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ca 1930. A. L. Curtis (my dad) plowing with mules about eight miles east of Meadow, Texas. He finally got a tractor about fourteen years later: a two-row Allis-Chalmers. It’s the tractor on the cover of my CD, entitled Sonny Curtis, on Rabbit Ranch Records.
ca 1937. Pictured clockwise are my sister Mae, grandma Pearl Curtis, and my brothers Pete and Dean. It looks like they were auditioning for a role as the "Joad's" in Grapes Of Wrath, don’t you think?
ca 1947. All hat 'n no cattle, but I had a dog. Do you reckon that dog liked my fiddlin'? If he did, he was the only one. My fiddlin' drove everybody else nuts. Mama used to say, 'Take that outside, Sonny boy.'
ca 1950. My family, except for Mae, visiting my dad's childhood stompin' ground near Hot Springs, Arkansas. Clockwise are Daddy, Mama, Pete, me, Dean, Jean and Alene. We were having a lots of fun (as you can see) and just couldn't wait for them to snap this picture so we could get back to jumpin' up and down and laughing and having a good time.
Spring 1953. The Texas FFA (Future Farmers of America) talent contest in Fort Worth.
ca 1954. This is me with Red Foley. I was a big fan of his when I was growing up and I'm really proud of this picture. He had a unique voice and really shined on songs like "Alabama Jubilee" and "Chattanooga Shoeshine Boy." His "Peace In The Valley" is one of the best gospel records of all time. I especially liked Grady Martin, Red's guitar player.
Buddy Holly - Baby Let's Play House Limited Edition 10" Vinyl LP Includes the tracks "Baby Let's Play House," "Bo Diddley," "Blue Monday," "Good Rockin' Tonight," "Rip It Up/Brown-Eyed Handsome Man," "Honky Tonk," "Blue Suede Shoes," "Shake, Rattle & Roll" and "Holly Hop." The picture on this album cover was taken April 10, 1956. We were opening for Elvis Presley at the Fair Park Coliseum in Lubbock, Texas. Buddy is playing Elvis' D-18 Martin, I'm playing Buddy's Stratocaster and Don Guess (out of picture) is playing Bill Black's bass. Jerry Allison is playing DJ Fontana's drums and that is Jerry Allison peeking over them in the back. John Beecher, owner of Rollercoaster Records, has put ten early Buddy Holly recordings on vinyl for this unique compilation. I personally think this album is a collectors item. For many years now, John has made records, books and Rock and Roll memorabilia available to the world. Visit his website at www.rollercoasterrecords.com.
The Curtis brothers (l to r, Sonny, Dean, and Pete)
My senior picture, Slaton High School, 1955. Just so you know, I graduated.
ca Spring 1956. This was taken in Odessa Texas of me, Buddy Holly and Don Guess (The Three Tunes bassist). We were booked on a tour of Oklahoma and Texas to open for Faron Young, Carl Perkins, Wanda Jackson, Sonny James, and Tommy Collins. We did our new Decca record, "Blue Days, Black Nights" and "Love Me." We also served as backup band for Sonny and Tommy. The tour ended in Odessa. Later that year in August, as Buddy was playing more and more lead and developing that powerful style, I left the group and went on the road with Slim Whitman. It was rather a short-lived gig and I don't have any pictures, but it was a great experience. Slim was a real good ol' boy and his songs like "Indian Love Call" and "Rose Marie" were great fun to play.
ca spring 1956. We were in Nashville to record one of those Decca sessions with Buddy Holly at Bradley’s Barn. Left to right, Thelma King, me, Buddy, Don Guess, my brother Dean, and Clara Cobble. Thelma and I are being quite silly. Ah, to be eighteen again. © Thelma King
A publicity photo for Dot Records, March of 1958. I was in New York to record for Dot Records. My friend, Terry Noland, who was up there with me, loaned me his jacket for the picture, probably because it went so well with my shirt. Talk about a hog upstairs, that was me in New York.
Before the "Bobby Vee Meets The Crickets" tour of England in the fall of 1962, we visited the Fender Guitar Company to acquire some new instruments. Leo Fender, owner and founder of the Company, gave me this1962 Stratocaster for the tour. It is currently on loan to the Buddy Holly Center in Lubbock, Texas.
Autumn 1957. This was at the Navajo Hogan Club in Colorado Springs, Colorado. A D. J. friend got me the gig and I worked there from the beginning of September until the first week in December. Pictured are the drummer (whose name, I regret to say, I don't remember) and Doug Rice, the piano player. We played from 9 to 12:30, six nights a week. We had an eclectic audience. They liked everything from Hank Williams to Cole Porter and we tried to accommodate them. This gig was really good for my chops and my repertoire grew exponentially. By the way, I loved Colorado Springs.
May 1960. On tour with the Everlys in Australia. I was in Melbourne on my birthday and it snowed. Amazing! It was downright hot back in Texas. Australia won my heart. Here's to my friends, Bob and Cathy Montgomery, who liked it so much they moved there. Pictured clockwise are Marv Johnson, Phil Everly, Billy "Crash" Craddock, Don Everly, me, J. I. Allison, and Joe B. Mauldin.
