Dick Curless, the country star of the 1960s and 70s who was much admired for his distinctive baritone and real-life songs about trucks and trains, is honored in a new exhibit at the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum.
Dick Curless: Hard Traveling Man from Maine documents his and times from his upbringing in Fort Fairfield, ME, a catalog that included 22 country hits between 1965 and 1973, and later acclaimed work such as the Traveling Through album, released in 1995, the year of his death at 63. That set is described by the Hall of Fame as “a rootsy exploration of the sad and the spiritual side of country, blues, and gospel music.”
Curless was recording for the Tiffany label from 1959, but arrived on the national US country scene with the evocative 1965 truck driving anthem “A Tombstone Every Mile.” He followed that No.5 hit with another Top 20 entry, “Six Times A Day (The Trains Came Down).” He was sometimes known as “the Baron of Country Music” after his storytelling 1966 single “The Baron,” also released when he was signed to the Tower label.
After moving to Capitol, he had further Top 40 hits including “Big Wheel Cannonball,” a trucker-themed version of “Wabash Cannonball,” as well as “Hard, Hard Traveling Man” and “Loser’s Cocktail.” His last chart entry was with 1973’s “The Last Blues Song,” but he made albums for the Norwegian label Rocade in both 1987 and 1990, before Traveling Through, completed just before his death.
The exhibit opens on January 13, 2013, and will be open for a year. Artifacts on display will include Curless’ stage wear and instruments such as his Regal Archtop and Martin D28 guitars. On February 18, in the Hall’s Ford Theater, a discussion about Curless’ contribution to country music heritage will feature award-winning author and guest co-curator Peter Guralnick and his son Jake, who produced Traveling Through. Chuck Mead, respected solo artist and co-founder of the band BR5-49, will give a brief performance in tribute to Curless.