Weatherford Democrat

September 19, 2013

Rockabilly legend Mac Curtis dies

Injury from vehicle wreck kills Weatherford man whose music became wildly popular in Europe


Weatherford Democrat

— By CHRISTIN COYNE



A Weatherford rockabilly legend died this week due to an injury sustained in a wreck last month.

Wesley Erwin Curtis, 74, known as Mac Curtis and particularly popular in Europe for his blend of “hillbilly” and rhythm and blues music, was pronounced dead Monday with the Tarrant County Medical Examiner ruling Curtis’ death an accident.

Weatherford police said Curtis was a driving a Ford Escape the morning of Aug. 12 when he entered the 1200 block of Santa Fe Drive from Hilltop Drive, failing to yield right of way at a stop sign, and was struck by another vehicle.

A memorial and celebration of Curtis’ music is scheduled for Saturday, Sept. 28, at the Spring Creek tabernacle off FM Road 51 south of Weatherford.

Carol Page, who has known Curtis since high school and was a close friend and companion at the time of his death, said Curtis sustained broken ribs and a shoulder injury from the wreck but doctors didn’t discover his head injury despite a CAT scan at the time.

Curtis was staying at Holland Lake Nursing Home for rehabilitation when he was discovered unresponsive last week and taken to the hospital, Page said.

Doctors discovered a large subdural hematoma but couldn’t treat it and Curtis died Monday evening at the nursing home, she said.

Curtis’ music was his expression of love and life, according to Page, who said he was shy, quiet man off-stage who accepted life as it was handed to him.

However, when he took the stage, becoming the person fans know as Mac Curtis, he was very dynamic and sure of himself.

Curtis left behind two daughters and a son, as well as numerous grandchildren and great grandchildren.

Curtis, a Fort Worth native who taught himself guitar while living on a farm in Olney with his grandparents, moved to Weatherford in 1954 and formed a band called “The Country Cats” with brothers Jim and Ken Galbreaith during his sophomore year in high school.

Curtis told the Democrat that they were compared to Elvis before they knew the rising star existed.

After being told that their song was being played on a jukebox at Dairy Queen, “we piled in the car and got up there and he started it up,” Curtis said in 2010. “I saw a yellow label spinning around with someone sounding like me. It was Elvis. It was the first time we ever heard of Elvis.”

During one of the group’s Elvis-like performances at Weatherford High School, school officials shut down the show, removing the boys from the stage for “lewd and suggestive gyrations.”

When one of his classmates apologized at their 50th high school for walking out on that performance, Curtis said he told her that they did the group a favor because people began showing up for their performances.

The group signed with King Records of Cinncinnati, known for their rhythm and blues and country and western music, in 1955 and released their first single “If I Had Me a Woman,” followed afterward by other singles.

After returning to Weatherford and graduating in 1957, Curtis joined the U.S. Army, working as a DJ and director of country music for the armed forces radio network in South Korea and performing his music at night.

But when he returned home in 1960, rockabilly had gone out of style.

Curtis began working at radio stations across the U.S. and playing traditional country music on the side, releasing a couple of albums.

In the 1970s, as rockabilly took hold in Europe, Curtis was contacted by Ron Weiser while working as a DJ in Los Angeles and began recording with fellow Texan Ray Campi for Rollin Rock Records, which released the new rockabilly records overseas.

More popular in Europe than in his home country, Curtis began touring in the 1970s, ‘80s and ‘90s, even playing in Europe as recently as last year.

“The first time I went to tour with him in Europe, I was stunned,” Page said.

Curtis had police escorts, and fans screamed for his autograph, she said.

He was also one of the first inducted into the Rockabilly Hall of Fame in the ‘90s.

Curtis was loved and respected in his profession, always humble about his fame and appreciated his fans, she said.

Though he is primarily known for his upbeat rockabilly music, Curtis also wrote country and gospel music.

Page said she loves his ballads, which display his beautiful voice, even more than his rockabilly hits.

In 2008, Curtis moved back to Weatherford from the Metroplex, settling near Spring Creek Tabernacle where he first began playing.

Within the last couple of years, Curtis toured England and played at a rockabilly festival in Las Vegas with other music legends.

In Weatherford in recent years, Curtis also played at the Texas Opry and during a benefit for the American Legion Post 163’s building fund and veteran transportation fund.

One of his proudest achievements was receiving the Distinguished Alumni Award from Weatherford High School in 2010, Page said.