The theme song for “The Mary Tyler Moore Show” is familiar to generations of viewers. The name of the man who wrote and sang it, minus.
Who can turn the world on with their smile?
Who can take a day with nothing and suddenly make it all worth it?
Well it’s you girl and you should know it
With every look and every little movement you show it
Love is everywhere, no need to waste it
You can have the city, why don’t you take it
You will get there after all
But by the time Sonny Curtis recorded “Love Is All Around” in 1970, he had “done” it several times on himself, as a songwriter, as a recording artist, and as a recording artist. as the legendary Buddy Holly’s first group mate.
Born in 1937 in rural West Texas, Curtis grew up picking cotton on his father’s farm. âOh, that was miserable work,â he told correspondent Mo Rocca. “The heavier the cotton bag, the worse it gets, man.”
His love of music comes from his family. His aunt taught him to play the guitar, and while he worked in the fields, Curtis came up with his own songs: Thousand Over Here. You have plenty of time to write a song! “
Curtis was only 14 when he met a young Buddy Holly in nearby Lubbock. âBuddy had black hair, but he had dyed it blonde, and it was growing. And he reminded me of a black and tan coon dog. We kind of skipped all the niceties and took our guitars and started to player. “
Rocca asked, âHow quickly did you realize this guy was serious about music? “
“Man, he exuded confidence. He just knew he was going to be successful someday.”
The two became quick friends, bonded by their love of music. Sometimes, Curtis said, he would spend the night at Buddy’s. The two would wake up at midnight and turn on the car stereo for a show in Shreveport, Louisiana to hear some of the rhythm and blues vocals that would shape rock’n’roll: âWe heard, oh, Big Mama Thornton and Lonnie Johnson and Lead Belly, Little Richard, Ray Charles, whatever you want. “
“Were you absorbing this? Rocca asked.
âOh, boy, have we ever been, yeah! “
Buddy and Sonny had formed a band and were still in the process of finding their own sound, when a then little-known Elvis Presley came to town. âAnd I mean, the girls were going crazy, man. And that really caught our attention. All of a sudden we thought, it doesn’t just involve the music, it involves pretty girls!”
When Elvis returned to town in 1956, Buddy and Sonny’s group was the opening party. “Well, I guess we were there sort of early in rock ‘n’ roll.”
“How was Elvis backstage?” Rocca asked.
“He was just an old boy.”
The band continued to record a few demos, but weren’t making a lot of money.
So Curtis went on tour with country star Slim Whitman. âHe treated me a bit like a little brother,â Curtis said. “I remember I was on stage and he would come and say, ‘Now don’t be nervous.'”
Meanwhile, Buddy Holly has formed a new group, which will turn out to be seminal. Crickets rose to prominence by appearing on “The Ed Sullivan Show”.
Rocca asked, “When that happened, did you feel a little left out, like ‘Ugh’?”
“I felt like the train had left the station and I wasn’t on board, you know?” Curtis replied.
But on February 3, 1959, Curtis’ friend and former bandmate died in a plane crash near Clear Lake Iowa.
Curtis served as the porter.
âBuddy Holly was 22 when he died,â Rocca said.
” Yes. Can you imagine the amount of music it injected into the system in a short period of, like, 18 months? It is not known how much he would have contributed had he been there. “
By this time Curtis had joined the Crickets. But with Holly gone, the group felt rudderless.
It was Curtis’ talent for songwriting that helped put the wind back in the sails. His song “Walk Right Back” became a big hit for the Everly Brothers:
And then there’s this classic, which Curtis claims he wrote in about 20 minutes: “I Fought the Law”:
“I Fought the Law” was covered by artists from The Bobby Fuller Four to The Clash.
Sonny Curtis is 84 years old now. He and Louise, his wife of over 50 years, live outside of Nashville, where they raised their daughter, Sarah. It’s entered in the Musicians Hall of Fame in Nashville, just like his old guitar.
In 2012, the year Crickets retired, they were inducted into the Rock ‘n’ Roll Hall of Fame.
But it’s a song Curtis wrote for the small screen that is perhaps his most enduring legacy.
In 1970, he was living in Los Angeles when he got a call from a friend about a new sitcom being produced for Mary Tyler Moore: “It’s just that this young girl is getting kicked out in this little community.” , and she moved to greater Minneapolis, got a job at a news station. And that was about it. “
Curtis wrote the theme song based on a four-page description of the show. “I clarified that she had rented an apartment which she was having trouble paying and I wrote: ‘How are you going to get by on your own?’ â¦ ‘This world is awfully big, and my girl, this time you’re all alone.’ “
In just a few hours, Curtis was summoned to the studio to perform his song for producer James L. Brooks. Curtis remembers, “I pulled out my guitar and sang it to him. He smiled and said, ‘Sing this again.’ And I must have sang it about ten times, and before I left that afternoon the hall was full of people standing all around the walls.
EXTRA WEB: Sonny Curtis on writing “Mary Tyler Moore Show” theme song
Rocca said: “It was not a given that you were writing and sing it. “
“No. They didn’t actually want me to sing it. I said, ‘I wanna sing that,’ you know? And I was probably more arrogant than I should have been, if I had. better known. But fortunately, I does not have knows better at the time! “
When the show became a hit, Curtis was asked to rework his song: âWhen they started doing the second season, he said, ‘Sonny, she obviously did. And we’ve got to have some new lyrics. ‘”
For a man whose career dates back to the birth of rock’n’roll, Sonny Curtis remains disarmingly humble. âOh, I’ve always had some sort of rule, don’t give advice to a crowd,â he laughed.
But when in a rush, he’ll share some wisdom, “If they say, ‘Dude, you should go back to Texas because you’ll never get there,’ just look at them and say, ‘No, you’re wrong. , because I’m going to get there. ‘”
Rocca replied: “You know, I should write that, because it sounds like a song here!”
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Story produced by Michelle Kessel. Publisher: Lauren Barnello. Illustrations: Mitch Butler.