He had a patch over one eye and wore a cowboy shirt and a silk scarf around his neck.

He was known as The Baron of Country Music. His voice was easily ten feet deep.

He was Dick Curless.

In that very early time in my life when I went around gathering up musical influences like a busy little lint brush, I heard that voice.

He was on the radio. I believe we had the album at my childhood home of 50 Lawn Ave. too.

His big song came at a time when truck drivers were a genre in country music. Big rig truck driving songs were very popular. Pickup trucks were not getting name-dropped like confetti as they are today.

The songs told of the loneliness of the truck driving man (“Six Days on the Road”). Dick Curless sang about the danger, and he brought it back to Maine with a song about driving a truckload of potatoes to Boston on an icy road called the Haynesville Woods in Aroostook County: “A Tombstone Every Mile.”

It was a very big hit.

I know from stories around the break room at Ellwell Point that Dick Curless played the Thorndike Hotel as a regular. One of the men in the break room boasted that he had drinks with him after the show at his room at the Thorndike.

Wow!

A big star who knew his way around Rockland!

The Baron had a battle with the bottle however, and eventually found religion. This was good for him, and very good for us. It inspired my very favorite song he wrote:

“Bury the Bottle with Me.”

So for many years, since I was a little boy, I have been singing the chorus to “A Tombstone Every Mile.”

It has been with me a long while.

When Joanne and I first got married she heard the song frequently. One day when I had to go to work at the office on Park Drive ahead of her, my phone rang.

It was Joanne. “That song! They are playing that song!”

“What song?” I asked.

“That Tombstone song. The one you sing!”

I said yes.

Joanne said, “They are playing it on the radio! It’s a real song!”

I said, “Of course it is a real song.”

Joanne said, “I thought you made it up!”

This routine is our version of Abbot and Costello. I enjoy telling it.

My son Joe puts our grandson Easton on the phone every evening as he is picking him up from childcare. Most nights he talks and sings with Nana. On this particular night there was no Nana; it was Grampy.

I was placed on the call and did all the grampy things that make a little boy laugh. Then for the first time I sang the chorus of “A Tombstone Every Mile” to my grandson, deep down low.

“Again!”

“Again!”

“Again!”

In all, I believe there were five encores of just the chorus.

This week I am learning the entire song for the first time.

Glenn Billington is a lifelong resident of Rockland and has worked for The Courier-Gazette and The Free Press since 1989.

Old truck. Image by Glenn Billington