Beginning with the unforgettable "Green Green Grass of Home", Curly Putman has written or co-written an endless stream of smashes, including the million air-play, "My Elusive Dreams", "D-I-V-O-R-C-E", "Blood Red And Going Down", "It Don't Feel Like Sinnin' To Me, "It's A Cheatin' Situation" and "He Stopped Loving Her Today", just to name the #1's.
Curly wasn't born and raised with "great future staring him in the face," like the TV Waltons. Curly was the son of a sawmill man, reared on a mountain that bore that family name. About six or eight families lived on Putman Mountain, mostly descendants of a one-armed Methodist preacher named Jesse Putman, who first brought the holy writ to the mountain. "The whole family worked in timber," says Curly. "So did I, when school was out. Sawmill work is probably about the hardest work there was and in those days, you had to do it all by hand." The sawmill made Curly a very strong boy and he was named all-state forward as Paint Rock Valley High took third place in the state basketball tournament. By the time he was in high school, he'd developed a desire to play steel guitar, which he learned proficiently enough to allow him to work steadily in country bands over the next decade or so. After high school Curly spent a brief time at Southern University Junior College, then joined the navy spending four years on the aircraft carrier U.S.S. Valley Forge off the coasts of Korea, Ireland and Europe.
After his discharge, Curly started picking with a band in Hunstville, AL, and there during one of his gigs, he met his future wife, Bernice. Soon, they started going together and were married in 1956. Thus began a long odyssey of discouragement and frustration remarkably echoed in Curly's "My Elusive Dreams: (You Followed Me To Texas/You Followed Me To Utah/We Didn't Find It There So We Moved On). The places were changed, but the pain was the same. "We moved to Chicago, but I didn't like it there too well, so I moved back to Alabama, working in the sawmill with my dad and going to trade school in Decatur, tried to learn piano tuning…anything to stick to music in some way. "We were barely getting by, so we moved to Huntsville and I went to work for the Thom Mcan Shoe Co. Eventually, Curly had a couple of songs recorded by Marion Worth and Charlie Walker, so he jumped at the chance to sell shoes in Nashville. After a short time in Nashville, however, he was transferred to Memphis. "I was so discouraged about having to leave Nashville," Curly recalls, "that I quit Thom Mcan in Memphis and went back to Huntsville and took a job in a record shop owned by a local radio personality. At night I played steel in a local band.
In the fall of 1963 Curly's luck took an abrupt change for the better. While visiting Nashville, during the annual DJ convention, he ran into Tree Publishing company executive Buddy Killen, whom he had known slightly in earlier days. Buddy casually mentioned that Tree might have a song plugging job open after the first of the year. "I came to talk to Buddy and Jack Stapp (the owner of tree) and started working for them in January of 1964
"I guess I learned as much about writing by plugging songs for Tree as anything else I've ever done," says Curly. Yet month after month was passing and nothing was happening save a few small, inconsequential records. Was the elusive dream about to become undone altogether?
Then, one day about a year later, a bit of sheer magic struck. "One Sunday afternoon, I came up to Tree's office. No one was around. I just started fooling around and suddenly it fell in place. The surprise ending about dreaming made the song. I guess I worked on it for about two hours. I felt like I really had something, because it touched me very deeply. But, I didn't know how commercial it was because it was such a down-home song." The down-home song was "Green Green Grass of Home.
"I played the song for bunches of people over five or six months before it was ever cut, first Johnny Darrell," said curly. Then things began to happen. Porter Wagoner covered the Darrell record and had a top five country hit. Then, Jerry Lee Lewis had a chart record on the song. Tom Jones heard Jerry Lee's cut and was so impressed that he recorded it. His record became a top five pop smash in the united stated and number one almost everywhere else. The Tom Jones record sold between ten and twelve million copies throughout the world. Since then, over four hundred other artists have recorded the song in most of the world's major languages.
Since "Green Green Grass of Home," Curly's songs have been recorded by multitudes, including Charlie Rich, Tammy Wynette, dean martin, Wayne Newton, George Jones, Charley Pride, Conway Twitty, Dolly Parton, Bobbie Gentry, Glen Campbell, Nancy Sinatra, Roger Miller, T.G. Sheppard, The Kendalls, Andy Williams, Jim Nabors, Issac Hayes and Millie Jackson, Johnny Duncan, Bobby Vinton, John Conlee, Roy Clark, Elvis Presley, George Jones and almost every other country artist of consequence. And still, he continues to write, patiently and well, unable to fill the melancholy hole in his heart that refuses to ever let him rest satisfied and content to rejoice in a job well done.