A Bit Like You And Me Radio

December 14, 2012

Lynyrd Skynyrd - The Ballad of Curtis Loew (1974)

Coming from Jacksonville, Florida, this legendary band is widely recognized as popularizing Southern rock throughout the entire United States more than any other band in the 1970s. Originally formed as The Noble Five in 1964, the group was comprised of teenage friends Ronnie Van Zant, Allen Collins, and Gary Rossington. In 1965 they accumulated members Larry Junstrom and Bob Burns and changed their name to My Backyard. By 1968, they were opening for Strawberry Alarm Clock after achieving some notoriety for winning a Battle of the Bands competition. When looking for a new band name, the group settled on “Leonard Skinner,” after their high school PE teacher who was a stickler for the school’s rules about males not having long hair. In 1972, the group was signed to the Sounds of the South label by the famous Al Kooper, and changed their name to its final version seen above. With international hits such as “Free Bird” and “Sweet Home Alabama,” the group would go on to enormous success. Sadly, tragedy struck in 1977 when a plane that was carrying the band from South Carolina to Louisiana ran out of gas. While attempting to make an emergency landing, the plane crashed into a Mississippi forest, killing four members (including Ronnie Van Zant), both pilots, and seriously injuring the other twenty people on board. After this tragedy, the band called it quits and wouldn’t fully reunite again until ten years later in 1987. Currently, the band still tours, although numerous personnel changes have occurred over the years.

Released on the band’s second album, Second Helping, this song was written by Allen Collins and Ronnie Van Zant. Curtis Loew, the song’s subject, was said to be a composite of many people who lived in Van Zant’s hometown of Jacksonville, Florida when he was growing up. Many people speculate that the song was based on Shorty Medlock, a delta blues musician and grandfather of Rickey Medlocke, the band’s drummer during a 1970 tour and current guitarist. Although the song was popular upon its release, it was overshadowed by the album’s lead song, “Sweet Home Alabama.”

album art

Lynyrd Skynyrd - The Ballad of Curtis Loew (1974)

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Lyrics:

Well I used to wake the morning before the rooster crowed
Searchin’ for soda bottles to get myself some dough
Brought 'em down to the corner, down to the country store
Cash 'em in and give my money to a man named Curtis Loew

Old Curt was a black man with white, curly hair
When he had a fifth of wine, he did not have a care
He used to own an old Dobro, used to play it ‘cross his knees
I'd give old Curt my money, he'd play all day for me

Play me a song Curtis Loew, Curtis Loew
Well, I got your drinking money, tune up your Dobro
People said he was useless, them people all are fools
'cause Curtis Loew was the finest picker to ever play the blues

He looked to be sixty and maybe I was ten
Mama used to whoop me, but I'd go see him again
I'd clap my hands, stomp my feets, try to stay in time
He'd play me a song or two, then take another drink of wine

Play me a song Curtis Loew, Curtis Loew
Well, I got your drinking money, tune up your Dobro
People said he was useless, them people all are fools
'cause Curtis Loew was the finest picker to ever play the blues

Yes, sir

On the day old Curtis died, nobody came to pray
Ol' preacher said some words and they chucked him in the clay
Well, he lived a lifetime playin' the black man's blues
And on the day he lost his life, that's all he had to lose

Play me a song Curtis Loew, hey, Curtis Loew
I wish that you was here so everyone would know
People said you were useless, them people all were fools
'cause Curtis you're the finest picker to ever play the blues

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