Wednesday, June 4, 2008


Session Eleven

This is a flash forward to now. Because I just returned from a short tour in the Los Angeles area, And I wanted to tell you about it.

There are three givens when it comes to touring:

Number One, the prep time involved just to get on the transport and go.

Number Two, the clean-up time required at home when you return.

Number Three, Always remember that if anything can happen…it WILL.
So don’t panic, just deal with it.

If you are lucky (as I was this time out) no difficulties arose. It turned out to be a quite memorable trip.

My friend, Phil Friendly, organized the dates. And, of course, provided the backing band for me and Glen Glenn who joined us on the Saturday night date. Phil and his new bride Camille took me in and walked me through the entire few days.

The first of the three gigs May 15 was the DOLLHUT in Anaheim, California. It was originally a truck stop many years ago. It is small in space, but take my word for this, there was no small welcome from some wonderful rockabilly fans. I have played a bunch of similar pubs in England. They are great rooms to play. You are right down among the audience…eye to eye so to speak. It is the ultimate setting for communication between the audience and the performer. Life is Good!

May 16 took us to East L.A. for a great night at SPIKES’ BAR in Rosemead. Larger club…larger crowd. Brando turned ‘em loose on us there. Not only did the show come off well, there were some exciting and humbling revelations for me.

A couple of Latino guys cornered me after the show for an autograph. As I gladly signed their programs, they began to inform me about how American 50s music and Rockabilly in particular was an art form that was “their Music”. But they went farther to tell me that it was Rockabilly that had been, and is, the music that was of great comfort during hard times to them and many of their friends as they were taking residence in the States.

I learned many years ago that music is a common language with people all around the world. It has served me well in my global travels to perform. I am proud to learn I am a favorite of the Latino community in California and hope to be back there soon. Maybe I have some that I’ve never heard from here in Texas!! And who knows where else.

Those thoughts followed me to our anchor gig on May 17 at SAFARI SAMS in Hollywood. It is truly a fine showplace. My ole pal Glen Glenn came along to join us for this one. We had a superb crowd who seemed to hang on every word and every note. It dotted the i’s and crossed the t’s for me. Several Latino ladies echoed the same feelings about us ole originals and Rockabilly music as mi amigos did the previous two nights. Our thanks to Jeff, the straw boss…to the owner Sam for the use of the hall…to all the staff…and, to a loyal and wonderful audience.

It was an honor and a rush to join some outstanding talent for a one-of-a-kind series of shows in La La Land! See ya soon.

Keep on Rockin

Mac Curtis

Many thanks to the Rockabilly Hall of Fame

And our website is:

Tuesday, May 6, 2008


Session Ten

In our last thrilling episode of Mac Curtis Rockabilly 101 from 1956: I had been ‘dumped’ by the brothers Galbreaith.

They took me to the bus in Waco and I rode the 90 mile trip to Fort Worth in somewhat of a daze. I still had no idea what was coming next.

I rested a few days in Fort Worth then went back to Weatherford. I drove directly to the Galbreaith home.

I got out and started down the driveway. It was strange that Ken’s Chevy was parked there. Strange because he was usually at work that time of day…and…his bass was strapped on top of the car. Were they going, or coming?

As I approached the car, Ken came outside. He was startled to see me there. I asked him what was happening. He stammered to inform me they were going on vacation up in Pennsylvania to visit with Bill Haley and the Comets. We had once enjoyed a breakfast with Bill and some of the band in Dallas the morning after they had played a show there.

Jimmie appeared just in time to save Ken. He repeated the vacation idea. I knew by then that I was not going to be involved with them. So, I wished them well and made my exit.
As I drove away I glanced down the driveway…hit my brakes…watched Bob Luman come out of the house and get into Ken’s car! I suspect I am gonna need a new band.

As it turns out. The brothers were not happy with the fact that I wound up with a deal on King Records as a single act…they were convinced (by themselves, but mostly by others) the deal should have included the band. Thus, they got together with Bob Luman.

Earlier we had taken on Dummer Dick Powell. Now the scheme was that he, along with Bob Luman, would join with Jimmie and Ken to form a band called The Four Diamonds. With Bob’s connection they eventually worked into the cast at the Louisiana Hayride in Shreveport. Yes, Elvis had left the building.

At first blush, I was pretty dejected. No band…no gigs…no money. but then…But Then…BUT THEN!!! Ah ah ah ah ah-long came Lady Luck and Father Fate.

In early June several things came into play. Little Bill Thompson had gotten wind of the breakup. He called to have dinner together and repair our rift. We accomplished that in one evening. He had found a band led by Ralph Dixon in Fort Worth, and they wanted a solo act to back. Duh!

