The Ballad of Curtis Loew
|"The Ballad of Curtis Loew"|
|Song by Lynyrd Skynyrd|
|from the album Second Helping|
|Released||April 15, 1974|
|Recorded||Record Plant Studios, Los Angeles, California, January 1974|
|Genre||Southern rock, blues rock, country rock|
Ronnie Van Zant
|Second Helping track listing|
"The Ballad of Curtis Loew" is a song written by Allen Collins and Ronnie Van Zant and recorded by Lynyrd Skynyrd. The song was first released on the band's 1974 album, Second Helping and again on their compilation, The Essential Lynyrd Skynyrd and later on All Time Greatest Hits. It is on many of their compilation albums and before the Lynyrd Skynyrd plane crash, was performed once live on stage. Ed King says, "The original version of the band only played 'Curtis Loew' one time on stage. We were playing in a basement in some hotel and thought we'd try it. We never played it again until the Tribute Tour with Johnny Van Zant."
A young boy wakes up "before the rooster crows" and searches for soda bottles to cash in to give some money to a man named Curtis Loew, who buys wine and plays his Dobro guitar "across his knees" for the boy all day. Curtis is described as a "black man with white curly hair" who "looked to be sixty". The boy idolizes Curtis, returning to him, despite receiving beatings from his mama, to hear the old man play and clap along. The boy recalls "people said he [Curtis] was useless. Them people all were fools." He professes Curtis to be "the finest picker to ever play the blues". When Curtis eventually dies, the boy notes that nobody "came to pray". The song ends with a lament to Curtis: "I wish that you was here so everyone would know."
The band's website says that the song is based on a composite of people who actually lived in the Van Zants' original neighborhood in Jacksonville, Florida. Specifically, the country store "is based on Claude's Midway Grocery on the corner of Plymouth and Lakeshore [Blvd] in Jacksonville." The business has since been renamed Sunrise Food Store, but still occupies the same location. The specific spelling of the surname comes from Ed King writing the liner notes for the Second Helping and deciding to name the bluesman after the Jewish Loew's Theatre. Some of the sources mentioned include Claude H. "Papa" Hammer, Rufus "Tee-Tot" Payne, Robert Johnson and Shorty Medlocke, the grandfather of Rickey Medlocke, Lynyrd Skynyrd's drummer during their 1970 tour and one of the band's current guitarists.
- "The Ballad of Curtis Loew" has been performed by Phish numerous times.
- In 2016, Greensky Bluegrass, joined onstage by Jerry Douglas, covered the song at Telluride Bluegrass Festival.
- The song has also been covered by country artist Eric Church for "Sweet Home Alabama: The Country Music Tribute to Lynyrd Skynyrd".
- Dorman, Frank; Odom, Gene (2003). Lynyrd Skynyrd: Remembering the Free Birds of Southern Rock. Broadway. p. 110. ISBN 978-0-7679-1027-9.
- Hale, Grace Elizabeth (2002). "Invisible Men". In Abadie, Ann J.; Urgo, Joseph R. Faulkner and His Contemporaries. University Press of Mississippi. p. 166. ISBN 978-1-60473-544-4.
- Ching, Barbara (2008). "Where Has the Free Bird Flown?". In Watts, Trent. White Masculinity in the Recent South. Louisiana State University Press. p. 260. ISBN 978-0-8071-3314-9.
- "Second Helping" song list, lynyrdskynyrdhistory.com
- "The Ballad of Curtis Loew" lyrics. lynyrdskynyrdhistory.com
- "Was there a real Curtis Loew?" from the FAQ lynyrdskynyrd.com. Retrieved 22 July 2013.
- Odom, Gene and Frank Dorman (2002) Lynyrd Skynyrd: Remembering the Free Birds of Southern Rock. Random House At Google Books. Retrieved 22 July 2013.
- At the end of the live version on Live from Freedom Hall, Van Zant says "Curtis Loew and Mr Shorty Medlocke. How about it there, Kentucky?"
- "Greensky Bluegrass Live at Town Park on 2016-06-17". Internet Archive. soling. Retrieved 30 August 2016.