17 March 1932
Maine, United States
25 May 1995 (aged 63)
Richard William Curless (March 17, 1932 – May 25, 1995) was an American country-music singer, a pioneer of the trucking music genre, commonly known as the "Baron of Country Music." He was easily distinguished because of the patch he usually wore over his right eye.
Curless was born in Fort Fairfield, Maine, in 1932, and moved with his family to Massachusetts at the age of eight. In 1948, Curless began his music career in Ware, Massachusetts, where he hosted a radio show and toured with a local band called the "Trail Blazers." He married his wife, Pauline, in 1951, and only six months after the wedding, he was drafted into the army. He served in the Korean War from 1952 to 1954 first as a truck driver and later as a radio host with the stage name "Rice Paddy Ranger."
He returned home to Maine in 1954 and continued performing on radio shows, but he spent much of the following year, 1955, in the privacy of his home due to a chronic illness. In 1956, Curless returned to the public spotlight and appeared on the CBS television show Arthur Godfrey's Talent Scouts. He spent much of the late 1950s performing in clubs in California and Las Vegas but occasionally returned home to Maine to recover from periods of illness and fatigue.
In 1965, Curless recorded one of the biggest hits of his career, "A Tombstone Every Mile," which cracked the top-5 on the Billboard country charts and propelled him to national fame. From 1966 to 1968, he toured the nation with the Buck Owens All American Show. The pinnacle of his career came in the late 1960s with eleven top-40 hits, including "Six Times a Day (the Trains Came Down)." Altogether, he recorded twenty-two Billboard top-40 hits throughout his career.
After his success in 1970 with the hits "Big Wheel Cannonball" and "Hard, Hard Traveling Man," he recorded infrequently until he released the albums Welcome To My World and It Just A Matter Of Time in Norway in 1987. The albums were successful in Europe, especially in Norway and Germany.
Curless recorded an album with German country musician Tom Astor in 1991. During the later part of his life, he performed often at the Cristy Lane Theater in Branson, Missouri. He died of stomach cancer in 1995.
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