Born Richard William Curless on St. Patrick's Day in 1932 at Fort Fairfield, Maine near the Canadian border, Dick Curless was raised in a musical family. His mother, Ella, played piano and organ, while his father, Phil, played guitar, banjo, and harmonica. The patriarch of the Curless family also introduced his son to the guitar and the music of Jimmie Rodgers.
When Dick was eight, the family moved to Massachusetts. In eighth grade, he wrote his first song That Poor Little Girl of Mine. His early musical influences included Gene Autry, Wilf Carter (Montana Slim) and Yodeling Slim Clark. He also tried to replicate the guitar playing of Josh White Sr. While White used both thumbs and fingers, Dick used a straight pick which created his catchy raucous guitar style.
Yodeling Slim Clark met Phil Curless at at diner and accepted an invitation to come over to the Curless home and hear Dick sing. Clark, who was doing a radio show on WARE in Ware, featured Dick on a unsponsored Saturday program shortly thereafter and mentored him in the business. At 17, Dick had his own time slot on the station as "The Tumbleweed Kid". Clark, who was a lifelong firend, eventually built a group around Dick, The Trailriders, which performed at live shows.
In 1950, Dick entered the recording studio for the first time cutting sides with The Trailriders for the Standard label. The same year, he and Trailriders relocated to Maine. Dick also met his future bride, Pauline Green. At WBAI in Bangor, the Trailriders had a midday slot. After the band split up, Dick became the rhythm guitarist for Hal Lone Pine and Betty Cody on their ABC network radio show broadcast coast to coast.
In 1952, Dick married Pauline. He was also drafted and stationed in Korea. He landed a position as an announcer on the Armed Forces Network and hosted two shows a day. He also played the clubs at night as "The Rice Paddy Ranger". Though he started and ended his shows with Sunny Side Of The Mountain, the song China Nights became very popular among the GI's.
When he came home from Korea, he returned to to his job at the Bangor Daily News and his growing family -- son Rick and daughter Terry. He also became the featured artist at the Silver Dollar Ranch House. His run at Bangor's first night club was interrupted by health problems that would plague him off and on for the rest of his days.
In 1956, Dick appeared on WMTW's Rhythm Ranch Show with Roy Aldrich and the Wagonmasters which could be viewed throughout upper New England and parts of Quebec. During this period, he also became the newest member on the roster of Al Hawkes' Event Records. Dick recorded his first tracks as a solo artist including Nine Pound Hammer which resulted in a win on Arthur Godfrey's Talent Scouts.
After his departure from Event, Dick recorded for the Tiffany with mixed results and made a couple of trips to the west coast where he recieved support from Hugh Cherry, Wynn Stewart and Skeets McDonald but returned to perform in his home state.
A recently divorced copywriter at WABI, Dan Fulkerson, often hitchiked to Mars Hill in Aroostook County to see his son. The truck drivers who gave him a ride often told him the about the treacherous roud through the Haynesville Woods between Houlton and Macwahoc. Fulkerson made some notes and wrote some lyrics. After Fulkerson heard a recording of Dick, the two met on the coast.
In the fall of 1964, A Tombstone Every Mile was recorded in the WBAI studios and released on Allagash Records. The record was pressed at the Capitol processing plant in Philadelphia. When the single started to receive action, the plant informed Capitol who signed Dick to their Tower subsidiary and purchased the Event and Tiffany masters. Dick then used the Dick Curless Show Band to record his first album for Tower -- "Tombstone Every Mile".
A few months after being voted the most promising new artist at the National Disc Jockey Convention in 1965, Dick began touring with Buck Owens All-American Road Show. He recorded a duet album with Kay Adams and encored three times when he played Carnegie Hall. During this time, Dick recorded a song he co-wrote The Baron and Jack McFadden dubbed him "The Baron of Country Music".
In 1967, Dick made his first recordings in Nashville. A year later, he returned to California to begin working on the soundtrack of Killer's Three. He would make his final recordings for Tower in 1969, shortly before the label folded. The grind, the pressures of sudden stardom, and the corruption and petty jealousies of the music industry took a toll and brought Dick back to Maine.
From 1970 through 1974, Dick recorded numerous traveling and trucking songs for Capitol. Not only was Dick a regular on the Wheeling Jamboree, but he was a favorite with truckers and was a former truck driver himself. The album "Live at the Wheeling Truck Drivers Jamboree" was one of the highlights of his recording career While Jerry Smith appeared on the aforementioned album, Red Simpson, Red Sovine, and Dave Dudley who were also entertaining that night did not. Apparently, the entire show was recorded and may still exist.
Following his release from the Capitol roster, Dick recorded for numerous smaller labels including Audem, MRC, and Belmont. In the early 1980's, Dick spent a good portion of the year in Nashville, but still maintained a home in Bangor. In 1987, he also recorded a pair of albums for Rocade in Norway. He also appeared in Branson for a number of years.
In December 1994, Dick recorded his final album which he titled "Traveling Through" for Rounder Records. On May 25, 1995 at the Veteran Affairs Hospital in Togus, Maine, Dick lost a battle with stomach cancer. He was 63. "Traveling Through" was released posthumously in August of 1995.
Today, Dick's music is heard around the world on terrestial radio, on satellite radio, and on internet stations like Gear Jammin' Gold.