How Dick Curless came to Rockland

By Terry Economy | May 05, 2016

In 1957, I joined the Maine Air National Guard at Dow Air Base in Bangor. Part of my six-year enlistment was to spend 12 weeks of basic training and 12 weeks of tech school. One meeting a month, plus two weeks of training at an air base on Cape Cod once a year for six years. After I completed my 24 weeks of training, I went to work at WRKD in December 1957 as a copywriter and announcer. I got promoted to sales manager in March of 1959. During that month, I was spending one weekend at Dow Air Base, home of the Maine Air Guards on Saturday and Sunday.

Staying over on Saturday, our day ended at 8 p.m. and a gang of us headed to Bangor. A favorite watering hole in Bangor was the Silver Dollar Cafe on Exchange Street for pizza and beer. This is where I saw Dick Curless and his boys entertaining. They were loud and good.

Part of my job at WRKD was selling radio to local merchants and businesses. One day I was calling on Nate Berliewsky at the Thorndike Hotel, which had its Melody Lounge downstairs. Nate had a piano player entertaining. Stan Walsh was just drawing a small number of people. Nate was complaining of the lounge not doing too much business. White chatting with him, I suggested that he should change his music, and he said, "Like what?"

Just off the top of my head, I said, "Why not put a country band at the lounge?" and I mentioned that on the weekend at Bangor I saw a Dick Curless at the Silver Dollar and I enjoyed his country music.

Nate paused and thought, maybe I should go to Bangor and see this guy.

Well, the next Saturday night, a good friend pf Nate's who knew music went to Bangor and saw Dick Curless perform. Now Nate's friend was so impressed with Dick Curless that during a set break he went up to Dick and introduced himself and asked him if he and his band would come to the Thorndike and perform for a three-month stay.

Dick said it had to be more than three months, and Nate's spokesperson friend said how about a six-month stay, plus free room and board for you and  your three other performers?

Well, in May 1959, Dick Curless came to the Thorndike and the rest is history.

For part of his stay in Rockland, the late Paul Huber, WRKD's manager, gave Dick Curless permission to visit the radio station on Sunday nights and listen to his tapes and any recordings he had made.

On Christmas 1959, my wife and I got engaged and with our good friends Bruce and Sandy Stratton, we spent New Year's Eve at the Thorndike, which was packed with people, and Nate had reserved a table for us to watch Dick Curless perform.

My fondest memory of Dick Curless was during Union Fair week. They had horse-racing every day. I would drive to Union in my 1950 Ford convertible and get the daily horse-racing results and bring them to the station, so we would broadcast the results each race date. Driving down Route 17 near Mirror Lake, there was Dick Curless thumbing for a ride. Next to him, lying on the ground sound asleep, was his guitar player. I had a friend with me, so it took the three of us to lift him and put him in the back seat. We drove up to the Thorndike around 6:30 p.m. and dropped both of them off.

In driving down to WRKD, my friend said to me, "I wonder if they would be in any shape to perform tonight?" So we made a date to stop in at the Thorndike around 9 p.m. and see what shape they would be in. Sure enough, they sounded as good as ever.

The last time I saw Dick Curless was when he performed at the Lobster Festival in 1998. I went down in front of the stage while he was performing and sure enough, he pointed his finger at me.

I waited after the show, and when he stepped off the stage, he said, "Do I know you?" and when I told him, "WRKD," he just smiled and shook my hand and said, "I do have fond memories of my stay at the Thorndike and my visits to WRKD."

I was saddened when I heard about his death, but I will always remember "A Tombstone Every Mile."

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Comments (1)
Posted by: Gary Hall | Aug 10, 2016 12:03

I remember him at the Anchorage in Old Town.


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