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Sonny Curtis To Be Saluted As Poet And Prophet

February 23 2012

Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame member Sonny Curtis will take a seat at the Country Music Hall of FameĀ® and Museum on Saturday, February 25, as the latest subject of the quarterly programming series Poets and Prophets: Legendary Country Songwriters. The 1:30 p.m. in-depth interview and performance, held in the Museum's Ford Theater, is included with museum admission and free to museum members. The program will be streamed live at

The 90-minute program, hosted by Museum Editor Michael Gray, will include recordings, photos and film clips from the museum's collection and marks the Poets and Prophets series' fifth anniversary. Immediately following, Curtis will sign autographs in the Museum Store.

Curtis has written a host of country and rock & roll hits in his nearly 50-year career. Among them are "I Fought the Law," "Rock Around with Ollie Vee," "Walk Right Back," "I'm No Stranger to the Rain," "More Than I Can Say" and the theme for The Mary Tyler Moore Show, "Love Is All Around."

Sonny Curtis was born on May 9, 1937, near Meadow, Texas. He grew up performing with his brothers in talent shows and on radio stations across Northwest Texas. Listening to bluegrass artists Bill Monroe and Flatt & Scruggs, Curtis taught himself to play the fiddle and the guitar. In his teens, Curtis performed with fellow West Texans Buddy Holly and Waylon Jennings.

When Holly recorded his first Nashville sessions for Decca Records in 1956, Curtis played lead guitar as a member of Holly's pre-Crickets band, Buddy Holly and the Three Tunes. In addition to "Blue Days, Black Nights" and "Midnight Shift," the band cut Curtis' "Rock Around with Ollie Vee."

Later that year, Curtis left Holly's band to play with Slim Whitman and other country artists. In 1957, Webb Pierce took Curtis' "Someday" to #12 on the Billboard country chart. Shortly before Holly perished in a 1959 plane crash, Curtis joined the Crickets. After Holly's death, Curtis toured with the band-first as a guitarist and later as the lead vocalist. He and band mate Jerry Allison wrote the Bobby Vee hit "More Than I Can Say" in 1960. The song also was a major pop hit for Leo Sayer in 1980.

After a 1960 tour of England with the Everly Brothers, Curtis was drafted and reported for basic training at Fort Ord in California. While on a weekend pass in February 1961, Curtis played his song "Walk Right Back" for the Everlys. They took the song to #11on the pop charts, and it became a million-seller. In 1978, Anne Murray took the song to the Top Five in the country market.

When Curtis returned from his 17-month tour of France, he rejoined the Crickets and while working with the band he also released a string of recordings as a solo artist for Dimension Records, Imperial and Viva Records.

In 1966, the Bobby Fuller Four reached the Top 10 with "I Fought the Law." The song became one of Curtis' biggest hits. It has been recorded by diverse artists including the Clash, Kris Kristofferson, the Nitty Gritty Dirt band, Roy Orbison and Hank Williams Jr.

In the late 1960s, Curtis began composing for advertising campaigns, writing jingles for Buick, Continental Airlines, McDonald's, Olympia Beer, Yamaha and many other companies. As the decade came to a close, Curtis received an offer to write a theme song for a new sitcom about a Midwestern girl who strikes out on her own in the big city and gets a job in a newsroom. The result was The Mary Tyler Moore Show's "Love Is All Around," which Curtis wrote and recorded in 1970.

Curtis moved to Nashville in 1976. He signed with Elektra and released songs such as "The Cowboy Singer," Paul Simon's "Fifty Ways to Leave Your Lover" and "The Real Buddy Holly Story"-his reaction to The Buddy Holly Story, a film starring Gary Busey.

The late 1980s brought Curtis another big hit in the #1 "I'm No Stranger to the Rain" by Keith Whitley, co-written with Ron Hellard. The Country Music Association honored it as its 1989 Single of the Year. In the early 1990s, Curtis again got the opportunity to write a TV theme song-this time for Evening Shade.

Curtis was inducted into the Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame in 1991. Five of his songs-"I Fought the Law," "I'm No Stranger to the Rain," "More Than I Can Say," "The Straight Life" and "Walk Right Back"-are certified by BMI for airplay of one million or more.

After a 10-year absence, Curtis rejoined the Crickets in 1994 and continues to perform with them.

The Poets and Prophets series honors songwriters who have made significant contributions to country music history. Previous Poets and Prophets honorees include Bill Anderson, Matraca Berg, Bobby Braddock, Wayne Carson, Jerry Chesnut, Hank Cochran, Dean Dillon, Jerry Foster, Dallas Frazier, Red Lane, John D. Loudermilk, Bob McDill, Roger Murrah, Dan Penn, Curly Putman, Don Schlitz, Whitey Shafer, Jeffrey Steele, Norro Wilson and Craig Wiseman.

The Poets and Prophets series is made possible, in part, by grants from the Metropolitan Nashville Arts Commission and by an agreement between the Tennessee Arts Commission and National Endowment for the Arts.