Born Edward Curtis Gordon, 18 July 1927, Cotton, Mitchell County, Georgia
Died 2 May 2004, Moultrie, Georgia

Curtis Gordon was born on a farm near Moultrie, Georgia, not on July 27, 1928, as most sources will have us believe, but on July 18, 1927, according to the Social Security Death Index. Influenced by his idols Ernest Tubb and Bob Wills, he began his career in 1949, on radio station WMGA in Moultrie, after having organized his own band. At a talent contest in Atlanta in June 1952 he was spotted by an RCA distributor, who recommended him to Steve Sholes. For Gordon, who saw himself as a regional performer, landing a deal with RCA was a major break. He fit into the honky tonk sound that was in vogue at the time. However, he had little say in the material he recorded. Steve Sholes had his own ideas, seeing Gordon as a potential ballad singer. Gordon could write his own songs, but was hardly allowed to record them. One of only two exceptions was "Rompin' And Stompin'" (RCA 5356), waxed at Gordon's second RCA session, in March 1953. It was inspired by Hardrock Gunter's "Birmingham Bounce" and can be seen as pre-Elvis rockabilly. Curtis cut 16 songs for RCA, released on eight singles, but there was nothing else like "Rompin' And Stompin'" and when the RCA contract expired in November 1954, Gordon wasn't particularly bitter. His records had sold enough to keep him on the label, but nothing came even close to the national charts.

In 1952, Gordon had opened his own nightclub, the Radio Ranch, in Mobile, Alabama. No matter how much he toured (he did several national tours as part of package shows), Mobile would remain his home base over the next couple of decades. A&R man Dee Kilpatrick signed him to Mercury in December 1954 and for the most part, the music recorded there was more satisfying than at RCA. For one thing, many of the songs were Gordon originals, though a few songs were pushed on him. Most of his output was pure country, but on his fourth Mercury session, in March 1956, Gordon really cut loose with four self-penned rockabilly classics, "Draggin'", "Mobile, Alabama", "I'm Sittin' On Top Of the World" and "Rock, Roll Jump And Jive". The last track was surprisingly consigned to the vaults by Mercury, until it was included on a Bear Family LP in 1985. Though Gordon told Rich Kienzle that he never changed the way he played because of Elvis, his one and only rockabilly session - with teen-slanted lyrics, slapped bass and Scotty Moore-styled lead guitar - followed a formula which owed a great deal to Presley's success. But Gordon soon returned to hard country. After a final Mercury session in October 1957, he recorded for Dollie in 1959, and much later for his own label, Duke Of Country (circa 1978), but mostly he worked Georgia, Florida and Alabama with his own six-piece band.

In the mid-1990s, after more than 45 years of performing, Gordon wanted to retire from performing and the nightclub business in order to relax, but he accepted an invitation to come to Hemsby, England, for his first European gig, which was a great success. In February 1998 he was heading back to England, again amazed that European fans remembered the lyrics of old records that were ignored by the masses when they came out. His modest, warm personality and the enjoyment of what he plays made him a successful live performer. Looking back in 1998, Gordon told Rich Kienzle "I never considered myself a great singer. I'm a good showman, I like to entertain. I know how to put on a good show and I've always had a crackerjack band." Curtis Gordon died of cancer on May 2, 2004, aged 76.

CD : Curtis Gordon, Play the Music Louder (Bear Family BCD 16253). 34 tracks from 1952-1959. Released in 1998.

- Rich Kienzle, Liner notes for the Bear Family CD.
- Bill Millar, Liner notes for Bear Family BCD 16101 (That'll Flat Git It, Vol. 11 : Rockabilly From the Vaults Of Mercury Records).
- Rockabilly Hall of Fame page :

Discography :


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