Curtis Gordon

Country, Rock Vocals Rockabilly Hall of Fame

Born: 1928 Moultrie, GA

Lived in Fairhope, AL

Born on 27th July 1928 near Moultrie, Georgia, Curtis Gordon, began his career on Radio Station WMGA, Moultrie with Pee Wee Mills and his Twilight Playboys in the late 1940's, before organizing his first Western Swing Band on January 1, 1949, which was to be heard regularly over Radio station WKTG, Thomasville as well as at numerous dances in the Tri-State area. June 8th, 1952 saw Curtis entering a Talent contest in Atlanta, which he won and ended up with an RCA Victor recording contract through Steve Sholes, the well known Victor A 'n' R manager. Between 1952 - 1954, Curtis released a number of excellent 45's on Victor, all of which sold solidly, whilst Curtis, himself, after a 13 week spell on the Dixie Barn Dance in Mobile, opened the biggest Night Club in Mobile, called 'Radio Ranch'. Curtis' rockin' Western Swing B and was there to provide the best music around & folks came from all parts of the South to experience that 'Gordon Sound'.

On November 15, 1954, Curtis left RCA Victor & signed with Mercury Records through A 'n' R director, Dee Kilpatrick, where he was to record more fine Country and Western Swing Music, as well as one wild Rockabilly session from around March 1956, where Curtis really cut loose with four absolute classics, 'Draggin', 'Mobile Alabama', 'Rock Roll Jump and Jive', 'I'm sittin' on top (of the World)'. Revered to this day, these four recordings represent the finest in Rockabilly Music.

Sadly the death of Curtis Gordon at age 75 from cancer on 2nd May 2004 has been announced. Curtis was a genuine honky tonk singer who had his recording heyday from the early to mid fifties. However in recent times, his talent has been acknowledged as a first rate rockabilly singer with classics such as 'Rock, Roll, Jump And Jive, 'I'm Sittin' On Top (Of The World)', Mobile, Alabama' and 'Draggin'. Curtis appeared before sell-out crowds at such rock 'n' roll festivals as Hemsby in the UK and Viva Las Vegas in the USA.


Alabama Music Hall of Fame
Black Cat Rockabilly
Tony Wilkinson, May 2004
Dave Travis, January 1995

Photo of Curtis Gordon

One of the most enduring and beloved rockabilly artists of the '50s, Curtis Gordon has never gotten the recognition he deserves as a true crossover artist between country, Western swing, and rockabilly. A devotee of both Ernest Tubb and Bob Wills as a boy, it's possible to hear echoes of Tubb's "Walkin' the Floor Over You" in his best sides, including "Play the Music Louder," "Caffeine and Nicotine," and "Baby, Please Come Home," indeed, the steel player in his '50s band, Freddie Calhoun, played for all the world like Tubb's steel guitarist Jerry Byrd. Gordon grew up listening to Tubb and Wills on the radio, as well as old records by Jimmie Rodgers and quickly developed his own aspirations as a singer, winning a local radio talent show. He left school as a teenager to front a band -- whose membership included a young Jimmy Bryant, then a fiddle-player using the moniker Ivy J. Bryant -- until his parents insisted he give it up. Being stuck in school didn't dampen Gordon's enthusiasm for music or a performing career, however, and he continued working with a Gulfport, MS, outfit called Pee Wee Mills & the Twilight Cowboys. At the age of 21, he put together his own Western swing band and worked the area around the Georgia-Florida border. The band was good enough to earn a living of sorts, and in June of 1952, they entered a contest in Atlanta and ended up catching the ear of a local RCA Victor executive, who brought them to the attention of Steve Sholes, the head of A&R for the label's country division. They were signed that summer and had their first recording session in the fall of 1952, which focused principally on ballads. By 1953, however, Gordon was recording a few swinging, harder numbers such as "Rompin' & Stompin'," interspersed between the ballads and novelty tunes. His sound was a unique amalgam of styles like honky tonk and Western swing -- equal parts Hank Thompson and Ernest Tubb -- all grafted to a freer, looser, more vibrant singing style, a decade more youthful than Tubb's style. Gordon got steady work touring the Grand Ole Opry, playing support to Ernest Tubb or Hank Snow, and he was making a living, if not setting the world on fire. His RCA sides sold just well enough to keep him with the label for two full years, generating new records every few months, but music was changing around Gordon and Sholes faster than either could keep up with it, and none of his country-style singles generated enough interest or sales to chart. Gordon's potential seemed solid enough, however, that immediately upon parting company with RCA Victor, he was signed up by Mercury Records. Gordon's Mercury recordings were very different from his RCA sides, principally because the label let him cut a large number of originals, and because his Mercury contract coincided with rock & roll's rise to national prominence -- the latter event was heralded, ironically enough, by a subsequent Steve Sholes signing to RCA, one Elvis Presley, with whom Gordon had shared the bill several times while playing shows in the south during 1954 and 1955. Gordon's March 1956 sessions showed just how much the excitement surrounding Presley in the South, even before he'd broken nationally, had opened the way for him. Those recording dates, and the ones that followed in December of that year and October of 1957, showed Gordon plunging into the new music with total abandon and astonishing results. His country ballads were good enough, well-written, and performed with passion, and in another reality he might've been a serious rival to Lefty Frizzell. But when he turned to what they used to call "rhythm numbers," Gordon was spellbinding -- his youthful, exciting and engaging singing style, and the tightness of his band's playing all combined to generate brilliant records that seemed to straddle the gap between rock & roll, Western swing, and country music, without treading on the essentials of any of them. He should have been huge, appealing across generational lines to country listeners and their children and to the Ernest Tubb crowd, and to the kids listening to Elvis Presley and Carl Perkins. Alas, he never charted a record, despite a lot of tries working with producer Pappy Daily and some of the best session musicians in the business working behind him and his band. A stint in the Army (during which he crossed paths with a young would-be singer/songwriter named Roger Miller, whom he later helped get a contract) probably didn't help, but more broadly, Gordon never managed to be in the right place with the right record at the right moment. Gordon made a decent living playing locally in Mobile, where he had a solid and very loyal audience and where he also owned a very popular club. He also toured occasionally around the Southern and border states. His last long-term recording contract was with Dollie Records in the late '50s, but he never stopped performing and he made a good living, even if he didn't get rich doing it. Gordon saw some of his songs do well, particularly "I've Aged Twenty Years in Five," which was recorded by George Jones. He was concentrating mainly on running his successful dance club in Georgia, but resumed performing in the '80s largely as a result of his discovery of new demand out of Europe for his classic songs, where rockabilly music had acquired a large and fiercely devoted audience. He remains a revered figure in rockabilly as one of its great elder statesmen, and his music still appeals just as easily to fans of honky tonk and Western swing.





