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By Roy Hobock
With additions by Bo Berglind and Dave Travis.
Excerpts from "Ex-musician proves you can go home again" article by Woody Laughnan for The
Fresno Bee, April 26, 1981.
Curtis Edgar Hobock, Jr. was born on May 7, 1926 in Hatchie, Tennessee, a small community
outside Mercer, in Haywood county about 35 miles south of Humboldt. Hatchie was a tiny
village of five or so busines, a few houses and less than 100 people, more than half of them
Hobocks or Hobock kinfolks. His parents, Curtis Edgar Hobock, Sr. and Anna Lee-More Acree Hobock,
were of German and Dutch descent and were farmers. Curtis had five brothers and six sisters with
Curtis being the sixth child. He grew up in a farming environment working alongside his dad
and brothers who also ran a bootleg liquor operation making moonshine and corn liquor.
The family had no musical background with the exception of his younger sister Faye, who
sang in the church choir, and his older brother Freddie, who played the guitar but never
professionally. Curtis' favorite singer while growing up was Roy Rogers the singing cowboy.
In late 1942 or early 1943 Curtis decided to enlist in the US Navy and had to get his dad's
permission, as he was underage at the time. While growing up and still very young Curtis was
only able to attend one year of school and it wasn't until he was in the Navy that he learned
how to read and write. It was also in the Navy he learned to love music and learned how to play
the guitar and the steel-guitar. While in the Navy he made two records, which are still
around today but are beyond recovery. He served as a steward, being a cook and a barber,
and later transferred to the See Bee's where he saw action in the South Pacific.
At the end of the war, while waiting to be discharged at the Naval Air Station in Alameda,
California, he met Geneva Sue Johnson of Hayward, California and married her on November 25,
1945. After being discharged Curtis moved back to Alamo, Tennessee with his new bride and
took odd jobs, mostly farming, while attending body and fender repair school on the G.I bill,
though he never worked in the body and fender repair profession.
On June 24, 1947 his first son Roy Charles was born. While attending school in Jackson,
Tennessee he began working at Lancaster Service, a Lion service station, as a gas attendant.
In May 1948 he moved his family to Malesus, Tennessee to be closer to his job. On February 4,
1950 his second son Edgar (Ed) Gayland was born. He then moved closer to town in June 1952 to
an area called Bonwood outside of Bemis, Tennessee. Over the next four years Curtis worked
several jobs, switching several times between Cliff Miller Lumber/Madison Mill Works,
driving a route truck for Dolly Madison Bakery, and working with his brother-in-law David
Jackson driving long haul truck routes.
In April 1956 he bought his first house at 210 Chester Levee Road, Bemis, Tennessee a community
outside of Jackson. At this time he was primarily driving long haul trucks with his brother in
law David Jackson. While driving a truck one winter Curtis got caught in a big snowstorm and had
to stay two weeks in a motel in Chicago. When he returned home he vowed to never drive a truck
again as it took too much time away from home and family. Curtis then went to work for the
TVA (Tennessee Valley Authority) for a short period of time and then to Central Woodworks
as a millwright. He stayed with this company until his retirement from music in the mid 60's.
About 1956-57 Curtis started playing music with a group of guys a few times a week just for
the fun of it. One of the guys told him a local band, "The Stardusters", was looking for a
singer and suggested that Curtis tried out. He auditioned one night by singing with the band
in a local nightclub in Jackson, thus beginning his ten-year musical career. Very soon after
he joined the band Curtis acquired the band and became the owner/manager as well as their
lead singer. A few years later Curtis had legal battles with the previous owner over the
rights to the "Starduster" name. This battle was resolved before going to court with Curtis
retaining the original name of the band. When Curtis took over the band its line-up was Joe
Ritchie on drums, Mrs. Eula Mae Stevens on piano, Coy Lomax on bass and Tommy Jones on guitar.
At this time Tommy Jones was barely sixteen and had to be snuck into the nightclubs in
order to play.
The band played at numerous places during Curtis' career including the "Cotton Bowl"
in Henderson, Tennessee, which was owned by Hubert Miller. The "Delmar Inn" on Humboldt
Highway between Jackson and Humboldt and owned by Reba Davis. The "Pine Ridge Club" in
Selmer, Tennessee, the "Supper Club" in Jackson, Tennessee, the "Block House" between
Selmer and Henderson, Tennessee, owned by Jimmy Martin, the "Y Inn" in Henderson, Tennessee,
"Clyde Garners" place outside of Jackson, Tennessee, and many other places now forgotten.
Curtis sang the songs of many artists, his favorite being "Gentleman Jim Reeves". He played
with many artist and bands of the era, some obscure and some famous including Carl Mann, Don
Durant, Sam the Sham, Ace Cannon, The Chandlers, The Van Dels, The Dukes, and many others
too numerous to list. He was on the "Talent Party" on WHBQ Memphis, Tennessee with Durell
Durham, George Klein, and Wink Martindale. During this time Curtis traveled to many radio
stations hand delivering his songs and giving away his records hoping for that big break
that never came.
