Monday, April 29, 2013


Tom Jones was grateful.

George Jones was grateful.

Paul McCartney and Linda loved his "Farm."

Curly Putman's had an impact on many people in many ways. That's what happens when you're a good family man, and friend, and one of the greatest songwriters in the world. Curly Putman is the man behind two of the most memorable songs in the history of country music: "Green Green Grass of Home" and "He Stopped Loving Her Today."

Tom Jones may have been doomed to being a silly Vegas lounge act doing "What's New Pussycat" and "It's Not Unusual" if it wasn't for the chance to ride a Curly Putman ballad to the top of the charts. As for George Jones, the man's career, his entire persona, was changed by that "weeper" that is now regarded as simply the best C&W song of all time.

A few days ago, when the faded, brave George Jones became a "no show" trying to complete a final tour, the obits dutifully mentioned "He Stopped Loving Her Today," and Curly "Putnam." It's a shame that Curly's probably the most well-known typing error on record labels and in discographies. Hell, turn to page 316 and 317 of George Jones' paperback autobiography, and it's "PutNAM" twice. The New York Times' obit for George turned this into a typo variation: "Curly PuRNAM."

CURLY PUTMAN is the man's name. PUTMAN!

And no, he didn't get his nickname for being "Curly," a bald stooge! If you check his album covers, you'll see that he had dark curly hair. Born Claude Putman in Alabama in 1930, he pursued his "elusive dreams" of being a songwriter while keeping his day job selling Thom McCann shoes. In Nashville he had a few tunes covered by Marion Worth and Charlie Walker, but could barely leave shoe business for show business, working for a record store, and gigging in local bands at night. At the age of 34, he finally got a break working as a song plugger for Tree Publishing. There, he pushed a song he wrote: "Green Green Grass of Home."

It was recorded by Johnny Darrell, which led to a cover by Porter Wagoner, which led to Tom Jones making it a ten million-selling world-wide crossover hit. "He Stopped Loving Her Today" was first recorded by Johnny Russell…but ultimately, re-worked and revised at the request of producer Billy Sherrill, this co-write with Bobby Braddock became the trademark for George Jones in 1980. USA Today noted, it "revived Jones'career and perhaps saved his life. It gave him his first No. 1 hit in five years and won four awards from the Country Music Association, including Song of the Year. It also gave him the first of his two Grammys."

George, so drunk he kept singing the melody for "Help Me Make it Through the Night," thought the song too "morbid" even by C&W standards, and couldn't even put together a few lyric lines in a row. "I couldn't get it," George recalled. "I had been able to sing while drunk all of my life…but I could never speak without slurring when drunk. What we needed to complete that song was the narration, but Billy could never catch me sober enough to record four simple lines."

Jones would record other Putman tunes, including 'Wino the Clown," but many other artists were having success with Curly's work, too. The name PUTMAN, either solo, or on a co-credit, was on The Kendalls’ “It Don’t Feel Like Sinnin’ to Me,” Ricky Van Shelton’s “I Meant Every Word He Said,” T. Graham Brown’s “I Wish That I Could Hurt That Way Again,” Ferlin Husky’s “Just for You,” and Dolly Parton's first chart single "Dumb Blonde," a song that continues to get fresh cover versions all the time thanks to the huge number of dumb blondes on "American Idol." Over the years, new C&W talent has picked up on Curly's songs, too. “There’s a New Kid in Town” has been covered by Alan Jackson, Kathy Mattea, George Strait and Trisha Yearwood.

You get a dozen examples of Curly's songwriting below: "Let's Keep It That Way" (Annie Murray), "Ballad of Two Brothers" (Autry Inman), "Six Foot Deep Six Foot Down" (George Jones), "My Elusive Dreams" (Glen Campbell and Bobbie Gentry), "The Older the Violin The Sweeter the Music" (Hank Thompson), "Divorce" (Tammy Wynette), "He Stopped Loving Her Today" (Marie O'Brien), "Change My Mind" (Waylon Jennings), 'You Can't Have Your Kate and Edith Too" (Statler Brothers), "It's a Cheating Situation" (Dale Watson and Kelly Willis), "You Never Cross My Mind" (Conway Twitty and Loretta Lynn) and a b-side from Curly himself, "Take It All Off."

Only a few years ago Curly put out a CD called "Write 'em Sad -Sing 'em Lonesome." None of us buy many CDs anymore. I bought this one, which features guest appearances from Dolly Parton, Deborah Allen and Sarah Johns.

The CD contains his versions of three of my favorite Putman songs of all time, "Green Green Grass of Home," "Radio Lover" and "Wino the Clown." Those three are unabashed story-songs with punchline endings, and don't fool yourself, the man is the Alfred Hitchcock of country music. He may write 'em sad, but he also writes 'em wicked…knowing how to keep a listener in suspense till the final lines which can bring chills or tears.

Oh. Did I forget to mention the connection between Curly and Macca? Well, just go to the opening page of CurlyPutman dot com, and you can read about "Junior's Farm," which is where Paul and Linda stayed in 1974. There's another dotcom to visit as well: A portion of the sales from Curly's CD go to the Sean Putman Memorial Fund, and you'll find out all about it at that site.



james walmsley said...

my name is james walmsley, from P.E.I. Canada and I have "re-written" a version of "He stopped loving her today" to make it much happier and tender. (although she still dies) It's called, "She said, He said" and is a gender reversed song of a life long love affair finally ending. The similiarities to Mr. Putman's creation, and his marriage, needs his approval Please call me at 902-566-9873. I am presently in Wheeling,,W.V and would drive to Nashville if a requested audience with Mr. Putman could be arranged.

Anonymous said...

I am not too computer literate and at the library....and assistance you could provide to get this message to Mr. Curly Putman would be appreciated.

Anonymous said...

I should have put my name ( not anonymous) above...
James Walmsley

Ill Folks said...

Hi James,

You might try:
I don't know if you'll get a response. These things are tricky. Artists and publishing companies often only consider material submitted by agents, as opening themselves up to the general public can mean a lot of time spent on very amateurish material, or in defending against a "hey, I sent you my stuff, you stole it" lawsuits, etc. etc. That's just the way it is in the entertainment world...the doors tend to be heavy and usually closed.

johnh said...

Thanks for the great article and honoring a great song writer. You may want to edit your blog though. You misspelled his name in the paragraph beneath the phrase "CURLY PUTMAN is the man's name. PUTMAN." Third sentence in you start out "Born Claude Putnam..." Just thought I would point that out : )

Ill Folks said...

Thanks John! I made the correction. That's mild Dyslexia for you. I've also had years and years of PUTNAM in my head (from Putnam Publishers). Plus Putnam actually appearing on some credits on 45's and 33's.