or anything, but I identified with all that.

In 1966, I worked half a year in the band on Dick Clark’s Swingin’ Country, a daily show on NBC with Roy Clark and a huge cast, and I was doing sessions and writing songs and I got a record deal with Snuff Garrett’s Viva label, so I was incredibly busy during that time as well as being a hippie.

“Bo Diddley Bach”, The Kingsmen cover Sonny Curtis, 1966:

PKM: I love your two Viva albums. They’re just jam-packed with great songs, but I think you said that they were mostly demos as far as you were concerned.

Sonny Curtis: I’ve heard great things from people like you who love those records, and I do appreciate that, and there are a few cuts on them that were recorded legitimately, but J.J. Cale, he sort of produced the rest of them, and a lot of them weren’t finished. It just wears me out when I hear them. I do appreciate that you like those albums, but artistically for me they fall a little bit short.

PKM: Eventually you found your way into writing commercial jingles. It seems like you’ve always had a nose for finding work.

Sonny Curtis: I was constantly looking for work. I always thought that turning down work was a sin. There were some guys at Snuff Garrett’s studio cutting a jingle for Lumberjack Syrup and they were disappointed with their singer. They wanted a country singer, and called me in and loved what I did. Don Piestrup had written that jingle, he was a brilliant arranger and musician, kind of a Jazzberry, but I don’t hold that against him. He said, “I’ve got some work if you are interested in trying to write some jingles.” He had a deal with McDonald’s. They were doing a radio campaign (“You Deserve A Break Today”) and they wanted a kid version, a girl version, a working man version… they wanted six different approaches lyrically. So we worked them up and the ad agency guy from Chicago flew out and we went down to the Beverly Hills Hotel and I set up by the pool with my guitar and sang him the songs. He said, “Wow, how much money do you need to make these?” and I think we quoted him $5,000, which was pretty good at the time. So we called some of our favorite L.A. pickers and voilà, they accepted it, and it went on the radio with me singing them all, and I couldn’t believe the money they paid. I mean Don and I split a big portion of money, and that’s how I got into it.

PKM: When did you move to Nashville?

Sonny Curtis: We decided to move to Nashville in ‘76 because our daughter was born in ‘75 and we wanted to get out of L.A. Just too much traffic, too much smog. We wanted to move back to the land, as they say. Also, jingles were really wearing me out. Don and I were just incredibly busy. We’d have the studio booked every day. The rhythm section would show up at ten, the strings at noon, the horns at two, then we would start putting vocals on at four and the voiceover at six. We’d have the engineer mix it down and have a courier take it to the airport, and at eight we’d meet about tomorrow’s project! There’s an old saying in the jingle business, they don’t want it good, they want it Tuesday.

PKM: Each generation comes along and sees The Crickets with a different perspective. Was there sometime, maybe in the ‘80s, when people started to appreciate you guys in a different way?

Sonny Curtis: Yeah, I think so. I don’t know if it was out of boredom or just experimenting, but we tried a bunch of different things in the ‘70s. Touring England we got to be friendly with (British bassist for Blind Faith, Traffic, etc.) Ric Grech, and at that time Glen D. (Glen Hardin, longtime Cricket associate and pianist for Elvis) was playing a Fender Rhodes keyboard bass with us, and he hated doing that, so he suggested Ric come and play bass with us. So we did a tour in England, and it was kind of a different sound, and the fans weren’t all that choked up with us. The next tour Glen D. was tied up with Elvis in Hawaii, so Rick suggested we get (insanely good British guitarist) Albert Lee. Albert accepted the gig and when we met to rehearse and we were going through the songs, and this was very funny, Albert said “Do y’all want to do ‘em like that, or do you want to do ‘em how they really go?” And we said, “Well Albert, show us how they really go.” Because we had drifted somewhat.

So when Glen D. showed up we asked Albert to stick around and said “We’ll split this five ways.” I think it’s about the best rock & roll group I was ever involved with. It was really good and good fun, but as you can imagine, it wasn’t really The Crickets sound and the fans weren’t that choked up with us, which is something I don’t understand. But I think in the ‘80s, that’s when we kind of turned into “Oldies But Goodies,” and that’s when we started getting on booked on those shows with all the people like Neil Sedaka and Fats Domino and Duane Eddy and people like that. It was a good fun time though.

PKM: Are you still writing songs?

Sonny Curtis: I’m eighty-one now. I’m pretty well retired. To tell you the truth, I just don’t have the energy. If you’re going to write songs, you’ve got to go play the game. I am to the point where I like to sit on my porch, we kind of live in the country thirty minutes from Nashville, I like to sit on the porch with a tall cool one, and watch the cars go by.

PKM: When you look back did you ever imagine you would achieve so much?

Sonny Curtis: I do remember I used to look in the back of our radio, this is how young I was, when I started appreciating music, and I can’t remember a time when I didn’t just love music… I remember looking in the back of our radio and imagining the people on stage at the Grand Ole Opry and I can remember taking coins, I’d have five pennies for the band, and I was very very young, and I remember taking those pennies and putting out a nickel and the nickel would be the mic and I remember working the mic. I always wanted to be a country singer and when I was really young and getting started, I really wanted to be a big star, and then I sort of started growing away from that, playing with The Everly Brothers and also going on the road with Waylon Jennings really brought it home. I got away from really wanting to make it big because that’s too much baggage, man, and to tell you the truth, I’m real comfortable with where I am. I’m glad to be able to go to the mall and not be recognized. I don’t fancy that. I made it as big as I want to.

For two more conversations with Sonny Curtis and one with Jerry Allison, check Michael Shelley’s radio show archives at: wfmu.org/michael

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