I met with Ralph and his guys. They were tuned in to what I did so it all went well. We would work several gigs together.

Meanwhile, King Records A&R man Ralph Bass had set up a date for me to appear on the Big D Jamboree in Dallas in support of If I Had Me A Woman and the forthcoming single release of Grandaddy’s Rockin. All of a sudden things were looking much better.

Then came the call from Gaylon Christie in Temple, Texas. He was playing the hell out of the King single on his KTEM radio show. He was now away from the Clyde Chesser Band and had formed his own group…The Downbeats. The concept was to bring me in for gigs in Central Texas. The Downbeats would open the shows and back me as the headliner. It turned out to be a great match. We all got on well…packed some venues…played some good music…and…made some Money.

As for the Four Diamonds? They worked a few Saturdays on the Louisiana Hayride and a few tours for the Hayride booking agency. Bob Luman called me several times and eventually we became long-time friends. He recorded a song I wrote Give Us One More Chance. It’s a country tune recorded also by George Morgan…yes, Lorrie’s daddy.

I also remained close to Dick Powell. He joined me in studio to play drums on the Second King Record session. That Ain’t Nothing But Right and Don’t You Love Me. It was the first song I ever wrote.

Gaylon Christie and The Downbeats kept me busy with gigs in Central Texas.until November. That is when I was called to New York City for interviews and contract signings for the Alan Freed Christmas extravaganza at Brooklyn Paramount Theater. What an adventure that was!!

Needless to say, but I’ll say it anyway, it was a very successful 1956 in spite of some distractions.

Can it continue on into 1957? Hmmmmm. Stay tuned.

Many Thanks to the Rockabilly Hall of Fame

Check out our site:

Sunday, April 27, 2008


Session Nine

In our last exxxciting episode in the Rockabilly 101 story of Mac Curtis and the brothers Galbreaith: everything was ready to turn up roses. Right! Wrong.

Shortly after completing the first recordings April 1, 1956 the first single If I Had Me A Woman b/w Just So You Call Me was issued. The other two songs from that session would be the follow up single Half Hearted Love and Grandaddys Rockin. All but Grandaddy were written by Jim Shell and Joe Price. Couple of hillbilly boys plying their trade in Dallas.

Grandaddy came from a brother and sister duo Bob and Clare Blake. They were from Missouri and knew our Manager, Little Bill Thompson, who was from there also. The Blakes had brought the song down to Texas and were invited to stay at the Galbreaith family home for a few days. We were able to get familiar with the tune before the record session.

The first single came out and was beginning to get airplay around the local area. However…unknown to me or Little Bill…the wheels were about to come off the hot rod

In May, Jim and Ken summoned Bill to come to a meeting in Weatherford on the steps of the High School. I was blindsided when Jimmie informed Bill that he was no longer needed as our manager. I was against the move, but, I was out-voted

I didn’t see the brothers for a few days and went to visit my aunt and uncle in Fort Worth. Jim and Ken eventually called and came to pick me up to ride to a show in Waco, Texas we had booked sometime earlier.

It was a fun show and it was on live television. It was called the Bluebonnet Barn Dance (named for the sponsor Bluebonnet Flour). The host was a guy named Clyde Cheshire. He had a good band which featured Dale McBride alternating between hillbilly and hep cat vocals. The single neck steel guitarist, Gaylon “Korn Kobb” Christie was the funny guy and was a deejay on KTEM, one of the area radio stations.

Dale, Gaylon and I hit it off really well. It would serve me as one of those "lucky breaks”. I was about to need it sooner than I was aware of.

In fact, The show ended; I collected the fee and went to the car. We drove away as Jimmie began to explain that he and Ken were going to spend the night with one of their aunts in a nearby town…which was in the opposite direction from where the car was headed. It was a short ride with a long silence.

The car stopped in front of the Trailways Bus Station in Waco. I said my good byes and they did as well, adding they would see me when they got back to Weatherford. I boarded the bus for a longer ride and longer silence.

WELLLL What happened next?

Don’t miss our next exxxciting episode in the Rockabilly 101 story of Mac Curtis and the brothers Galbreaith!
Many thanks to the Rockabilly Hall of Fame

Please tell your friends to visit our site:

Wednesday, April 16, 2008


Session Eight

How did these young Hillbillies get on record in the first place??????

Actually it was through dumb luck. Jimmie, Ken and I made several visits in 1955 to the hottest radio station in the area…KNOK-AM (there was no FM or any stereo station ‘cause it was still pretty much a high dollar experiment back then). They played what was often referred to as Race music. And it was cool stuff. Chuck Berry, Fats Domino, Little Richard, Hank Ballard and the Midnighters, The Clovers, The Flamingos, The Drifters, Clyde McPhatter, Big Joe Turner and on and on and on.

