Gary James' Interview With The Crickets'
You could say Sonny Curtis is a living legend. He was a member of Buddy Holly's pre-Crickets group, The Three Tunes and later a member of The Crickets. He wrote the hit song "Walk Right Back" for The Everlys, "More Than I Can Say", a Leo Sayer hit and "I Fought The Law", a smash hit for The Bobby Fuller Four.
Q - Some people say you were an original Cricket, yet you deny it. What's the real story?
A - I was in high school with Buddy Holly and Bob Montgomery. I was in their band. We called ourselves The Three Tunes. When Elvis first came through town, we all really fell for Elvis. We started imitating Elvis. The next day, after Elvis left town, man, we got his records and the next night we were booking out, doing those songs. We got a record deal with Decca and that's where we made those first records, here in Nashville. I left the group because we weren't really making it. I went on the road with Slim Whitman and that's when Buddy got Jerry Allison and Joe B. Mauldin and they went over to Clovis, New Mexico.
Q - What kind of guy was Buddy Holly?
A - He was a real confident person, maybe even to the point of being a smart alec at times. But he was really fine and exciting to hang out with. I used to go over and spend the night with him. We'd sit out in the car and listen to Blues all night, which was really new to us. Gary Busey portrayed him as being a real loose, sloppy dresser. The stuff Gary Busey wore, Buddy Holly wouldn't have been caught in. Buddy was really an immaculate dresser. He liked to wear new stuff. He was sort of a trend-setter. He was really a tidy person. He paid a lot of attention to the way he looked.
Q - You must think about him every day.
A - I think about him a lot. I think his music was good and he was great. Probably the fact that he lost his life at a very young age and was kind of a big star at the time had a lot to do with him achieving a legendary status.
Q - How did you happen to write "I Fought The Law"? Were you down on your luck?
A - Down on my luck I was, but not literally. I really got the idea for "I Fought The Law" in high school. I had a tremendous imagination back in those days. About all I did was dream. I remember the afternoon I sat down and wrote it. It came together in about 15 minutes. Of course, the song is not all that difficult. But I wrote it as a Country song first, kind of a Johnny Cash feel.
Q - Did you ever meet Bobby Fuller?
A - I did, yes, in Los Angeles. He called me one day and invited me to a recording session. He wanted to meet me and I wanted to meet him. So, I went down to the session and met him. That was the only time I met Bobby Fuller. Right soon after that, he died.
Q - Many rumors surround the death of Bobby Fuller. What have you heard?
A - I heard the same rumors you did. I have no idea. He was killed in front of an apartment building where I used to live. It just seemed very mysterious. I think the report was he committed suicide. I wonder what the real crime reports were on that. I don't think it will ever be completely solved.
Q - After writing all these hit songs, you became a jingle writer. Wasn't that a come down for you?
A - No. I haven't done that in about 10 years, on a regular basis. To tell you the truth, that period when I wrote commercials, jingles if you will, that was an extremely good period in my life. It was really exciting and it didn't feel like it was a come down at all.
Q - What do you think of today's music?
A - While I don't like the real Hard Rock / Heavy Metal stuff, I still tend to like the people like Billy Joel. People like Twisted Sister, it loses me totally. I think maybe that has to do with growing up. Music in general today is very homogenized, I think. You turn on the Country radio station and you get Rock 'n' Roll songs.
Q - One article has it that Rock 'n' Roll died in 1977 with Elvis.
A - Oh, that's hogwash. Classical music didn't die with Mozart. I don't think it died with Elvis Presley. I don't think music died with Buddy Holly. We still have those records around and hear them a lot. We go through phases where it doesn't seem like anything's any good and then all of a sudden you have a group like The Beatles come along. We'll probably have something like that happen again. Rock 'n' Roll is here to stay.