Truck-Driving Country Singer Dick Curless to Get Hall of Fame Exhibit

60s and 70’s country music singer Dick Curless with his eye patch and authentic barrel-chested voice has always been a fascinating, yet shadowy character in the history of country music. Known mostly as one of the overlords of the truck-driving country genre whose career highlight was the Top 5 signature hit “A Tombstone Every Mile,” little else is known about him aside from some scant descriptions online, and passing mentions in country history books.

What we do know about Curless is that he was the real deal, living out what he sang. Known by some as “The Baron of Country Music,” driving truck is how he made his way through the world when he wasn’t singing and performing.

Curless served in the United States Army from 1952 to 1954 and participated in the Korean War. What did he do in the war? He was a truck driver of course, while also hosting a radio show with the handle of “Rice Paddy Ranger.” After being discharged, Curless played a little music out on the West Coast and Las Vegas. But after failing to find any success, he returned to his native state of Maine and bought a lumber trucking rig to support himself.

The success of his debut single “A Tombstone Every Mile” which references the treacherous roads of Maine is what launched his career, but Curless really didn’t accrue any gaudy chart numbers during his time recording albums for Tower, and later Capitol. Aside from his second single “Six Times a Day (The Trains Came Down)” that came out at #12, Curless never again landed a Top 25 hit. But taken under the wing of Buck Owens who put him on his touring roadshow, Curless kept his career going for multiple decades before he died of stomach Cancer in 1995, which was the same year Rounder released a late-career gem called Traveling Through.

We’re used to the Country Music Hall of Fame focusing mostly on the superstars of the country genre, but on January 13th, 2023, they’re launching a year-long exhibit on Dick Curless called Hard Traveling Man from Maine as a retrospective on the Curless career, complete with guitars, stage clothing, and other artifacts from his time on stage. Even better, the exhibit is opening right after the current Hall of Fame exhibit on the now defunct Bro-Country duo Florida Georgia Line is being disassembled. Quite a contrast between the two exhibits.

All the more reason to support the Country Music Hall of Fame, and their efforts to remember Dick Curless and introduce many to his music. Dick didn’t only sing truck-driving songs. But like Dave Dudley and Red Sovine, it’s what defined his career. What else was he all about? What is up with the eye patch? Hopefully the new exhibit will explain it all to us.

On Saturday, February 18th, there will also be a conversation at the Hall of Fame between author Peter Guralnick who is helping to curate the exhibit and wrote about Curless in his recent book Looking to Get Lost: Adventures in Music and Writing, and Jake Guralnick who produced Dick’s final album Traveling Through. Chuck Mead will also perform.

“Words can’t express the immense happiness and gratitude we all feel to have my grandfather’s musical legacy honored and commemorated,”
says grandson William Chinnock.

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