April 1960. This is Joe B., J. I. and me with The Everly Bros. on the Alma Cogan show in London. From there we toured England and Scotland. It was my first trip there and I've been in love with the place ever since. While there, I was drafted and missed reporting for duty on April 15th. My draft board was red hot over that one. When I got back, I went in to face the music. The lady in charge gave me a real good tongue lashing, but then softened and allowed me to go with the Everlys to Australia. I reported for duty on June 14, 1960.
ca 1962. Taken when I was overseas near Toul, France. I was stationed there for about seventeen months and we went bivouacking for a week or two periodically to practice war. It got me over my “camping out Jones.” At the end of my tour of duty, some of my regular army buddies were being sent to Vietnam just as the war there was beginning. Although I lost track of them, I’ve thought about ‘em many a time.
Summer 1964. In United Studio B recording Beatle Hits Flamenco Guitar Style (I know! It's not Flamenco style. It's finger style. The album title was chosen be someone else, not I). Accompanying me were Earl Palmer (drums), Red Callender (upright bass), and Tommy Allsup (rhythm guitar). Picking along with those guys was terrific fun.
ca 1966. This is my brother, Dean, playing the fiddle at Christmas time at Pete and Glena’s house in Meadow. That’s his little girl, my sweet niece, Nicole, looking at him adoringly. And adorable, he was, as well as the best ol’ boy in the world. We lost him in 1976. He and I were best ol’ buddies and I miss him to this day.
Louise and me on December 30, 1970 right after our wedding in Las Vegas just before the champagne arrived. That was a mighty good day for me.
During a break at Vicki Lawrence’s recording session. Photo by John Livzey
In the recording studio with Vicki Lawrence on April 18, 1973. Photo by John Livzey
Working out a lick with Don Peake at Vicki Lawrence’s recording session. Photo by John Livzey
ca 1973. My favorite picture of Louise. She’s like the sunshine, just like this picture portrays her.
1973 - Me performing on-stage with the Crickets (J.I. and Joe B. not shown) at a songwriter magazine concert in New York (photo credit M. Gross)
Francis Preston, CEO of BMI, presenting me with an award for "Walk Right Back."
September, 1979. We were in London for Paul McCartney’s annual Buddy Holly week. Pictured are, Maria Elena Holly (Buddy’s widow) flanked by, from the left, Bob Montgomery, Joe B. Mauldin, J.I. Allison, me, and Don Everly. One of my favorite pickers, Albert Lee, was also there, but missed this photo op. It was a great week and a wonderful reunion. The performance was great fun, as well.
The Crickets playing at Paul McCartney's Holly Days Show
ca 1977. Our daughter, Sarah, in a photo taken at J. I.’s and Joanie’s house. What a little cherub she was. She has grown into a beautiful person and has a beautiful family. She’s still the light of our lives.
Performing at Harlan Howard's birthday party. Harlan was a good friend and a great songwriter. His hits include songs such as, "I Fall To Pieces," "Pick Me Up on Your Way Down", "Heartaches By The Number" and "Busted."
ca 1989. A guest appearance somewhere in north London at a carnival.
Autumn 1991. Induction into the NSAI (Nashville Songwriters Association International) Songwriters Hall Of Fame.
My induction into the Nashville Songwriter's Association International Hall of Fame. Left to right: Don Everly of Everly Brothers; Maggie Cavender, NSAI founder; Charlie Black, the other inductee songwriter that year; myself, Francis Preston, CEO of BMI; Roger Sovine, BMI; Bobby Braddock, songwriter friend; Merle Kilgore, songwriter friend
ca 1992. Taken somewhere in England. In 1985, I took a break from the Crickets and played solo gigs, mostly in England, for about ten years. The venues, as a rule, were pubs, small theaters and listening rooms. I loved the atmosphere and the intimacy of it all. Photo by Andy Ellis
The Crickets performing with Nanci Griffith at The Royal Albert Hall in London, 1997. Photo by Andy Ellis.
Performing with the Crickets (J.I. Joe B. and me) on Buddy Holly Avenue in Lubock, Texas. Photo by Steve Bonner
ca 2002. Happy Birthday to me, organized by Louise and celebrated on our back porch. Standing from the left are Jane and Joe B. Mauldin, Dede Eddy, Phil Everly, and Joanie and J. I. Allison. Seated are Duane Eddy, Louise and me. Phil's wife, Patti, is holding the camera. How good can life get?
ca 1988. Pete and me, hangin’ out with our idol, Bill Monroe. We had just seen Bill and the Bluegrass Boys do a terrific show. Hog Heaven doesn’t even come close.
2003 Sonny composing
The Crickets' induction into the Music City Walk of Fame, 2007. From l to r: Joe B. Mauldin, Sonny, J.I. Allison
The Crickets' induction into the Musicians Hall of Fame by Keith Richards, 2008
August 2008. Vacationing with Neal, Sarah, my granddaughter and Louise on Lake Michigan. My granddaughter is doing her thing and I’m doing mine.
Sonny with daughter Sarah and wife Louise, Lubbock, 2019
Interview with Mo Rocca for CBS Sunday Morning, 2021