Sonny Curtis Reflects on Working on Cotton Farm in His Youth

by Victoria Santiago
(Photo by Charles Paul Harris/Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images)

The legendary singer-songwriter Sonny Curtis had humble beginnings in a rural part of Texas. Growing up, Curtis would daydream about music while working on his father’s cotton farm. He had grown up with a love of music. In fact, his aunt was the one that taught him how to play guitar. We’re very glad she did.

“Oh, it was a miserable job. The heavier the cotton sack is, the worse it is,” Curtis reminisced. “Driving a tractor, you go down half a mile that way, you get there, turn around and come back half a mile this way. You have plenty of time to write a song,” he added.

Whilst growing up, Sonny Curtis met Buddy Holly in nearby Lubbock, TX. The two became fast friends. In fact, they pretty much skipped over all of the small talk and went right into playing guitar together. Even in their teens, Buddy Holly knew that they would make it big someday. The two loved music – they would even stay up at night, waiting for one specific TV show to come on so they could listen to the blues singers on the show.

Eventually, Elvis came to town. Sonny Curtis and Buddy Holly noticed that Elvis had quite the large female fanbase. Around that time, they decided to go all-in and form a band together. When Elvis came back in 1956, they opened for him. They went on to record some demos but ultimately didn’t make any money from those. Afterward, Curtis left to tour with Slim Whitman, a popular country singer at the time. Both Sonny Curtis’ and Buddy Holly’s careers took off, but not at the same time. In an interview with CBS Sunday Morning, Curtis states that he felt left out for a little bit while Holly was reaching fame. However, the two remained intertwined until Holly’s death, when Curtis took over his spot with The Crickets.

Sonny Curtis is A Living Legend

Sonny Curtis gave us a lot of memorable moments and a lot of iconic music that has stayed with us through the years. For example, his song “I Fought the Law” has been redone many, many times by artists like Bruce Springsteen, Hank Williams Jr., and Tom Petty.

However, one of Curtis’ most long-lasting accomplishments is the theme song for The Mary Tyler Moore Show. He created the theme song after reading a four-page overview of the show. Not only did he write the song, but he also recorded it. When the theme song was changed in the second season, the show invited Curtis back to redo the lyrics. Only slight changes were made, but it’s nice that they invited him back to redo it. Now, millions of people know the words to a song that they might not have even known that he wrote.