KNOK ruled. The deejays were all Black except for the morning guy…You would have never known unless you saw him…Dean McNeil aka
McNeil at the wheel.

One of the most popular jocks on the station was Big Jim Randolph. Jim kinda took us Bumpkins under his wing. He turned out to be one of the biggest keys to our Rockabilly Run-of-Luck. And, in a few years became a star on radio in Los Angeles.

In early spring of ’55. we were playing a gig at a car dealer lot in Fort Worth. Dick Danner Motors Ford. We played out on the car lot alternating with a black Big Blues Band. Tom Patrick and the Shamrocks. I would guess 7 or 8 players in the group. Biggest band we had seen or played with until ’56 when we started playing Sock Hops for another radio station and shared time with Trini Lopez. But, I digress.

Big Jim Randolph happened to be performing a remote radio broadcast from inside the dealer showroom. He seized on the idea to have us come inside on our off set time and play 2 or 3 songs live on air. We did and were thrilled at the invite. Big Jim applauded and we returned for our next set outside on the lot.

It was a cool day out there. But clear. We were all pleased to see traffic picking up out on West Seventh Street in front of the dealership. Our set was finished and suddenly we looked around and saw Big Jim waving desperately for us to come into the showroom again. We did.

Turns out the phone began ringing off the hook at the radio station. The callers wanted information about the band and directions to the dealership. By the end of the gig, the car lot was jam-packed. Dealer was happy. We were happy, and Big Jim was so happy he promised he would get us auditions with some of his record company hot shots.

He did it! He called the High School one day and got me out of class (Whew). He wanted us to be in Dallas by 4pm that afternoon to meet and audition with Ralph Bass, a producer for King Records

We made it! Ralph was a very nice fellow. We setup in his hotel room and played 2 songs. He said he liked what he heard and wanted to have us in the Jim Beck recording studio in a couple of weeks.

As I said last time, if you are trying to get started in the music business, not only should you follow your instincts but follow your leads at all times. Lady Luck has a strange way of handing out back stage passes from time to time.

That’s a wrap for now. I’ll see ya down the road.

Keep on Rockin’

Mac Curtis

Thanks to the Rockabilly Hall of Fame from 'ole 21

Got your DVD yet?

Monday, April 7, 2008


Session Seven

You are absolutely right!

I should have included this link in Session Six when I mentioned Harry Middlebrooks and his Grits.

Harry later used that Piano Red feel and technique on a song I recorded in the 70s (I Feel More Like I Do Now).

One of the things I had a tough time with in the very early days was to accept, learn and deliver believable performances of newly written songs. When you start out it is pretty natural to just copy the current hit tunes. But if you want to make it in this business you have got to have original material. Then, no matter who writes it, you have to make it your own.

My first bona-fide recording session came for King Records in the Spring of 1956. Jim and Ken and I went to Dallas to the storied Jim Beck Studio. We were all nervous as hell. We arrived at the studio about 2 hours ahead of time. Country star Sonny James was in a session ahead of us.

Sonny took a break a bit prior to our session. We were introduced and someone told him it was my first session. He immediately sent one of his guys to tell the engineers that he was rescheduling his work to another day and that that the guys and I should start on time. It was an impressive gesture to me. I appreciated it and, even more, struck up a friendship with Sonny that would last for many years. He’ll be in the Book.

Oh yeah…there are some good guys in the entertainment business. I have had the honor to be associated with a great number of them. Surely you’re not surprised that I’m writing a Book…are you???

So…we got in the studio. What do I do now?

King Records Producer Ralph Bass took command and after 3 hours we had sailed through 4 songs (typical for sessions in those days). Honestly, I didn’t have a clue how to approach the tunes. As fate would have it the session itself dictated the direction.

The line up was: Me, the singer and rhythm guitarist (I plunked at the chords). Jim played lead guitar and Ken played slap bass. In his infinite wisdom, Producer Bass had hired some professional session musicians including pianist Bill Simmons and drummer Bill Peck. I just followed my instincts and sang ‘em like I felt ‘em.

In the end King Records Vice-President Bernie Pearlman summoned us up to the Control Room to hear the playbacks. I will never forget that he had Elvis Presley’s latest album on a turntable to compare it to our work.

He said, “We felt we needed an Elvis Presley type performer. Today, we think we have something different…and better.”

Sometimes stuff just happens!!