Curtis's first record releases were for the local Lu label of Jackson, Tennessee,
owned by Lamar Davis and Lonny Blackwell. Lu Records was named after Lamar's wife,
Marilu and in November 1957 located at 600 North Davis Street. In March the following
year the office was moved to 600 North Royal Street, Jackson, Tennessee, and was a
large rambling two-story building with the studio on the second floor. Lonny was the
soundman, and the studio was primitive by today's standards using egg crate separators on
the walls to reduce stray sounds. The artists that recorded for the label were local
musicians from the Jackson area including Kenny Parchman, Franklin Stewart & The Stewart
Brothers and others.
Curtis recorded on his first session for Lu two tracks entitled "Driftwood" and "Tennessee
Mail", the latter is a story about the legendary engine-driver Casey Jones. These
two songs were never released. Curtis went back into the studio and recorded more songs.
Finally they agreed on "The Whole Towns Talking" and "Do You Think" for his first release
on Lu 506 in June 1959. The following month - July - saw the release of "Tom Dooley Rock
& Roll" and "China Rock" on Lu 508.
On these first sessions for Lu, Curtis still kept his original band with Tommy Jones,
Eula Mae Stevens, Joe Ritchie, and Coy Lomax. After those recordings the band member's
names changed often. There were numerous drummers after Joe Ritchie; like Joe Howe,
Bobby Green, Bobby Tapley, The great W.S. "Fluke" Holland, Ronny Parchman, and finally
Bobby Howell. After Coy Lomax the Bass players were Howard Bates and a couple of others
whose names have been forgotten. Howard was later marketed by Curtis as the "Hot Guitar
Player" and was the only professional string musician that Curtis had.
After Mrs. Eula Mae Stevens the piano players were Billie Joe Butler, Richard Luther,
and at times Curtis himself.
Curtis had taught himself over the years how
to play the piano. The lead guitarist was always Tommy Jones and was with Curtis from
the beginning until his retirement and the only one that can be said played on every
record Curtis made.
In 1959, after the Lu recordings were issued, Curtis made his first recordings with
Sun Records and Sam Phillips. After numerous recording sessions and trips to Memphis,
Sam and Curtis could not come to an agreement, Curtis having his loyalty to his band
and Sam wanting to use the studio band. With the exception of Tommy Jones the band
members that recorded with Curtis on these sessions are part of history and will never
be known. Relations with Sun and Sam where broken off sometime in 1960.
The Lu releases took Curtis and his band all the way to Las Vegas and some of the big-name
Hobock met Murray Nash around 1963-64 through a record scout and Curtis had four records released.
The first two was on Cee And Cee, released in 1964: "Hey Everybody" b/w "What A Dream" (501), "Have
Mercy" b/w "If You Only Love Me" (502). The others were on MusiCenter and released in 1965: "I
Found A Way" b/w "Lonely Weekends" (3103) and "One Heart'll Love You" b/w "Definition Of Love"
(3105). The musicians are unknown and may probably be a mixture of his own and Nash's
studio musicians. Curtis wrote and sang many songs including "Blues After Midnight", "Ski
Daddy" (his love for water skiing), "Rocket Ship", "Trust Me", "Web of Love" and many others.
Amid all this, Curtis continued to work full time as a millwright by day and played as many as
six nights a week at clubs around west Tennessee, southern Kentucky, northern Mississippi and
as far away as Louisiana. Even with the music and work he always found time for his family.
On weekends during the summer, as soon as the weather permitted, he would load up the family
and head to the Tennessee River with friends for leisure time, camping, boating and water
skiing. At night he would leave the family at the river and head back to town for a show,
returning before dawn the next day.
Curtis retired from music in August of 1966 and moved to Fresno, California. The reasons for
his retirement from music were many, but the main reason was, as his wife said:
-It's time we lived in my home state for awhile.
Curtis only played music once more in his life, which was at a Christmas party for the
employer of his brother in-law Hugh Johnson. Curtis used a local band from Fresno for this
last job. He took many short-lived jobs and part time jobs away from the music industry until
1967 when he went to work as the Maintenance Supervisor for "Duncan Ceramics". He worked
there until his retirement in 1977. After his retirement he built a miniature of Hatchie,
Tennessee where he grew up.
Curtis lived his life to the fullest. He was a straight "shooter", told it like it was and was
always true to his word. He never let his illness deter him and quality of life was more important
to him than quantity. Up to the end Curtis always put his family first. Curtis died not knowing that
any of his songs where ever re-released and it was not until the mid nineties and the advent of
the "Internet" that his family found his songs had been released and re-released on no less than
two dozen different LPs, 45s, and CDs from 1970 - till now, with at least one song on each.
He continued to entertain himself and his family with his music until the end.