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Country Music Hall Of Fame® And Museum To Open New Exhibit, Dick Curless: Hard Traveling Man From Maine

December 08, 2022

NASHVILLE, Tenn., Dec. 8, 2022 – The Country Music Hall of Fame® and Museum will explore the musical contributions of Dick Curless (1932-1995) in a new exhibit focused on the Maine singer’s life and career. Dick Curless: Hard Traveling Man from Maine opens Friday, Jan. 13, and runs through Jan. 7, 2024.

Curless — best known for his 1965 national hit, the truck-driving anthem “A Tombstone Every Mile” — was one of the most versatile and powerfully eloquent singers of his time. Known for his expressive baritone voice and hard-traveled authenticity, Curless placed more than 20 hit recordings on the Billboard country charts.

The exhibit will trace Curless’s life and legacy, from his rural Northeast upbringing and popular truck-driving songs of the 1960s and ‘70s, to his 1995 return to recording with his critically acclaimed final album, Traveling Through.

Born on March 17, 1932, in Fort Fairfield, Maine, Curless was influenced at an early age by the music of Country Music Hall of Fame member Jimmie Rodgers and his father, Phil Curless, a bulldozer operator who could bring family members to tears with his emotive singing.

After his family relocated to Gilbertville, Massachusetts, Curless got his professional start performing at age 17 through local singer Yodeling Slim Clark (Raymond LeRoy Clark), who put him on the radio and dubbed him the Tumbleweed Kid. The following year, Curless quit school just weeks before his high school graduation to go on tour with Clark.

Curless eventually married and settled in Bangor, Maine, and, in 1952, he was drafted and sent to Korea. He got his own radio program on the Armed Forces Korea Network, performing and playing records as the Rice Paddy Ranger. The show became so popular that soon it was broadcast throughout the Far East.

After he was discharged from the army in 1954, Curless returned home and began his recording career at the age of 24 on the Maine-based label Event Records. His initial recording success, including the folk-inflected song “Streets of Laredo,” garnered him national television exposure for a full week on “Arthur Godfrey’s Talent Scouts” on CBS.

In 1964, Curless recorded “A Tombstone Every Mile,” a doom-filled trucking song that eventually rose to #5 on the country charts. The following year, he was named Most Promising New Male Vocalist by Cash Box magazine and was later signed by Buck Owens’s management, production and publishing company. He toured nationally with Owens, appearing in sold-out shows at Carnegie Hall and the Hollywood Bowl.

Curless was eventually nicknamed the Baron of Country Music after his 1966 recording “The Baron,” and became well-known for his truck-driving songs, including his hits “Big Wheel Cannonball” and “Hard, Hard Traveling Man.” He began wearing a black eye patch, which became an indelible part of his image, when worsening vision in his right eye became too problematic.

He continued to have chart success through 1973. He recorded his final album, Traveling Through, just months before his death in 1995. The album — a rootsy exploration of the sad and spiritual sides of country, blues and gospel music — was an artistic high point and a culmination of Curless’s lifelong devotion to country music.

More information about Dick Curless: Hard Traveling Man from Maine can be found here.

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