Curtis Gordon (Jul. 27, 1928 - May 2, 2004) was an American rockabilly singer.

Gordon was heavily influenced by Ernest Tubb, Bob Wills, and Jimmie Rodgers as a child. He won a radio talent show as a teen and left high school to be the lead singer of his own band, which included fiddle player Jimmy Bryant. His parents demanded that he return to school and give up the band; he did so, though he moonlighted with a band called Pee Wee Mills & the Twilight Cowboys, who operated out of Gulfport, Mississippi. He formed a new Western swing band of his own at age 21 and began touring the Southeast United States. Gordon served in the Army briefly during the Korean War; while there he met Roger Miller, whom he later helped get signed.

In June 1952, an employee of RCA Victor heard Gordon playing in a contest in Atlanta and told executive Steve Sholes about him. Gordon signed with RCA soon after and began recording for the label in the fall. He appeared on the Grand Ole Opry and supported Ernest Tubb, Elvis Presley, and Hank Snow on tour. His records sold modestly, though they never charted; he remained on RCA for two years, and when his contract expired he was snapped up by Mercury Records. Gordon's style changed while on Mercury, for a number of possible reasons. The label let him record much of his own material, he worked extensively with producer Pappy Daily, and the nascent rock & roll movement had changed tastes. His recordings of 1956-57 are a mix of Western swing, rock and roll, and straight country music.

He played regularly in Mobile, Alabama and toured the South sporadically. He recorded with Dollie Records at the end of the 1950s, his last major contract; he continued performing locally for some time after that. He ran a dance club in Georgia in the 1970s, and returned to rockabilly performing in the 1980s as the Europeans revived it.



TitleCatalog number


RCA Records

The Greatest Sin / You Ain’t Seen Nothin’ Yet20-5062

If You Tell Me One More Lie / What’s A Little Pride20-5182

Rocky Road Of Love / Rompin’ And Stompin’20-5356

I Just Don’t Love You Anymor / Where You’d Get So Much Of20-5461

Little Bo-Peep / Tell ‘Em No20-5550

I’d Do It For You / You Crazy, Crazy Moon20-5639

Divided Heart / Caffeine and Nicotine20-5760

Baby, Baby Me / I’d Like To Tell To20-5818

Mercury Records

Chopsticks Mambo / Don’t Trade70538

Blue Lifetime / Baby, Please Come Home70648

Sixteen / Cry, Cry71121

Our Secret Rendezvous / Girl With A Future70708

Too Young To Know / Hello, Old Broken Heart70791

Draggin’ / Mobile, Alabama70861

Play The Music Louder / Hey, Mr. Sorrow70933

So Tired Of Crying / I Know My Baby’s Gone71037

Sittin’ On Top / Out To Win Your Heart71097

I Wouldn’t / Please Baby, Please71183

Dollie Records

Oh, Lonely Heart / Each Time You Go3276

From Memphis To New Orleans / For The Last Time10050





Curtis Gordon at Allmusic


About Curtis Gordon

Matthew Duncan, UK record collector, provided information in the form of title details for the RCA discography section.





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