The songs were: If I Had Me A Woman, Just So You Call Me, Half Hearted Love and Grandaddy’s Rockin’. Over the years I have come to realize what happened was that we were trying to come up to the Pro players. And. They were trying to reach down to us. The outcome has proven to be a definitive event. Not by me, or us, but of the Rockabilly fans, record buyers and concert goers around the world. For that, we are all grateful.

Follow your instincts and…

Keep on Rockin

Many thanks to the Rockabilly Hall of Fame:

Get your copy of our recent DVD at:

Sunday, March 30, 2008


Session Six

I have long since lost my copy of Piano Red’s Great Rockin With Red. And I hate it. It was one of the many influences on the way I make music now. It was the first phonograph record I ever bought.

While visiting my uncle in Fort Worth in the early fifties, I wandered around the corner to a record store that was owned by a jukebox operator. In the back of his store he had bins of used records taken from his juke box route.

I rummaged around and pulled out the 78rpm platter…Rockin With Red…I bought it for a half of a dollar. 50 cents for what, to me, was a treasure. The song and Red’s performance spellbound me (and still does). It just had an attitude that I related to. I later recorded it for Ronny Weiser on Rollin Rock Records. Out of respect we re-titled it as simply Rock Me.

I was fortunate to run into a fantastic musician and performer who knew Red and patterned a lot of his own music after him. Harry Middlebrooks. Harry coined the description of Red’s piano work as “grits” style. Harry and Red, aka Dr. Feelgood, both lived and worked in Atlanta together. So they had a built a great respect for each other’s work.

Harry eventually composed and recorded a tune he called simply Grits. It was a fitting tribute to Piano Red.

I very often think of songs, and the people who turned me onto them, that affected me in my early years. Bob “Git It” Kelly is one of them. Bob was an upper class-man in Olney, Texas High School which I attended in the early ‘50s.

The big hangout in Olney was the No D-lay Drive In. They had super sandwiches and fries and they were inexpensive. Plus, the place had a huge Jukebox.

Bob called me over to the player one night and said that he had been watching my progress as a fledgling performer, but that he thought I should include some other sounds along with the hillbilly tunes I was doing.

That night, along with the R&B song Sixty Minute Man and others came Big Joe Turner’s Shake, Rattle and Roll. Those songs opened up the flood gates of music that I never knew existed. Thanks to Bob Kelly for sharing his knowledge with me.

Bob and I caught up with each other again in 1957 when I was recording for King Records. He brought two demos of songs he had written recently. I liked, and picked, Somebody Help Me.
However Louis Innis, the producer, decided What You Want was a better bet. I later recorded Somebody Help Me for Major Bill Smith in Fort Worth. I still like ‘em both.

And I still like Bob Kelly’s music.

Thanks for your time and…

Keep On Rockin

And visit:

Many thanks to the Rockabilly Hall of Fame

Friday, March 21, 2008


Session Five

In the last session I mentioned that Johnny Carroll played a big part of the beginning of developing Mac Curtis and the Country Cats in 1955.

We had just come off a talent contest at the FFA (Future Farmers of America) Texas State Convention in Houston, Texas in the summer of that year. When we got back home
We were determined to get into the business. Translation: We need to make some money!

It was determined that we would frequent as many regular shows as possible. By this time we had added a number of songs. There were no new songs. Thus, as today, we would be referred to as a Cover band. A live jukebox.

One day Johnny Carroll came to the High School to offer us a proposal. He had an idea for us to ally with his band and he would book us as a two band show anywhere we could find a place that would hold a few people…school auditoriums, rec halls, tabernacles, etc.

Johnny had a similar band to ours. Simply a trio. Jay Salem on lead guitar. And Bill Bunton slap bass. The crazy thing was that on the shows... both bands played almost all the same songs on each others sets. But, it was crucial experience for all of us. And we did make a few bucks.

At the Friday night shindig in Fort Worth one night Johnny introduced us to a guy named Jack Tiger. He was some character. He had long hair and a beard and a Yankee accent. He claimed to be an ex-Wrestler, got injured and became a Wrestling manager and promoter. Oh, and by the way, a music producer with a recording studio in Dallas.
Jim and Ken and I decided to take Tiger up on an audition at his Top Ten Studio. We went on a Saturday with the idea of staying around for a visit to the Big D Jamboree that night.

Tiger really laid it on thick. First he pitched us a song called Hot Rocks that he had written. Then he insisted that we should record it as well as change the name of our band
to The Hot Rocks. We did neither. As for the tryout session…it was awful.

You may already know that Johnny Carroll bought into Tiger’s idea. It turned out to be a memorable tune for him.

I end this session with a big thank you to all that have sent notes to me about these blog sessions. Hope you enjoy ‘em also.

Keep on Rockin

Many thanks to the Rockabilly Hall Of Fame